Gamjatang or pork bone soup is a spicy Korean soup made with pork spine or ribs, vegetables, green onion, hot peppers and ground wild sesame seeds. It is a matter of contention whether the name of the soup comes from the word for potato (감자; gamja) or not, because the soup is frequently served without potatoes.
The vertebrae are usually separated with bits of meat clinging to them. The vertebrae is boiled in high temperatures to soften the meat. To remove the meat, one must use an instrument such as a chopstick. The meal is usually served with kimchi and a bowl of rice. This food is served as a lunch or dinner and often as a late night snack as well. The soup base is a deep red colour from the red hot peppers.
Gamjatang originated in the southern Korean province of Jeolla. The main industry of Jeolla Province was agriculture, and hogs were widely raised and used for food. The origins of gamjatang can be traced back to the Three Kingdoms Era when South Jeolla farmers raised hogs in greater numbers than in most of the rest of Korea.
Since cows were the backbone of farming then, used both for their milk and plowing, cows were much more valuable than hogs. Slaughtering cows, which helps explain the dish's pork origins.
When Incheon harbor opened, many people migrated to Seoul and its surrounding area from Jeolla Province, as well as from other parts of the country. When construction of the Gyung-ui Railway began in 1899, lots of laborers started working around Incheon and gamjatang become popular among them because it is cheap, nutritious, and its high fat content provided the calories they needed. As time passed, gamjatang became one of the iconic foods of Incheon.
Makes 2-3 servings. Cooking time: 2 hours
Pork neck bones, onion, garlic, ginger, dried shiitake mushrooms, napa cabbage, potatoes, soy bean sprouts, Asian chives (buchu), green onions, perilla leaves, dried red chili pepper, soybean paste, hot pepper flakes, hot pepper paste, cooking wine, perilla seeds powder (deulkkae garu), fish sauce.
- Soak 2.5 lb (about 1 kg) of pork neck bones in cold water for 2 hours.
- Boil water in a large pot.
- Put 1/4 of a medium sized napa cabbage (about 2-3 cups) into the boiling water and blanch it for a minute
- Rinse and drain the cabbage and put it in a bowl.
- Tear each leaf lengthwise once or twice to make it bite size and set it aside.
- Rinse pork neck bones in cold water and put them in boiling water with 4-5 slices of ginger (1 tbs). Cook for 7 minutes.
- Rinse and strain the pork neck bones and put them in a large pot. *tip: when you rinse the pork bones, pick out any excessive fat.
- Pour 10 cups of water into the pot.
- Add 1 medium size sliced onion, 1 tbs of sliced ginger, 2 tbs of soy bean paste, 1 dried red chili pepper (after removing the seeds), and 2 dried shiitake mushrooms to the pot. Boil it for 1.5 hours over medium high heat.
- Prepare a small bowl to make the sauce. In the bowl, put 6-8 cloves of minced garlic, 2 tbs of hot pepper flake, 1 tbs of hot pepper paste, 3 tbs of cooking wine, 3 tbs of fish sauce, 3 tbs of perilla seeds powder (deulkkae garu) and mix it all up.
- Prepare a large bowl for the vegetables.
- Squeeze the cooked cabbage slightly to drain some of the water, and put it into the bowl. Cut about 10 perilla leaves into bite sized pieces and put them into the bowl. Cut 2 stalks of green onion and Asian chives (2-3 cups worth) into 7 cm long pieces and put them into the bowl. Rinse and drain 2 cups of soy bean sprouts and put them into the bowl. Peel 3 small potatoes and put them into the bowl.
- About 1 1/2 hours later, take the red hot chili pepper and shiitake mushrooms out of the pot.
- Slice shiitake mushrooms into bite sized pieces.
- Add your vegetables and your sauce and the chopped shiitake mushrooms into the soup. Cook for another 30 minutes.
- 30 minutes later, transfer the soup into a serving bowl and sprinkle some chopped green onions and ground pepper.
- Serve with rice and kimchi or some side dishes.