Cozy, comforting, addictively delicious Gamjatang recipe. Yes, you can make Korean Pork Bone Soup at home!
When I moved to Toronto, I discovered my city’s love affair with Gamjatang or Korean Pork Bone Soup.
One bowl told me everything. Spicy. Comforting. Deeply nourishing with a tantalizing, heady broth! And big chunks of tender pork and potatoes! I couldn’t eat my first bowl of Gamjatang fast enough.
As a home cook, I wondered: could it be possible to make this special Korean recipe at home? After years of tinkering in the kitchen, I can say — yes, it’s possible! You can make restaurant quality, authentic Korean Pork Bone Soup at home!
What is Gamjatang?
Gamjatang is a hearty Korean stew made from pork bones and a spicy, well seasoned broth.
Gamja means “potatoes” in Korean and Tang means “soup. Although there’s an abundance of potatoes in this homey soup — the gamja actually refers to the knobby look of the pork neck bones which are the star ingredient.
Suffice to say — pork neck bones are ESSENTIAL to this Gamjatang recipe.
Inexpensive and budget friendly, pork neck bones contain lots vitamins and minerals. All that collagen and connective tissue!
The result? A deeply flavorful broth. Tender chunks of meat that falls off the bone. So good!
- Pork Neck Bones. Find the meatiest ones you can.
- Onions + Ginger + Bay Leaves. The essential aromatics.
- Potatoes + Carrots. Adds body and flavor.
- Kimchi. Aged, mature kimchi preferred.
- Spicy Paste. For a deeply flavorful, well seasoned gamjatang soup.
- Ground Perilla Seeds. For earthy, nutty flavor. Also, thickens the stew.
- Perilla Seed Oil. The finishing touch!
- Perilla Leaves. A generous sprinkling adds earthy freshness.
Watch how to make Pork Bone Soup:
Tips for the BEST Gamjatang Soup:
For a classic, authentic Gamjatang recipe, some helpful tips and guidelines:
- Soak (raw) pork bones in cold water. Draws out all the blood for a cleaner tasting broth.
- Parboil the pork bones! Truly the secret to good Korean soup. Parboiling removes all the fat and scum that leaches out from the bones to make a clear, milky-looking broth. Also provides delicious depth of flavor.
- Rinse the bones + wash the cooking pot. Wash away all those grimy fat particles. Also, don’t forget to wash the pot! There’s a surprising amount of scum that sticks to the sides.
- Check for meat tenderness with a chopstick. For buttery soft pork that falls off the bone, poke with a chopstick to check for tenderness. It should slip through easily.
- Key ingredients: ground perilla seeds + perilla oil. Look for fresh, high quality perilla seeds + perilla oil. In a pinch, they can be subbed with sesame seeds + sesame oil (they belong to the same family) but it won’t taste the same. Store leftover perilla seeds in the freezer and leftover oil in the fridge, as they can easily go bad at room temperature.
- Combine the 3 Korean “jangs.” The powerful, fermented trio of doenjang (fermented soybean paste), gochujang (fermented chili paste), and ganjang (soy sauce or fermented soybeans) adds SO much delicious flavor when combined! Don’t leave it out!
- Make it spicier! If you love spicy, add minced chili pepper and mustard seeds right before serving. Korean chilies, fresno or jalapeno peppers all work.
- Make in advance. Gamjatang recipe can be made up to 2-3 days in advance. Simply cover and store in the fridge. Also an easy way to create a less oily broth — simply remove the hardened fat when chilled.
Can I make Gamjatang less spicy?
To make Gamjatang less spicy, reduce the Gochujang and Gochukaru. Or, leave it out entirely. When my kids were younger, I often made Gamjatang this way. The end result is a hearty pork bone soup that’s deeply flavored.
How do I serve Gamjatang?
There are 3 ways to enjoy this Gamjatang recipe:
- Serve with rice and other banchan (side dishes). The classic way of enjoying this hearty, filling soup.
- Serve with instant ramen noodles. Gamjatang Ramen is a very popular dish in Korean restaurants! Partially cook ramen noodles (only 2 minutes) then add to the Gamjatang. All the flavorful broth will soak into the noodles.
- Serve as a large, communal hot pot. Similar to Budae Jjigae, serve in the center and let everyone help themselves. Add sweet potato noodles (dang myun), rice cakes (tteok/dduk), and kraft cheese slices for a decandent, jungeol-style feast.
And don’t forget to add an empty bowl to the table! People can dump their finished bones as they eat.
Other Korean soups you may enjoy:
- Dak Gomtang (Korean Chicken Soup)
- Yukgaejang (Spicy Beef + Wild Vegetable Soup)
- Kkori Gomtang (Oxtail Soup)
- Seafood Soondubu Jjigae (Soft Tofu Stew)
- Doenjang Jjigae (Soybean Paste Stew)
- Kimchi Jjigae with Pork Belly (Kimchi Stew)
Gamjatang AKA Spicy Pork Bone Soup
- Large stock pot
- Large colander
- 3 lbs pork neck bones
For the broth:
- 1 large onion, peeled + halved
- 3 inch ginger, sliced
- 2 bay leaves
- 2-3 medium potatoes, quartered
- 2-3 medium carrots, peeled + cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1/2 cup cabbage/Napa kimchi (old, mature kimchi preferred)
For the spicy paste:
- 1/4 cup ground perilla seeds
- 1/4 cup Doenjang
- 2 Tbsp Gochujang
- 1 Tbsp Soy Sauce
- 2 Tbsp Gochukaru
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 2 Tbsp Mirin
- 1 Tbsp Maesil Cheong or Korean green plum syrup (can be subbed with sugar or maple syrup)
- 4 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 8-10 perilla leaves (fresh), sliced finely
- 4 green onions, sliced finely
- black pepper (to taste)
- 1-2 Tbsp Perilla Seed Oil (drizzled all over)
For extra spicy broth:
- 1 Tbsp chili peppers, minced (per serving) (Korean chili pepper, fresno, or jalapeno all work well)
- 1-2 tsp mustard seeds (per serving)
- SOAK PORK NECK BONES: Add pork neck bones to a large bowl. Cover with cold water and soak for 30-60 minutes. (You can keep on the kitchen counter unless it's very warm in your kitchen, in which you should store in the fridge.) This removes all the blood to make a clearer, better tasting broth.
- Drain and rinse in cold water. Transfer to a large stock pot.
- PARBOIL PORK NECK BONES: Add pork neck bones to a large stock pot. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. There will be a lot of scum and fat particles that rise to the surface. Boil furiously for 5 minutes.
- Drain in a colander and rinse the bones under running cold water. Make sure to rub off all the grime and fat particles that stick to the pork bones with your hands. Also, wash the pot in order to remove the scum and bits stuck to the side.
- MAKE BROTH: Add clean, parboiled pork bones to the clean stock pot. Add onion, ginger slices, and bay leaves. Add enough water to cover, about 6 cups. Bring to a boil then lower heat. Simmer, covered, until the meat is soft and falling off the bone, about 45-60 minutes.
- When the pork is tender (poke with a chopstick to see if it goes through easily), add the potatoes, carrots, and kimchi. Cover and cook until soft and cooked through, about 15 minutes more.
- MAKE SPICY PASTE: While the potatoes and carrots cook, make the spicy paste. In a medium bowl, add ingredients for spicy paste and mix well. Add immediately to the simmering pot, mixing well so there are no big chunks. Simmer until all the flavours come together, about 5-10 minutes more.
- GARNISH: Add a few grinds of black pepper, a drizzle of perilla seed oil, and a generous sprinkling of finely sliced perilla leaves and green onions. Serve bubbling hot with rice, kimchi, and banchan (side dishes) of choice. Enjoy!