If there was one dish I could for the rest of my life, it would be gamjatang or Korean pork bone soup! Gamja tang, which translates as potato (gamja) and soup (tang), is the ultimate Korean comfort food.
It’s a hearty and comforting dish made with tender fall-off-the-bone meat, and an assortment of vegetables, served in a spicy flavorful soup. This meal is a labor of love but worth every minute – I promise! It’s a dish that’s meant to be shared and something I crave when I get together with my family or celebrate a special occasion.
If you’ve never had gamjatang before or you’re looking to recreate this restaurant-quality dish at home, I got you covered!
Why you’ll love this recipe
Gamjatang or Korean pork bone soup is a popular Korean staple in many restaurants and homes for a good reason. The bold and rich flavors of this soup make this an irresistible and comforting meal. It is a one-pot wonder – from the succulent tender pork bones and the wide variety of vegetables to the medley of traditional Korean seasonings.
Not only is this soup incredibly comforting and delicious, but it also offers the perfect level of spiciness that adds a subtle kick to the dish. The balance in savoriness, sweetness, and spiciness allows the flavors of all the components of this dish to equally shine through, making you keep coming back for more!
My favorite part of this dish is the potatoes because they soak up all the delicious soup. So if you’re a potato lover like me, be sure to add a few extra pieces!
How do I prepare Korean Pork Bone Soup?
Gamja tang or Korean pork bone soup is a bit of a process to prepare however, I promise it’s worth it! To get started, follow the steps below:
Step 1: Soak the pork bones
Start by placing the pork neck bones in a large mixing bowl. Fill it with cold water, making sure they are completely submerged. Allow the bones to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
Step 2: Blanch the cabbage
In a large pot or Dutch oven, fill it up about 2/3 of the way with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Then, blanch the napa cabbage for 2 minutes. Transfer the cabbage to a bowl or large strainer and rinse under cold water.
Step 3: Prep the cabbage
Once the cabbage has cooled completely, rip them into strips lengthwise. Squeeze the excess water out then transfer them to a mixing bowl.
Add 1 tablespoon of doenjang and sesame oil then rub the seasonings into the cabbage until evenly coated. Set aside for later.
Step 4: Parboil the pork bones
Drain the pork bones and rinse them under cold water. Place the pork bones into the same pot used to blanch the cabbage.
Boil for 5 minutes then strain. Rinse and clean the pork bones under cold water to remove any excess fat or scum in between the bones.
Step 5: Prepare the soup
To a clean pot, add 12 cups of water. Then, add the cleaned pork bones, garlic cloves, ginger, onion, scallion (white parts only), daepa (Korean scallion, white parts only), red pepper, 1 1/2 tablespoons doenjang, and mirin.
Cover and simmer over medium heat for 90 minutes.
Step 6: Prepare the sauce
While the soup is boiling away, prepare the sauce by combining gochujang, gochugaru, soup soy sauce, fish sauce, perilla seed powder, and 2 tablespoons of water. Mix until well combined then set aside.
Step 7: Add the final ingredients
After 90 minutes, add the seasoned napa cabbage, daepa (green parts only), potatoes, and sauce. Cover and simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes.
Add the perilla leaves and scallions (green parts only), then simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 8: Plate and serve!
Serve with a fresh bowl of rice, a side of wasabi and soy sauce, and soju! Enjoy 🙂
Cooking Tips for Gamjatang (Korean Pork Bone Soup)
To take your gamjatang to the next level and truly make it a restaurant quality dupe, here are some cooking tips to keep in mind:
- Use the right pork bones! I recommend using pork neck bones or pork ribs due to their high collagen and high meat content. This will result in a richer and more flavorful broth
- Adjust the spiciness according to your preferences and spice tolerance. If you prefer a milder soup, reduce the amount of gochugaru added. If you prefer a spicier soup, increase the amount of gochugaru.
- Feel free to add any additional vegetables you like including mushrooms, carrots, zucchini, chrysanthemum leaves, and more!
- Like most Korean soups and stews, this gamjatang tastes better the next day because this gives the flavors a chance to meld and develop. While I typically have gamjatang right away because I just can’t wait, you can make this a day in advance and reheat it before serving.
Ingredients & Substitutions
To get the most authentic and restaurant-quality taste, I highly recommend sticking with the ingredients in this recipe. I’ve provided substitutions for some ingredients in case you are unable to find them.
- Pork neck bones – the pork neck bones are meaty and have high collagen content, making this soup incredibly nourishing and flavorful. You can substitute pork neck bones with pork ribs if necessary.
- Garlic – feel free to add more garlic if you’d like!
- Ginger – ginger helps get rid of any unpleasant odors from the meat while imparting flavor at the same time.
- Onion – the onion adds a subtle sweetness to the soup.
- Daepa (Korean scallions) – daepa are ginormous Korean scallions usually available at Korean markets like H Mart. If you can’t find it, just substitute it with 4 to 5 more scallions.
- Red pepper – the red pepper adds a kick to the broth. You can substitute it with jalapeno or serrano peppers.
- Doenjang – the doenjang is one of the main seasoning components. It helps to flavor the soup and the cabbage.
- Mirin – similar to ginger, mirin helps to neutralize any unpleasant odors from the meat.
- Potatoes – potatoes are a must-have in gamjatang! Feel free to add more or fewer potatoes based on your preference
- Perilla leaves – the perilla leaves add a beautiful herby note to the soup. Be sure to add this about 10 minutes before serving! If you can’t find perilla leaves, you can omit them.
- Sesame oil – the roasted nuttiness of sesame oil deepens the flavors of the soup and cabbage.
- Gochujang – gochujang adds umami, a subtle hint of spiciness and sweetness.
- Gochugaru – the gochugaru is what will determine the spiciness of the soup. If you prefer a milder soup, reduce the amount of gochugaru added.
- Soup soy sauce – the soup soy sauce seasons the soup however this can be substituted with fish sauce
- Fish sauce – the fish sauce also seasons the soup and can be substituted with soup soy sauce
- Perilla seed powder – the perilla seed powder adds some nuttiness and also helps to slightly thicken the soup
Frequently Asked Questions
What is gamja tang in English?
Gamja tang translates as ‘potato’ (gamja) and ‘soup’ (tang). Potatoes are a primary ingredient in modern-day gamja tang however, traditional gamja tang actually did not include potatoes. Potatoes were later introduced as the recipe evolved through many generations to enhance the heartiness of the soup.
How do you eat gamjatang?
Gamjatang is usually served tableside in an earthenware pot to keep the soup hot for a long period of time. It’s usually accompanied by a fresh bowl of rice and a variety of side dishes, also called ‘banchan’ in Korean. The pork bones are usually soft and tender so the best way to eat it is to use your chopsticks and shred the meat off the bone. Once the meat is shredded, you can enjoy it with the variety of vegetables and potatoes in the soup.
While this is not traditional, I like to prepare a wasabi and soy sauce mixture to dip the meat and vegetables in. It completely changes the taste of the gamjatang, in a good way! It’s like eating a different dish that’s just as robust and flavorful.
Why do you soak pork bones in water?
The pork bones are soaked in water to extract impurities and blood from inside the bones. This will ensure that the bones are thoroughly cleaned. After soaking the bones, they’ll need a quick rinse before being parboiled. Parboiling will help get rid of excess fat or any remaining impurities that were missed in the initial soaking step. After parboiling, it’s important to rinse the bones under cold water and remove any final impurities. Once the pork bones have been soaked, parboiled, and thoroughly washed, they are now ready to be cooked!
Can I use beef bones instead of pork bones for gamjatang?
Yes, absolutely! You can definitely substitute pork bones with beef bones however, the flavor profile will significantly change. I anticipate it will still turn out delicious!
How do I store leftover gamjatang?
Any leftover gamjatang can be stored in the fridge in an air-tight container or pot for up to 3 days. Simply reheat on the stovetop over medium-low heat. If the gamjatang is very thick, add a splash of water to loosen it up. Keep in mind that the gamjatang will taste even better the next day!
Looking for more delicious Korean-inspired recipes? Here are some of my favorites!
- Bossam – Korean Boiled Pork Belly
- Seafood Soondubu
- Spicy Tuna Kimbap
- Korean Fish Cake Soup
- Korean Seafood Pancake
- Jjajangmyeon Black Bean Noodles
- Soybean Paste Stew
Korean Pork Bone Soup (Gamja Tang)
- 3 lb pork neck bones
- 12 cups water
- 10 garlic cloves whole
- 1/4 inch ginger
- 1/2 medium onion
- 4 scallions cut into 1-inch pieces, white and green separated
- 2 daepa (Korean large green onions) cut into 2-inch pieces, white and green separated
- 1 red hot pepper substitute with Thai chili, serrano, or jalapeno pepper
- 1 1/2 tbsp doenjang
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 3 russet potatoes peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 12-15 perilla leaves washed
- 2 lb napa cabbage cut in half + core removed
- 1 tbsp doenjang Korean fermented soybean paste
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp gochujang Korean red pepper paste
- 3 tbsp gochugaru Korean red chili flakes
- 2 tbsp soup soy sauce adjust to taste
- 2 tbsp fish sauce adjust to taste
- 2 tbsp perilla seed powder also called ddeulkkae garu
- 2 tbsp water
- Place the pork neck bones in a large mixing bowl. Fill it with cold water, ensuring all bones are completely submerged. Allow the bones to soak while you prepare the rest of the ingredients.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, fill it up about 2/3 of the way with water and heat over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil then blanch the napa cabbage for 2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl or large strainer and rinse under cold water.
- Once cooled completely, rip the napa cabbage into strips lengthwise. Squeeze the excess water out then transfer it to a medium-sized mixing bowl. To the bowl, add 1 tablespoon of doenjang and sesame oil. Using your hands, rub the seasonings into the cabbage until evenly coated. Set aside for later.
- Drain the pork bones and rinse them under cold water. Place the pork bones into the same pot used to blanch the cabbage. Boil for 5 minutes then strain. With the cold water running, rinse and clean the pork bones thoroughly to remove any excess fat or scum in between the bones.
- To a clean pot or Dutch oven, add 12 cups of water, the cleaned pork bones, garlic cloves, ginger, onion, scallion (white parts only), daepa (white parts only), red pepper, 1 1/2 tablespoons doenjang, and mirin. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer over medium heat for 90 minutes.
- In the meantime, prepare the sauce by combining gochujang, gochugaru, soup soy sauce, fish sauce, perilla seed powder, and 2 tablespoons of water. Mix until well combined then set aside.
- After 90 minutes, add the seasoned napa cabbage, daepa (green parts only), potatoes, and sauce. Cover with a lid and simmer on medium heat for 30 minutes.
- Add the perilla leaves and scallions (green parts only), then simmer for 10 minutes.
- Serve immediately and enjoy!
- Daepa is large Korean green onion usually found at H Mart.
- Substitute daepa with 4 to 5 more scallions.