My GamjaTang Recipe 감자탕

GamjaTang1I feel I should start by stating that I am NOT a professional cook by any means. I’ve been told that I am a good cook, but I am not a professional. I apologize in advance if I don’t use any technical cooking terms and I’ve done my best to give accurate instructions.

I’m not going to lie, this is not a quick meal. You can make it the night before for the next day, or make it EARLY in the day for dinner. The longer everything cooks, the better it will taste. The above picture took me 3 hours to make and it didn’t even taste that great until the next day.

Something to keep in mind is that Korean cooking is an art, not a science. The dish should reflect the taste and style of the cook. Unless I specify, all the amounts I’ve called out are APPROXIMATE. If you feel you want more of something, please help yourself. However, it might be best to start off with the base amounts I’ve suggested and then add more as you go on.

I will do my best to add tips and provide alternatives to avoid unnecessary shopping.

Main Ingredients:

  • Pork Neck Bones 돼지 목뼈 (a large pack will have approximately 4 lbs/.5 kg) *Tip: Make sure there plenty of meat on the bones. You can usually find pork neck bones at your local Korean market. I also found really nice and meaty pork neck bone packages in the fresh meat section of the local Wal-Mart here in Southern California, so you might want to check there too if you can’t find any meaty ones at your local Korean market.
  • Potatoes peeled. *Tip: Smaller potatoes look nicer, but you can cut up a larger potato into chunks. Start with 6 regular potatoes (not the tiny finger potatoes or the huge gigantic ones, but regular potatoes).
  • Onion (start with 1 large onion, if you have room in your pot then 2 is OK too). Cut into big sliced chunks.
  • Kimchee (1/4 gallon) *Tip: Using kimchee is my way of making this dish, but using fresh nappa cabbage is the standard way (see below on how to prep your cabbage). I personally prefer using kimchee because I think it tastes better, but be mindful not to use so much that it ends up tasting like kimchee jjiggae (김치 찌게).
  • Green Onion 파 (1 bunch). Cut into 1 1/2 sections
  • Perilla Leaves/Gae-nip 깻잎 (1 bunch) Cut into slices. 

The above are the more traditional or standard ingredients found in gamjatang, but below are other optional ingredients which also are popular, especially for people who like more vegetables. If you have room in your pot, you might want to use any one or more of these additional ingredients:

  • Nappa cabbage (between 1/4 – 1/2 of the entire cabbage) *Tip: before using, blanch in boiling water for about 3-4 minutes. sprinkle some salt. Rinse in cold water and then ring out water. Cut into kimchee size strips.
  • Mung Bean Sprouts /SookJu Namul 숙주나물
  • Bell Peppers (any color)
  • Crown daisy leaves/sutkkat 쑥갓
  • Rice Cakes 떢보끼 떢 (yummy!!)  *Tip: If you use this, cook separately and add at the end, otherwise you will have mushy dduk
  • Tofu 두부 *Tip: add this at before serving and use only what you will eat right away
  • Jalapeno Peppers (if the gochugang and pepper powder isn’t very spicy, then consider adding jalapeno peppers for an added kick).

You need to start off by “prepping” the neck bones. It is important to do this to get a nice, clean flavor.
Step 1 – Soak: Soak the neck bones in cold water for at least 1-2 hours. Doing this will get out a lot of the excess blood. After they have finished soaking, dump out all the water and give your bones another rinse.

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I use my Le Creuset whenever I make any types of tangs, jims or jjigaes because it doesn’t release as much water as other pots. If you are using a standard pot, you may need to add more water down since much of your water will evaporate away.

Step 2 – Boil: Boil water in whatever pot you plan on using to cook everything in. (I personally love using my 9 1/2 qt Le Creuset Dutch Oven). Boil enough water to cover the bones. Once the water has reached a boil, put your bones in.  Let it boil for 5 minutes. Doing this will mail away unnecessary fat and get rid of any loose hanging things you don’t want.

Dump out the boiled water and rinse out your pot since you will be using it again.

Rinse the bones to cool it down enough to touch them with your hands. Put the bones back into your pot.

  • Take about 3 tbsp of Deonjang 된장/ Soybean Paste and rub it on your meat.
  • Add 1 tbsp of minced garlic
  • Add 1 tbsp of minced ginger
  • Add 2.5 Liters of water (1/2 Gallon/10 cups)
  • Put back on your stove with the lid on

Bring everything it to a boil. Once it has reached full boiling point, reduce to medium-low heat. It should be more than simmer, but not boiling. Leave here for at least an hour to an hour and a half.  While your meat is cooking, cut/peel your veggies and mix together your seasoning base.

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mixing together in a bowl first will allow you to adjust and modify the amount of ingredients based upon the ratio of meat and veggies you have.

Mix all the ingredients in a small mixing bowl until everything is fully mixed together. The consistency should be pasty.  Here’s a picture of what it should look like.

Seasoning Ingredients:

  • 1/2 Cup Gochujang 고추장 (Korean Red Pepper Paste) These days, standard gochujang you buy at the store is typically mild-medium level of spiciness. For extra spicy gochugang, you typically need to be on the look out for it. You need to look at your container to check your spice level otherwise your jamjatang will be either way too spicy or not spicy enough.
  • 1/2 Cup Korean Red Pepper Powder 고추 가루 As with gochugang, these days Korean red pepper powder is not as spicy as it used to be. This is due to the changing tastes among Koreans. My pepper powder is EXTREMELY spicy because it was special ordered from pepper farm in Korea.
  • 4 tbsp Perilla Seed Powder 들깨 *Tip: Do not use previously opened container that has not been refrigerated. Even if refrigerated, taste it first before using to make sure it doesn’t have a strange taste and odor. No where does it say to refrigerate after opening so I had put away an open container with my sesame seeds. Bad call. I once ruined an entire batch of gamjatang because the dulkae was bad. The entire thing tasted weird and rancid!
  • 3 tbsp Soy Sauce 간장 *Tip: There are various degrees of saltiness depending on the soy sauce you have. Depending on your soy sauce, you may need to use double than what I have here. However, just start at 3 tbsp and use more as needed. The one I have pictured here is medium level saltiness and I needed to use more.
  • 1-2 tbsp minced Garlic I love garlic and I use A LOT.
  • 1 tbsp minced Ginger
  • 2 tbsp Fish Sauce (Anchovy Sauce): 멸치 젓 
  • 2 tbsp Sesame Seeds 깨 소금 I use crushed sesame seeds, I think it tastes better than whole.
  • Gamjatang ingredients

    Gamjatang ingredients Incase you’re not familiar with what Korean ingredients look like, here’s an example of some of the brands I use. I try to use fresh garlic, but I’ve been too lazy to mince my own garlic in large enough quantities so I need to buy it.

    1-2 tbsp Sesame Seed Oil 참기름 I personally LOVE sesame seed oil, so I use a lot. *TIP: Be sure you are using dark Asian style Sesame Oil, not the Persian light colored type.

  • 2 tbsp Doenjang 된장/ Soybean Paste Korean style miso paste. One day I was out of deonjang and was too lazy to go to the store. I did have on hand Chunggookjang (pictured here), which is a stronger, more intense than deonjang.  I used that instead and modified by using only half the amount of standard deonjang. (But then again, if you actually have 청국장 lying around, you probably know how to use it even better than I do.)
  • 2-3 tbsp Beef Dashida 쇠고기 다시다 (Don’t judge me.)
  • 1 tsp Black Pepper
  • Salt (optional. Use only if you feel you need more. You can also add more Soy Sauce instead of salt)

Set your paste aside and wait until your meat has cook.

After it has cooked for at least an hour to an hour and half, take HALF the seasoning paste you made and begin to mix it in to the pot. Mix it in until it fully disintegrates into the hot water. Taste it. Does it need more paste? If so, then add more. Remember, you can always put more in, but you can’t take it out.  If you will be adding kimchee, you will need to factor that in. The goal here is start incorporating flavor into your meat, you will still have other opportunities to perfect the final taste. If you have remaining paste, that’s OK – you don’t need to use it all.

After you’ve added the seasoning paste, put the lid back and on bring to a boil. Once it has reached a boil, turn down to medium low heat. Let it simmer for another 45 – 60 minutes.

After it has cooked for the additional 45 – 60 minutes, you can begin adding your veggies. If you are using kimchee, start with that first. If you are using jalapeno peppers, put that in next. Now you will have a better idea of how everything tastes and can now add more of your seasoning paste if needed. If it’s already spicy enough for you, but you want more salt, then try adding more soy sauce bit by bit. If you want more garlic or sesame oil, then add more. Once you’ve perfected the taste, add the rest of your vegetables.

Bring again to boil and then turn it down to a low heat. Simmer for another 45 – 60 minutes. You can eat at any point once your potatoes are fully cooked or you can let it simmer longer.

ENJOY.

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