Korean restaurants and food courts put too much salt and MSG in their pork bone soup, so, naturally, I started making my own. It’s really easy to make and it’s freezer-friendly. The broth is spicy and salty with a hint of fermented flavour from bean paste. You really need to use your hands to get to the flavourful meat and soft bone between the pork neck bones. So this dish is usually only served to family and close friends. But sometimes I will remove all of the meat from the bones prior to serving it. That way, it’s easy to eat, it’s not messy, and no one feels embarrassed.
Korean Pork Bone Soup Recipe (Gam Ja Tang)
makes 6 servings
5 to 6 pounds pork neck bones
1/2 small head of Korean napa cabbage, sliced into strips
6 small to medium waxy potatoes, large ones cut in half (optional)
10 cups water
5 slices ginger
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, halved and then sliced thinly
1 dried red chili pepper (optional) (Note: The soup is spicy enough for me without the addition of dried peppers.)
2 tablespoons Korean soy bean paste
2 tablespoons Korean red pepper paste (or more to taste)
2 tablespoons ground perilla seeds
1 tablespoon Korean red pepper powder (or more to taste)
1 tablespoon fish sauce (or more to taste) (Note: Best brand is Three Crabs.)
thinly sliced green onions, perilla seeds, and/or fresh perilla leaves for garnish (optional)
other optional vegetables (e.g. bean sprouts or daisy crowns, etc.)
Place the pork neck bones in a large pot. Add enough water to cover the bones,cover the pot with its lid, and turn the heat to high. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, reduce the heat slightly and allow it to boil for 7 minutes. Then dump the bones out into the sink, wash off the scum fro the bones and clean the pot. Return the bones to the pot, add 10 cups of water, the ginger, garlic, onion, and soy paste, and bring to a rolling boil over high heat, covered. Then reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a strong simmer for 1 hour. Add more water if needed.
Then add the napa cabbage, waxy potatoes (if using), other vegetables (if using), ground perilla seeds, red pepper paste, red pepper powder, and fish sauce. Stir gently to combine and bring to a boil over high heat, covered. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, covered, for half an hour. Add more water if needed and remove the pot lid while the soup simmers if there is too much liquid. Taste test and adjust seasonings to taste. The potatoes should be soft and the meat and bones should easily come apart when pulled. Dish out, including the pork bones, and serve with white rice. Korean side dishes make great accompaniments as well (e.g. kimchi, Korean broccoli salad, etc.). Once cooled completely, leftovers can be frozen.
Although not traditionally done, if making this soup in advance, you could use your hands to debone all of the meat and cartilage (once cool enough to handle safely). Then stir it into the soup, reheat it, and serve. Doing this also makes the soup easier to freeze.