October 30, 2015
Come! The weather’s getting brisk. Turtlenecks are re-emerging. Noses are running. Girls are singing like birds. Now is the time for you to get in front of a nice hot stew, so let’s share one of our favourites with you, one that we’re surprised we didn’t have before: Gamjatang, Korean Pork Bone Soup!
감자탕 is such a delicious and underrated soup! It’s not the sexiest looking, but it tastes damn great. Even though it literally translates to potato soup, the focus is actually on the pork, so most translations in English call it Spicy Pork Bone Soup. Weird, isn’t it? The Korean version doesn’t mention pork in the title, but it’s known, while in English it’s translated to something that makes more sense. Kind of like how MTV should get the M out of their name, you know?
I always think it’s amazing when a culture uses all the parts of an animal. If you’re going to raise and eat an animal I think it’s only respectful to use everything the animal has to offer, rather than just the “pretty” looking pieces. I think this is something chefs are starting to come back to with the snout-to-tail movement. What’s funny about this movement is that while modern chefs are now starting to serve bone marrow appetizers, crispy pig ears in salad, and pork cheeks as a fancy pants main course, so many other cultures have been using the whole animal just naturally in their everyday cuisine. When we first arrived in Korea we absolutely had an adjustment phase where we had to deal with shrimp served whole in soup (you’re gonna have to learn how to peel it), fish being served whole with bones in (you’re gonna have to learn how to de-bone it), and pork skin being fried as a yummy dish (you’re gonna have to learn how to love it). It took us a while, but now I can’t imagine what it would be like to NOT eat this way, and to avoid the delicious parts just because of aesthetics.
Gamjatang fell into that category of “um how do I eat this” in our first years of Korea. It wasn’t a perfect piece of pork presented to us in pork roast format; it was a giant awkward backbone that had been boiled for hours until the remaining pork was so tender it just fell off the bone. But we didn’t see it for the deliciousness of the meat as much as we saw it for the scariness of the bone. Glad we got over that! Also, I don’t want people to feel intimidated by this soup because it has spicy in the name as well. The broth itself is a wee bit spicy but in my opinion it’s more black peppery than spicy. It’s not a burning spice, as much as it’s a flavour spice, you know? It does more to warm you up than to make you feel uncomfortable.
Since most gamjatangs have kimchi in them, I think the spice depends on how spicy the kimchi is at the restaurant. We’ve had gamjatang at many different restaurants in Korea, and while the broth always differs, it’s never really spicy. When I think of spicy soup in Korea, I immediately think of fish soups (MaeunTang 매운탕) which are loaded up with both gochujang and Korean chilli powder so you can guarantee those will burn you inside and out.
BUT WAIT I WANT TO SAY SOMETHING IMPORTANT! In our last TL;DR, Martina mentioned how I tell people I need to go to the bathroom if I want to get out of a conversation. Well, right after we filmed this video, we talked to someone in the restaurant who was totally awesome. We stood outside and talked for a good 20 minutes at least, but I really had to go to the bathroom. Like, really bad. IF YOU’RE READING THIS, I WASN’T BLOWING YOU OFF! I REALLY HAD TO GO! HONESTLY!
Ahem. So, I hope you liked this video and will give Gamjatang a try! I’m curious if anyone had the chance to try gamjatang and if they enjoyed it? Also, does your culture have a snout-to-tail attitude? If so, what’s a dish you like that might be intimidating to people outside of your culture? Let us know in the comment section below!
And we’ve got some extra scenes, if you feel like a little more Gamgjatang in your life. Boy!