Today we visited the Gwangjin-gu area of Seoul to try one of the most well known traditional korean food: Gamjatang. The name of this dish is literally means ‘ Potato soup’ (Gamja – 감자 being potato and tang – 탕 being soup) but this is misleading since Gamjatang has as main ingredient the pork meat and pork spine bone and it could not contain any potatoes at all. As said, the main ingredient of this dish is pork spine bone that is cooked together with red pepper paste, potato, spring onions, mushrooms, potato sweet glass noodles, sesame seeds and sesame leaves. At the moment of ordering you can also ‘upgrade’ your Gamjatang with additional ingredients such as rice cakes or potato pasta.
The ingredients are cooked together for about 2 hours and then served at the table where the dish will complete the cooking on the burner located at the center of the table. After the cooking is complete you can help yourself by picking up your servings from the cooking pan and pouring the soup in your small bowl. Although spicy, the spiciness is quite mild due to the long cooking time. As result of the cooking, the meat is very tender and sweet making it very easy to separate it from the bone by using chopstick. Good to know though that you can also use your hand if you are not very familiar with chopsticks!!
The combination of the ingredients such as pork bones and sesame leaves (on top of everything) give to the dish a very deep flavour.
Usually Gamjatang is enjoyed by drinking soju (traditional spirit made from rice) and it not unusual to find middle aged men (‘ajashi’ in korean) eating and drinking together till very drunk :).
The side dishes for the Gamjatang include two kinds of kimchi (chinese cabbage and radish), fresh vegetables (carrots and cucumber in our case), ssamjang (a spicy sauce made from sesame oil, garlic, onion, fermented soy bean paste and red pepper hot paste), dried squid with red pepper paste and finally a salad made with lettuce, red radish and sweet pepper with a delicate yogurt dressing.
Gamjatang is definetely a complete dish that will make you fill you up at the end of the meal! But if you are still hungry after eating Gamjatang, continue reading….
…so you had and Gamjatang and still not satisfied? no worries! tell the waiter that you want bokkumbap (stir fried rice). They will take back the pot where Gamjatang was cooked from your table and bring it back to you in few minutes filled with stir fried rice with sea weed, sesame leaves and vegetables. Eating bokkumbap will definetely fill you up for the day!
Next time we will talk about kimbap!