Korean Pork and Potato Soup with Perilla (Gamjatang)


Kkaenip Gamjatang | www.kimchimom.com

It was the summer of 1991. I had just graduated from college and I was taking Korean language classes at a university and was also teaching English to a group of professionals at a small company (with the unfortunate name, Colon) for extra cash. I had just finished a session of teaching and was on my way back to the university campus. I was standing at an insanely busy street corner in Seoul, Korea and all of a sudden I felt like could not move. It was as if my feet were encased in concrete. People streamed by me like I was a rock in a rushing stream. I panicked for what seemed like 15 minutes, but I’m sure was only a split second. In that split second, a million thoughts rushed through my head confused as to who I really was. I stared out at the swelling sea of people who all looked identical..and, I blended right in. For that split second, I was actually horrified. I looked like one of them, but did feel like one of them. As someone who was born and raised in American towns and cities where I always stood out,  this idea of homogeneity in my mother country felt very foreign to me.

I relaxed. I was my own self. Not entirely Korean and not entirely American, but at that moment, a perfect balance of both.

I continued walking and merged with the swell of people.


Notes: This soup is a spin on a traditional Korean pork and potato soup. The addition of the kaenip (perilla) kimchi adds a blast of nutty, peppery flavor and works perfectly with the pork and potatoes. Kaenip kimchi can be found in the prepared food section of your local Korean market.

With soups like these, my appetite definitely identifies with the Korean cuisine. No doubt.

Korean Pork and Potato Soup with Perilla
Cook time
Total time
Recipe type: Soup, Main Dish
Cuisine: Korean
Serves: 4-6
  • 2 pound pork bones
  • 1 1-inch piece of ginger root
  • 1 Tablespoon kochujang (Korean red pepper paste)
  • 2 Tablespoons dwaen jang (Korean soybean paste)
  • 1 Tablespoon roasted sesame seeds
  • 4 red potatoes peeled and quartered
  • ¼ cup chopped kaenip kimchi
  • 3 scallions, thinly sliced
  1. Soak pork bones in cold water for about 30 minutes. Change the water a few times until there is little blood and the water is clear.
  2. Place bones and ginger in a large pot. Cover with water, about 3 quarts, and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 2 hours, skimming any foam that forms on the surface.
  3. Mix together the kochujang, dwaen jang, and sesame seeds in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Remove ginger from the pot. Add a few spoonfuls of the hot broth into the paste mixture to make a thick slurry. Pour the mixture to the pot of broth and stir until there are no lumps. Add the potatoes and kaenip kimchi. Bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer until potatoes are cooked.
  5. Serve each bowlful with a generous topping of scallions.




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  • jane @ twothirtyate.com

    that realization when you’re in korea, that you look like everyone else, is always such a moment for me when i visit the motherland. glad i’m not the only one.

    • kimchi_mom

      That visit was my second visit to Korea. It was such a weird feeling for me. Would like to go back again with my kids…

  • Nancy

    Great post, Amy. I can definitely relate. I was born and raised in Vancouver and while I can speak Cantonese enough to get by, it’s pretty terrible. I grew up speaking a village dialect that is quite different from Hong Kong style Cantonese. So as soon as I open my mouth, the way I speak the language gives me away – I have English & village-accented Cantonese. I’ve been to Hong Kong twice and I never feel like I belong, which is fine. People can see and hear the foreigner in me from a mile away. As for this soup, I love it – that broth must taste unbelievable and you can’t go wrong with pork bones and potatoes. It looks so soothing.

    • kimchi_mom

      I can only speak a few words in Korean (I understand more than I can speak) and I still get the random “tsk, tsk” from strangers HERE!

  • http://twitter.com/HipFoodieMom1 Alice Choi

    Amy, as a second generation Korean American born and raised here in the US, I can totally relate. In fact, I did the same thing one summer while in college. My parents sent us to the motherland with the hopes that we would learn Korean. Their big mistake was signing us up for the Yonsei program, which was totally fun and a great experience but we didn’t learn a lick of Korean. This program, which I’m sure you’ve heard of, was kinda a party summer program. . anyway, the best part of that summer was teaching some Korean students we met there, English. Their enthusiasm and bright eyed view of the US and life was very contagious and kind of inspiring. Like you, I kind of felt out of place growing up. . I went to a predominantly Jewish, white elementary/jr high and high school. Maybe 2-3% was Asian (if even that). so, I always felt out of place. . and when I was in Korea, I felt out of place b/c we were Korean but couldn’t speak Korean and would be reminded of that every time we rode the subway and some ajashi said something to us. :) anyway, I left that summer very grateful for the experience and proud to be a Korean-American. Sorry for the long comment!

    and dude, the soup looks amazing!!! Love it!!!! growing up, my mom was always trying to teach me how to cook Korean dishes and I never wanted to sit in the kitchen with her. . NOW, I call her almost everyday and she shares her recipes. . ah, how things have changed over the years for me and Korean food!

    • kimchi_mom

      I also went to the Yonsei program!! It was very much a party program! Ever since the alleged “pregnancy” issue the year before, the boys’ dorm was relocated way up the hill away from the girls’ dorm when I was there. I had fun also, but didn’t learn any Korean. However, I did return from Korea speaking some decent Korean…thanks to my weekend visits with my relatives!!

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