Hot & Spicy Korean-Inspired Potato & Pork Stew (Gamjatang/Gamja Tang)

Since I almost always buy pork shoulder on my weekly shopping trip, and since I had a bunch of potatoes that needed to get used up sooner than later, and since I had some perilla leaves ready for the picking from the garden, I decided to make this gamja tang-inspired stew for dinner.

Gamja tang (pronounced GAHMjah TAHNG, gamja = potato, tang = stew/soup) is a thick, hearty, spicy Korean stoup usually made with pork neck bones and lots of potatoes then sprinkled with julienned fresh green perilla leaves (called kkaenip in Korean).

It's a popular hangover dish for obvious reasons, and you'll find lots of 24 hour restaurants in Seoul serving it to the late night drinking crowd before they head home for the night morning.

This version is made with boneless pork shoulder, is slightly lighter and brothy-er, and sprinkled with purple (Vietnamese) perilla rather than green because that's what I have available, but to taste it, you'd definitely know what inspired it.

If you can't get your hands on green or purple perilla (you'd most likely find the green at a Korean market, and the purple at a Vietnamese or multi-ethnic Asian market with lots of SE Asian foods), you could use shiso, which is a more delicate Japanese perilla (which you would most likely find at a Japanese market). While perilla has an ever so slightly spearminty quality to it, I'm not sure I'd go that route. It certainly wouldn't taste bad, but it wouldn't taste Korean, either.

If you can't get your hands on any perilla, some finely chopped green onion, while not a flavor substitution in the least, is a totally typical and appropriate flavor and garnish for the dish.

As is typical for Korean cuisine, you'd serve this with a bowl of steamed rice, kimchi, and maybe a couple of other banchan (side dishes) on the side, but just the stew and rice would make a simple, hearty and delicious meal.

Hot & Spicy Korean-Inspired Potato & Pork Stew (Gamja Tang)
Serves 4 to 6 with some steamed rice
Time: About 60 minutes, most of it inactive

As with many Korean stews, this is mostly a dump, bring to boil, then lower to simmer jobbie. Doesn't take much work but the knife work and a little waiting.

If you don't have gochujang, you can substitute with 2 to 3 teaspoons cayenne + 1 Tablespoon paprika (unsmoked) + plus 1 Tablespoon soy sauce.

If you don't have gochugaru, you can substitute with 1/2 to 1 Tablespoon red chili flakes (like the kind you use for your pizza/pasta).

- 1.5 pounds boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 cups water and/or unsalted stock (I used half water, half unsalted chicken stock.)
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced into 1/4-inch slices
- 5 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 Tablespoons gochujang (Korean red chili paste)
- 2 Tablespoons gochugaru (Korean red chili flakes)
- 1 Tablespoon soy sauce or fish sauce
- 1/2 teaspoon sugar
- 1.5 pounds Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into roughly 1-inch pieces (that's about 3 medium or 4 small ones)
- 2 medium carrots, cut into 1/3-inch thick slices on the bias

- salt to adjust seasoning if needed

- optional: julienned fresh perilla leaves for garnish
- optional: chopped green onion for garnish

1) Place all ingredients except potatoes and carrots into a large pot, cover, and bring to a gentle boil for about two minutes over medium high heat. When the stew comes to a boil, give everything a good stir to evenly distribute and incorporate all the ingredients.

2) Turn the heat down to medium low, cover again, and simmer for 20 minutes.

3) Add the potatoes and carrots, cover again, and simmer for another 20 minutes.

4) Give the stew another stir or two, put the lid back on askew, and continue to simmer for another 10 to 15 minutes over medium low heat. Give it a taste and adjust the salt level with salt if necessary, and that's it!

Serve in individual bowls or family style (as is typical for most casual Korean family meals), sprinkle with perilla and/or green onion, and enjoy with a bowl of steamed rice. If you want to save yourself some dishes, you can combine the stew and rice in one bowl, which is a totally Korean thing to do.

Enjoy. :)




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