Myung San is a modest little twenty-seat restaurant located a short walk from the Broadway Long Island Rail Road station in Queens that was visited weekly by former New York Mets pitcher Jae Weong Seo. The reason was gamjatang, which literally means “potato soup” but is also a homonym for “pork neck soup.” It’s hardly just potato soup. While potato plays a role, the two key elements are meaty pork necks, cooked long until the meat is fall-off-the-bone amazing, and earthy, wild sesame seeds. Since these seeds are the key to the flavor of this stew, there is unfortunately no replacement. This unique flavor marriage inspired longtime Los Angeles restaurant critic, and gamjatang fan, Jonathan Gold to call the dish a Korean version of Oaxacan mole colorado.
- Preheat oven to 475°F.
- Place bones in a roasting pan and coat with vegetable oil. Season well with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 minutes until golden brown and well caramelized, flipping once halfway through.
- While bones are roasting, combine gochugaru, doenjang, gochujang, soy sauce, garlic, mirin, 3 tablespoons wild sesame seeds and 1 teaspoon black pepper in a small bowl and whisk thoroughly, making sure the gochujang is well integrated. Set aside.
- In a stockpot, combine the roasted bones, Pork Stock, potatoes, chile pepper, scallions and the gochugaru mixture and bring to a boil over medium-high heat before dropping to a simmer. Simmer for 45 minutes to 1 hour, partially covered.
- Meanwhile, stir together all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl until the sugar dissolves.
- Once the flavors in the stockpot have mingled and the neck bones’ meat is very tender, garnish the soup with perilla leaves and the remaining 3 tablespoons wild sesame seeds. Serve immediately with rice and dipping sauce on the side for the neck meat.
Reprinted with permission from Koreatown: A Cookbook by Deuki Hong and Matt Rodbard, copyright © 2016, published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC. Photography copyright © 2016 by Sam Horine.