[Busan] 맛나 감자탕 (Matna Gamjatang)

Writing about gamjatang (lit. pork bone stew) makes me upset. I found out on my last trip to Korea that my favorite gamjatang place in Seoul had taken the dish off their menu and reinvented themselves as a guksu & gogijib (a place specializing in noodles and BBQ meats) instead.

“But I dragged my friends all the way here from Singapore juuuust to try your gamjatangggg,” I whined to the guy at the eatery in Sinseol-dong, trying and failing not to sound accusatory.

He apologetically replied that they’d stopped offering the dish as it was too much of a hassle to make. We left in low spirits, settling for bibimmyeon and various anju (side dishes for alcohol) at the nearby university town of Anam, where Korea University is sited.

Throwing in a random picture of Igidae Park in Busan, just because.

A couple days later I was in Busan with another friend. Having hiked through Igidae Park (actually we gave up at the halfway mark because, y’know, lunchtime), we were ravenous and craving something substantial. As we roamed neighbouring Yongho-dong in search of meat, I spotted a signboard saying “맛나 감자탕 on the second floor of a building. Hmm.. a place specializing in gamjatang. We decided to give it a try, although I’d silently made up my mind not to like it, just because it wasn’t from my regular place in Seoul. Very bratty.

Quick note on gamjatang: If you’ve got a basic knowledge of the Korean language, you’ll know that “gamja (감자)” is the Korean word for “potato”. For the longest time, I was under the impression that gamjatang meant potato stew. In actual fact, “gamja” is another name for pork spine, known also as “dwaeji dungbbyo (돼지 등뼈)”. The intended meaning of gamjatang is therefore pork bone stew, and they don’t always contain potatoes.

Gamjatang (감자탕), 21,000 won for a small portion.

I had to grudgingly admit that the gamjatang served at 맛나 감자탕 wasn’t bad at all. Servings were generous – there were 6 huge cuts of pork spine to split between the both of us, and the meat barely clinging on to the crevices in the bones was tender and fatty. As the bones had been left to simmer for a long time, the soup was flavorful, mildly spicy and contained only a bearable trace of perilla leaves. Yeah I’m not really a fan of them nasty leaves. Overall the gamjatang was really quite shiok la, I’ll give it that.

Skipped our usual order of bbokkeumbap (rice fried in our leftover stew) because as it was, we were already having some trouble breathing after finishing that massive pot of stew. If we’d gone with the fried rice we’d probably be viewing Busan from the inside of a hospital for the next 2 days.

맛나 감자탕 is a chain restaurant with a total of 12 outlets across Busan. It doesn’t have any stores in Seoul as of now, but I wouldn’t say it’s worth the hour-long car ride out from Seoul to neighbouring Kyunggido (2 outlets) or Kangwondo (1 outlet) just to try the gamjatang here. I’m sure there’s better gamjatang in Seoul, and I’m determined to track it down when I return.

Screenshot of the addresses of 맛나 감자탕’s Busan outlets, FYI. Lemme know if you’d like a translation.

맛나 감자탕 (Matna Gamjatang), 용호동점 (Yongho-dong outlet)
부산 광역시 남구 용호동 84-5번지 휴렉스 빌딩 2층
(Address in English: 84-5, Yongho-dong, Nam-gu, Gwangyok-si, Busan)

Opening hours: 10 am to 11 pm daily.
Tel. no.: +82 051-628-3388
Website (in Korean only): http://www.mattna.com/

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