14.179 Gamja Project (1) Jjin Gamja

Cycle 14 – Item 179

3 (Mon) July 2023

Jjin Gamja


by me

at home

-Changgok, Sujeong, Seongnam, Gyeonggi, Republic of Korea-

with W and IZ

The Gamja Project (1)

In this series, I cook potato dishes using freshly harvest gamja gifted to us from a neighboring farmer at the cabin (for more background and related posts, see THE GAMJA PROJECT).

When the potatoes began to sprout, back in May.


Gamja (감자) is a potato, in Korean.  Although various sources suggest that several (supposedly as many as 40) varieties are available in Korea, the only one that’s generally available is the “sumi (수미)” variety.  Typically about the size of a flattened tennis ball, about 150 g in mass.  Thin-skinned, white, starchy.   The most common usage is in stews/soups/hotpots (see for example 14.130 Baeksuk with Extra Chickeny Soup; 12.135 Gamja Sujebi, 10.148 Chicken and Potato Kalguksu, 14.109 Daegu Maeun Tang, 12.230 Daegu Doenjang Jjigae, 13.271 Gochujang Jjigae, 12.207 Dubu Jjim), including the eponymous gamja tang (see for example 10.340 Gamja Tang), as well as braises (see for example 13.240 Galbi Jjim, 10.101 Dak Dori Tang, 11.302 Godeungeo Jorim, 4.187 Braised Byeongeo), sometimes stir-fried (see for example 7.302 Gamja Chae Bokkeum) or pan-fried (see for example 12.094 Gamja Jeon).  I vaguely recall having seen “hong (홍) (red)” potatoes at a supermarket somewhere, but I’m beginning to think that it was in a dream.

According to the box, potatoes come in 6 sizes: king-king, king-special, special, large, medium, jorim (baby ones, for braising – a dish not yet covered on GMTD).

In Hoengseong (where our cabin is), a predominantly agricultural province, a common sight this time of year is an afternoon gathering of old women (never men, who are presumably out in the fields), sitting on a mat under a pergola, gabbing away, munching on steamed (or boiled) potatoes, which are fresh, abundant, and cheap in early summer.  Of course, as do all Koreans, old and young, they discard the skins of the potatoes [GASP!] as they eat them.

Each box came with 10 kg of potatoes.

For this first application, I kept it as simple as could be: steamed (jjin), served with salt.  As Korean potatoes are delicate, steaming is preferable to boiling because the agitation of boiling water tends to make the surface of the potato crumbly.  I kept the skins on, despite W’s protests.

Having given away several bags of potatoes to friends and family, I started with about 12 kg.

Very nice.  Rich, sweet potato flavor, plus a strong note of earthiness from the skins.  The flesh was soft and creamy, with a contrasting chewiness from the skins.  W admitted, in disbelief, that the skins were better left on.

While eating, we were playing Stratego, which I’ve never lost to anyone in this family of feebleminded military strategists.

After tonight’s meal, I still have 11 kg left.

Korean-Swedish Culinary Exchange (25)

In this series, Number One Swedish Fan GK and I collaborate to cook dishes in our respective kitchens on a specific theme – most commonly, I make something Swedish, while he makes something Korean –  then share photos and comments (for more background and related posts, see KSCX). 

This was a perfect opportunity for another installment of KSCX.  Swedes do love their potatoes.


[The italicized comments below are GK’s own words, with minor typographical edits from me.]

I’m so glad to once again start up our cooking exchange.

Here is the selection of potatoes at the supermarket close to work.  As seen, there’s several different varieties available.  The potatoes you can pick yourself are “Swedish fresh potatoes” – it’s harvest season.  Earlier in the summer, you can often get potatoes crazy cheap due to the abundance. 

You can also see:
  • Almond potatoes 
  • Amandine potato
  • “Delicacy potato” (not sure what qualifies as “delicacy'”maybe they are smaller and of a more “noble” variety?)
  • “Floury potatoes” (one of the basic types of potatoes you can buy here)
  • “Firm potatoes” (the other basic type)
  • Organic (called “Ecological”) potatoes
  • And combinations of the above (e.g., organic almond potatoes)
The actual varieties of potatoes are seldom specified; mostly they are just labeled as “firm” or “floury” (they are better suited for different purposes, but I have mostly ignored the label and just bought the variety that’s cheapest at the moment).

To start it off, I cooked something very basic, an “everyday meal” kind of thing: Swedish potato buns.  Actually, I eat it a lot, especially when I don’t have the time and/or the energy to cook something “real.”  In those cases, I just buy a pack of pre-made frozen buns and heat them up in the oven.  I have probably only made potato buns myself from scratch once.

The recipe is extremely simple: potatoes are peeled, cut into smaller pieces, cooked until soft, water drained, and mashed.  The mashed potatoes are then mixed with eggs, pepper + salt, and flour.

Reading up on the dish online, it seems to be something originally made to use up leftover mashed potatoes, which kinda makes sense.

The batter is formed into balls/pucks and fried in a pan with butter.  I tried at first to just scoop out some batter, which created a pretty uneven shape (as seen in the photos).  I then made actual balls with my hands.

To save time, I finished the buns in the oven after getting a crust on both sides.  I was a little too eager to take them out of the oven due to hunger, so in the end I needed to put them into the oven for another round.

To show the difference between homemade and premade, I prepared both.

You can clearly see the difference in texture and shape between the buns from the store and the ones that I made.

They were served with lingonberry jam and a glass of milk.

I was thinking of also frying up some bacon to have with the buns, and maybe also some vegetables, but I decided not to, partly because the serving suggestions on the package for the frozen buns didn’t mention bacon – they are often served that way though.

In the end, the homemade buns turned out decent, but not much more than that.  They felt a little too soft on the inside, maybe due to too much moisture in the batter?  Or maybe I have just had potato buns too many times and I’m getting tired of them?


On my effort:

    • Obviously, I wasn’t making a “dish” – just wanted to highlight the potato in its purest form.
    • Surprisingly, the issue of potato skins had never come up between W and me in the 16+ years of our marriage.  (Apple skins, yes – Koreans also don’t eat apple skins, or banana peels, believe it or not – but these had previously been resolved.)  As such, she was shocked when I dug into a potato without peeling it.  “Remember apples and bananas?  This is the same thing,” I reminded her.  So, despite the simplicity of the steamed potato, W learned a valuable lesson from it.

On GK’s effort:


The challenge in moving forward will be to use up all the potatoes in a wide variety of contrasting cuisines, dishes, tastes, and textures that allows us to enjoy and appreciate the spud with every meal – perhaps 10 meals, perhaps consecutively – without getting sick of them.

As GK has suggested: “For the next exchange, I will cook one or two Spanish-origin dishes, dishes that are a little more ‘refined’ perhaps….”

(See also HANSIK)


7 thoughts on “14.179 Gamja Project (1) Jjin Gamja

  1. I’m glad to have the exchange going again!
    Some comments on my part:
    1. Who eats banana peels? I have heard them being used at “plating” in some indian cuisine, but I don’t think I have ever eaten them…
    2. As a side note, I myself really dislike the potato skins, so I almost always peel them before boiling them (I think that much easier than peeling afterwards).
    3. I agree that they might work well with sour cream/hot sauce/something else too. As you already know, rårakor (for example) are often eaten with sour cream…

    1. 1. “Who eats banana peels?” – oh man, did you fall into that one.
      2. Until this experience, I’d liked potato skins only casually, like if they were already there (e.g., baked potato), but now I think I’ll make more of a conscious effort to keep them on whenever possible. // Why is it easier to peel potatoes raw? You need to use a peeler, but when cooked the skins easily slide off with your fingers…
      3. I hope to make rårakor sometime during the course of this project….

      1. 1. I’m utterly confused
        2. I guess I’m just confident with being a fast potato peeler (which I use to peel outer vegetables as well, such as carrots. And why would I want to get my hands dirty with hot, mushy potatoes instead of just peeling them before they are boiled? I was actually about to bet you a bottle of scotch that I could easily peel a set amount (weight/number) of potatoes raw faster than you could peel them boiled, but maybe I should do a test myself first…

  2. 1. the banana peel thing was a joke, just to see if you’d respond, like when I say LEGO is Swedish.
    2. that would be a really fun contest. we could capture it on video.

  3. 1. D’oh!
    2. Yeah, or we could try it if you ever come to Sweden, or I return to Korea one day…

    1. let’s do it as a KSCX post! we could each get, say, 3-5 potatoes of equal total weight (more would even out the deviation, so long as we could use up the potatoes after the peeling). We film ourselves peeling them, and see which is faster….?

      1. Sounds good! I will do it when I get back from my vacation (end of August/beginning of September) and get back to you!

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