Going home (back to Maryland that is) even for a weekend always means great food and wine! My parents appreciate a good meal, just finished amassing an amazing wine collection, and are always up for any foodie dinner idea I might throw at them. Dinners are filled with laughter and catching up and many, many bottles of wine! It’s kind of perfect!
So for my most recent visit home, we no doubt had some pretty great meals ranging from a tasting menu at CityZen, one of DC’s top restaurants (see more here) to a bo ssäm feast!
Bo ssäm is a traditional Korean meal of pork wrapped in lettuce leaves, commonly served with a spicy ssam sauce. Recently, David Chang of Momofuku fame made it famous at his restaurants Noddle Bar and Ssam Bar where it’s a popular menu item. For Chang’s ssam, accompaniments include a dozen oysters, bibb lettuce and kimichi. And at Ssam they have a special 6-10 person ssam with all the fixings for $225. It sounds so intense, but with 10 people it would totally be worth it!
Anyway, not having the chance to go to Ssam yet or find 10 friends wanting to eat a massive amount of meat, I decided a weekend home would be the perfect excuse to make it myself! Plus, I’ve been drooling over this recipe for a while (which is usually the case with my cooking exploits) I mean, It’d be a little worrisome to cook 10 pounds of pork butt and eat it myself in my Bed Stuy kitchen… But in Maryland with my parents and aunt, it’s practically a party!
So that bring us to this recipe! It calls for 8-10 pounds of pork butt (which was honestly the weight of a small child). While we discussed halving the recipe, you really might as well go all out. We ate a decent amount between four people when we had this and it made great leftovers!
To start, you’ll want to cover the pork butt in a mixture of sugar and salt (a dry brine) and let it sit covered in the fridge at least overnight. We actually only did this for a couple hours and it worked out fine. You’ll want to drain the pot of any liquid that has come off the pork and then it’s time to cook!
This is really the perfect weekend activity. The pork cooks in the salt-sugar rub for at least six hours until the meat is falling apart. It makes the house smell incredible! You can really let it go with minor supervision too. You can baste it with the liquid in the pan if you’d like or just go binge Orange is the New Black (coming up for air to check that your house doesn’t burn down every now and again).
In the time it takes the pork to cook, you can whip up your accompaniments. We chose to serve our bo ssam with a ginger scallion sauce (as Chang suggests) but didn’t have time to buy the ingredients for the ssam sauce. The ginger scallion pairing was perfect though! It’s easy to put together — a mixture of grated, minced ginger, chopped scallions, vegetable oil, soy sauce and a little sherry vinegar. It was great after prepared, but even better after it had chilled in the fridge for a few hours and the flavors were able to come together!
And after six hours, sprinkle brown sugar over the top of the cooked pork and return it to the oven at 500 degrees F for 10 to 15 minutes. Watch it closely so the sugar doesn’t burn! It will become carmelized and golden… it strangely smelled like cookies (in the best way)! Let it rest for at least 30 minutes before pulling apart the meat.
And now you’re ready to eat…
We served our bo ssam with the aforementioned ginger scallion sauce, bibb lettuce, rice and a pineapple habanero salsa in place of the spicy ssam sauce. It was divine! It’s a fun communal eating experience, everyone grabbing pieces and making lettuce wraps. The sauces both paired beautifully with the fatty, juicy pork. And man, oh man, that brown sugar crusted pork skin is like crack!
It may be a decadent beautiful, but the lettuce leaves make it healthy right? At least that’s what I’ll tell myself after eating 2.5 pounds of pork ha!
This is a great meal for a party and actually quite easy to make! It definitely is impressive and oh so delicious! If you don’t have the dough to cough up at Ssam Bar or aren’t in the NYC area, but want a taste of David Chang’s amazing traditional Korean centerpiece, definitely make it at home! It’s well worth it!
- 1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 7 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2½ cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
- ½ cup peeled, minced fresh ginger
- ¼ cup neutral oil
- 1½ teaspoons light soy sauce
- 1 scant teaspoon sherry vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons fermented bean-and- chili paste
- 1 tablespoon chili paste (kochujang, available in many Asian markets, and online)
- ½ cup sherry vinegar
- ½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)
- 2 cups plain white rice, cooked
- 3 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
- Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
- When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices. Place the pork in a roasting pan and set in the oven and cook for approximately 6 hours, or until it collapses, yielding easily to the tines of a fork. (After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices.) At this point, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.
- Meanwhile, make the ginger-scallion sauce. In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.
- Make the ssam sauce. In a medium bowl, combine the chili pastes with the vinegar and oil, and mix well.
- Prepare rice, wash lettuce and, if using, shuck the oysters. Put kimchi and sauces into serving bowls.
- When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 500. In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork. Place in oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, with the accompaniments.