NYC: Momofuku Ssäm Bar and the infamous Bo Ssäm

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Bo Ssäm at Momofuku's Ssäm Bar is a Momofuku staple. I mean, just look at the beaut...

Momofuku Ssam Bar - Bo Ssäm - Slow Roasted Pork Shoulder
Bo Ssäm at Momofuku's Ssäm Bar in all its juicy glistening glory.
Now that I've got your attention, let's pause for a moment...

What is Momofuku?

Quite honestly, I didn't know about the Momofuku brand until my first visit to New York a few years ago. So, let me back track for you just in case: David Chang is a Korean-American chef who started the Momofuku restaurant group with a main focus on Asian cuisine. By 26, he opened his first restaurant, Momofuku Noodle Bar in NYC's East Village, in 2004. Since then, Chef David Chang has opened 4 other concepts in the city and has won various awards including the James Beard award and even has been awarded 2 Michelin Stars for his fine dining concept, Momofuku Ko.

In fact, Momofuku Ssäm Bar is ranked #37 in 2013 in The World's 50 Best Restaurants (Update: it's not on the list for 2013). So with a restaurant called Ssäm Bar, how can you not want to try the namesake, the Bo Ssäm?
Ssäm Bar has a very casual feel to it, it features long tables for big parties as well as a long bar area for smaller parties
Momofuku Ssäm Bar Menu
The Ssäm Bar menu features an array of asian inspired foods, a favorite is the steamed buns served with pork belly

What is a Bo Ssäm? The Momofuku difference 

Ssäm is Korean for wrap - so if you've been to a Korean BBQ restaurant, you'll recall that sometimes you'll be given lettuce, ssamjang (the garlic pepper paste), raw garlic, rice and other goodies to wrap around your meats. Bo ssäm is therefore steamed pork wrapped with lettuce.

The Bo Ssäm by Momofuku really transforms the usual steamed pork and makes it a million times more flavorful. Instead of steaming it, Chef David Chang first dry brines a 6-8 lb bone-in pork shoulder (which is also called the pork butt, confusing, I know) with salt and sugar overnight. Then, the pork is slow roasted for 6 hours, allowing the meat to become fall-off-the-bone tender perfection. Finally he finishes it off by adding a layer of brown sugar and caramelizes it over the meat so that it adds an extra layer of crispy, sweet and savory goodness.

(Update: You can now make your own Bo Ssam at home. Here's my post on it!)
In prep for the bo ssäm, bibb lettuce, and the 4 condiments: ginger-scallion, kimchi, minced kimchi and kochujang
A dozen oysters on the half shell to add to the lettuce wrap - soooo delicious
Along came the pork butt - this thing was heavvvvvy!

As a result of the long prep time, you are required to order the Bo Ssäm in advanced - you have to make a reservation through their online system here. On any given night, they have reservations every 15 minutes from 5pm - 6:30pm and then again at 10, 11 and 11:30pm. So, you're likely either stuck with a pretty early dinner, or a really late dinner, and the 6:30pm slot gets filled up FAST on the weekends. It is recommended to serve 6-10 people - I went with a group of 10 people with a 1:1 guy/girl ratio, and we were all STUFFFED by the end.

Now came to the moment of truth, picking at the Bo Ssäm! We were all given tongs to pick at the meat like salvages. I was lucky enough to do the honors of the first stab - the outside had a beautiful crunchy exterior, and the meats inside was so tender and by the time we hit the bone, the meat was just falling off the bone...
The perfect wrap, the bibb lettuce helped elevate the experience - it wasn't just any old iceberg lettuce!
I loved putting all of the condiments in my wrap, and the oyster added that extra umami flavor to the whole thing
Halfway through the Bo Ssäm.....mmmmm.....

Are you hungry yet? Cause I sure am! Just looking at these pictures is bringing me back to each delicious bite, down to the very last. Everyone at the table was a happy camper. So, an order of Bo Ssäm will run you $200, which includes the pork, the dozen oysters, the 4 sauces, lettuce and rice. I know it seems like a bit of a steep price to pay for what you're getting, but split between 10 people, the $20 didn't seem all that painful. However, I fully intend to try this recipe at home. For those of you who are curious, there's actually a pretty good recipe here on the New York Times for the Momofuku Bo Ssäm.

So in addition to the Bo Ssäm, we actually ordered a few other things including...
Seasonal Pickles - I've never had pickled mushrooms before, but LOVE LOVE LOVE.
BBQ Pork Bun - not to be mistaken with their Steamed Buns which I believe is the more popular of the two
Market Veggies - the best bok-choy I've had in a long time, the fried shallots is golden, and the sauce was tasty

All in all, I really enjoyed my meal at Ssäm Bar and can't wait to go back again to share with a big group of friends. I will also have to get the Steamed Buns the next time around to see how it compares to the amazing Ippudo pork buns. 

P.S. I just bought the Momofuku cookbookand I'm really excited to try some recipes from it soon to share with you all!


Momofuku Ssäm Bar

★★★☆ - Pretty good, worth trying
Good for: Large Groups, Casual, Friends
Come here for: Unpretentious & Delicious Korean Fusion food
Recommended Dishes: Bo Ssäm if you have a huge group (8 people+), or Rotisserie Duck for smaller groups

Neighborhood/Cuisine: East Village / Asian Fusion
Momofuku Ssäm Bar

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