Chef David Chang has redefined a popular Korean dish, Bo Ssam, and made it his own. As a Korean-American chef who started the Momofuku brand, he has made the Bo Ssam a signature dish at its namesake, Momofuku Ssam Bar.
I’ve tried the Bo Ssam at Momofuku Ssam Bar, and let me you tell you – it is ahhh-mazzing! The pork comes out glistening and is a sight for hungry eyes. The meat is tender and smells of sweet savoriness with a caramelized crust that just falls apart when you dig your tongs into it. However, if you aren’t able to be in Manhattan to order this, the great news is that this dish isn’t too difficult to replicate yourself!
While I would never dare try to cook this beast in my tiny Manhattan kitchen and try to fit 10 people in my apartment, I did ask my cousin in California to host a Bo Ssam dinner for me when I went back home to visit a few months ago. 🙂 That said, I was mainly second hand cooking this Bo Ssam.
It all begins with bone-in pork butt, aka pork shoulder, aka Boston butt. The Momofuku recipe calls for an eight to ten pounder, but we were able to buy 15 lbs of it for less than $20 bucks at Cash & Carry in Oakland. Shockingly inexpensive, I know, especially compared to the $200 sticker price Chang slaps on this dish at Ssam Bar.
The whole thing gets its flavor from an overnight dry brine of salt and sugar. Then the rest of it becomes pretty simple, this big chunk of meat gets slow cooked in the oven for 6 hours.
The thing is, every hour, you have to baste meat with the rendered fat and pan juices.
By hour number six, the pork should be fall off the bone tender, so that when you dig your tongs into the meat to grab a piece for your wrap, it is the easiest thing in the world. And then the fun begins.
Pork brûlée time!! One of the best parts of Momofuku’s bo ssam is the sweet sugary crust that’s on top. Chang dubs this as “pig candy” and seriously, it’s delicious…
After your pork is done resting, it’s time to add the crust of brown sugar and salt on top of the pork and put it back into the oven for another 15 minutes to caramelize. This is the part might get a bit smokey from the oven since the heat is turned up so high. We just kept the windows opened and it turned out fine. No smoke alarms triggered.
We might have gotten a bit overzealous in covering the pork in sugar as we ended up with a nice thick crust that didn’t melt down all the way but looks so delicious…
So that’s it – that wasn’t so hard right? At Momofuku, the Bo Ssam is served with lettuce, rice, oysters and 4 condiments. The condiments includes Ginger & Scallion sauce, Ssam sauce, kimchi and pureed kimchi.
Oysters? It does seem a bit out of place with the pork wraps, but did you know that oysters pair really really well with kimchi? My first time experiencing it was at a Korean restaurant having kimchi and unsuspectingly taking a bite of raw oyster which took me by surprise, but it was very pleasant in taste and strangely addicting. The addition of oysters is said to help the fermentation process of the kimchi and definitely gives it a briny umami bomb of goodness.
The oysters make this wrap 10x better so don’t skimp out, and go shuck some oysters for this – we got ours at Whole Foods.
The next time you end up needing to feed a large group of people, a Bo Ssam is definitely the way to go. There’s something about putting a huge chunk of meat in front of a group of people that brings out the animalistic side in people. It brought me great joy to dig my tongs through the beautiful sweet and savory crust of the pork into fall off the bone tender pork and I have a feeling that you’ll enjoy it very much too.
• We cooked 15 pounds of pork butt when the recipe called for 8-10, and we only cooked it for 6 hours. As a result, the pork wasn’t as tender as I remembered it to be at Ssam Bar, so definitely if you’re increasing the amount you’re cooking, also plan on increasing the cook time. Another 2 hours would have been perfect.
• Kosher salt and regular table salt is NOT the same thing. As such, you should make sure if you’re using table salt to brine the pork that you use less of it or else it’d be way oversalted. About.com suggests using half the amount to substitute, but I say just don’t substitute it at all. Invest in some kosher salt.
Momofuku’s Bo Ssam
from Momofuku’s cookbook
Serves 6 to 10 peopleThe Pork
1 whole bone-in Boston pork butt (8 to 10 pounds)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
7 tablespoons brown sugar
On the Side
Ginger & Scallion Sauce – recipe here
Ssam Sauce – see below
Kimchi & Pureed Kimchi (both are needed, pureed kimchi is great!)
Cooked short-grain rice
A dozen oysters (optional, but highly recommended!)
3 Heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
1. Brine the meat. The day before you want to cook your bo ssam, dry brine it first. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of kosher salt together and rub all over pork butt. Cover container with plastic wrap and put in fridge overnight (or at least for six hours).
2. Cook the meat. About 6-7 hours before you’re ready to serve, take the meat out of the fridge and let it come back closer to room temperature (30 minutes). Discard the juices that has accumulated. Pre-heat oven to 300 When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300. Place the pork in a roasting pan and put in oven. After the first hour, baste the meat with the fat and juices that collect at the bottom of the pan. Do this hourly. You know the pork is ready when you can easily stick a fork in it. Take it out of the oven and you can let it rest for up to an hour.
3. Make the sides. During the few hours that the meat is cooking, start preparing the sides & condiments. You can easily make the 4 sauces ahead of time.
4. Pork brûlée time! Just as you’re ready to serve the bo ssam, crank up the heat in the oven to 500 degrees. Mix the remaining 1 tablespoon of kosher salt together with brown sugar. Layer the mixture on top of the pork & basically all over. Put into oven for another 10-15 minutes, until a nice dark crust starts to form and the sugar caramelizes with the bubbling pork fat. Serve hot with Ssam Sauce (see below), Ginger & Scallion Sauce (recipe here), pureed kimchi, and all the sides listed above under On the Side.
Ssam Sauce Recipe
2 tablespoons ssamjang (essentially a mixture of fermented soybean paste (dwenjang) -and- red chili pepper paste (gochujang))
1 tablespoon chili paste (gochujang) to amp up the spiciness
½ cup sherry vinegar
½ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)
Mix everything together, set aside & serve.