So the general knowledge in the Korean working-class household is that if you labored all day inhaling dirt, paint (my dad), or any other impurities–the cure is to wash it down with some fatty pork belly. Yes, you read that correctly. You wash down the impurities with..
My dad is a painting contractor and around my house if the spray machine was used that day, we were eating pork belly for dinner. Because you inhale more paint when spraying as opposed to using the roller or the brush.. duh! (my insufferable-know-it-all-eight-year-old self would’ve said – with an eye roll)
Bossam or Ssam is pretty well known now thanks to David Chang of the Momofuku Empire. But his is a fancy restaurant version. This is down-home family style pork belly. Every Korean family has their own way of preparing Bossam and each will swear theirs is the best. But I swear mine is the best! (wink, wink)
To each their own.
I have choked, almost every single time, trying to stuff that in my mouth all at once. And yet I still do it. But now that I’m grown I’ll only do it once or twice, for old times sake, and then I’ll just eat it piece by piece in rapid succession. A deconstructed ssam if you will.
You can omit the cinnamon bark if you don’t have any. I haven’t tried subbing it with cinnamon powder so I don’t recommend that here.
You can sub the mirin with sake, sherry, Shaoxing rice wine, even soju. Or a crisp white wine such as Pinot Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. These are all I’ve tried and have worked for recipes involving mirin in small quantities.
In a pinch, the basic aromatics needed for pork belly in the Son Mat Kitchen would be: onion, garlic, green onion, ginger, jalapeno, doenjang and mirin (see above for mirin substitutes).
Soy Sauce: Korean Soup soy sauce or regular soy sauce will work here.
Napa Cabbage: This needs to soak for at least a few hours. Traditionally, bo-ssam is served with wilted napa cabbage but you can use big leafy greens that are not harsh raw, such as: butter or bib type lettuces. The Korean markets have plenty of Korean lettuces for wrapping. One of my favorite wrapping veggies are Perilla Leaves. You can also layer different types of lettuces and leaves or other greens: cilantro, crown daisy, minari, seaweed, etc. Go crazy!
Raw oysters: I get the frozen Korean kind and defrost before use. You can always use freshly shucked oysters. The bags are 8 oz. each so you may have leftovers. The amount of oysters really depend on if the diners like oysters or not. So get more if they like it a lot or less even none if they don’t
Preparing Moochae to eat with Bo-Ssam is a bit different. I like to add half a small asian pear, julienned, and a small handful of minari (it has many names), cut into thirds. Also adjust seasonings: add more of the fish sauce and red pepper to taste. You can use the original recipe but I like it better this way for this dish.Pork Belly Ssam with Oysters and Salted Shrimp Sauce
Makes about 4 servings. Takes a couple of hours.
- about 2 lbs pork belly
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- Fat tablespoon doenjang
- 2 T. mirin
- half a small lobok, cut into big chunks
- half an onion, cut into big chunks
- 4 garlic, smashed
- 1 green onion, cut into thirds
- 1/2 inch ginger slice, cut into chunks
- 1 jalapeno, cut in half
- 1 t. whole peppercorn
- 2 inch piece single layer cinnamon bark
- 4 – 8 oz. raw oysters
- 1/4 napa cabbage
- 1/2 cup sea salt
- 1 t. salted shrimp
- 2 t. vinegar
- 1 T. water
- 1/2 t. red pepper powder
- 1 garlic, finely minced
- 1/4 t. roasted sesame seeds
Raw Oysters and Napa Cabbage:
Salted Shrimp Sauce
Prepare napa cabbage:
In a medium sized bowl mix the salt with about 4 cups cold water. Add the quartered napa cabbage. Open up the leaves a bit so it is exposed to the salt water. After about a couple hours, flip the cabbage over. The cabbage should be ready in about 4 hours. Try bending the other leaf, it should be bend almost in half very easily.
Make the pork belly:
Cut pork belly into approx 6 inch pieces. Add to pot along with all pork belly ingredients and add enough water to cover by a few inches. Stir to break up doen jang. Turn on heat to high and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, lower heat so it is at a rapid simmer, around medium to medium high. Let it cook for about 45 minutes. Don’t go over an hour, it will be dry. Turn off the heat and cover with lid. Let it sit for about 10 minutes. Remove pork belly from pot onto cutting board, cover loosely with foil and let it sit another 10 minutes. Slice into 1/4″ slices.
Make the sauce:
Mix all the sauce ingredients together. If you have a mortar and pestle, I like to mash the sesame seeds just a bit, to release their flavor, before mixing with the other ingredients.
Arrange the sliced pork belly on a large plate on one side. Place the napa leaves on the other side. Serve the sauce, oysters, and Moochae in their own separate bowls. Serve with hot sticky rice. Enjoy!