Bo Ssam – Like a Lover 4


Sometimes a recipe gets under your skin. It climbs into you and says, “Make me. Make me. Make me.”

It’s times like this when you find an eight-pound pork shoulder brining in the fridge. You might wonder what you’ve gotten yourself into with the rinsing, baking, braising, and broiling still to come.

All wonder will be gone when you smack that tender slab of pork goodness in the center of your table. You’ll look at the caramelized crust and say to yourself, “Yeah baby. Yeah.” You’ll say it in that horrendously scratchy, deep macho voice you normally keep hidden because this is not one of those flower centerpiece kind of meals. It’s a showstopper, meat lover extravaganza. If you’re a must-have-table-decorations kind of cook, put your sides in fancy bowls. Here pork is your main event. Dirty plates and sticky fingers are your grand finale.

Think you’ve seen a table fight over food before? Try this meal on for size. I dare you. Better yet I encourage you, I implore you – invite your friends over for dinner. Invite your rowdiest friends. Invite your loudest friends. Invite your craziest, most exciting, get into it, not afraid to be dirty, get greasy, grab with both hands friends.

After all, everyone needs a little Bo Ssam in their life. A little salty, sweet tenderness complete with a crusty outside that makes you come back for more and more and more.

Goodness, all of a sudden it sounds like I’m talking about a lover. But, isn’t that what good food really is? It gets in you. Sticks with you. Makes you salivate at the thought.

At least that’s how it was for me when I first read about Bo Ssam in Sam Sifton’s article “The Bo Ssam Miracle.” And then again, when I saw Molly Wizenberg’s Facebook status, “Fantasizing about bo ssam.” I finally went to the butcher when I read Jenny’s post on Finding Tasty. Bo Ssam was crying, “Make me. Make me. Make.” Can you hear it now too?

Bo Ssam
Adapted from Chef David Chang and Jenny of Finding Tasty

The meat is meant to be torn off and eaten in lettuce wraps with rice. Kimchi and the Scallion-Ginger Sauce are optional toppings meant to be spooned into lettuce wraps. If you notice guests are shoveling the meat into their mouths’ sans accoutrements, don’t be surprised. This is a protein-focused kind of meal.

1 pork shoulder, bone in, 7-8 pounds
½ cup kosher, flake salt
½ cup sugar
1 bottle dark beer (plus one or two for the cook)
¼ cup brown sugar
Kimchi
1 cup sticky rice
Scallion-Ginger Sauce (recipe below)
1 head butter lettuce, washed and separated into individual leaves

Place pork in a large bowl. Combine salt and sugar together. Rub salt-sugar mixture into pork, covering all exposed flesh. Cover and refrigerate overnight (8-24 hours).

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees. Remove pork from brine and rinse thoroughly. Pat dry with paper towels. Place fat side up in a large Dutch oven with a lid.
Note: If you don’t have a Dutch oven, a large oven-safe pot or pan will do in a pinch. Use tinfoil as a lid.

Cover pork and roast for 2 hours. Add beer. Cover and continue to braise for 4-5 hours, until the meat is falling off the bone.
Note: If it cooks more quickly, shut off the oven and hold until ready to serve. It can hold this way for up to 2 hours.

15-20 minutes before serving, turn the oven up to broil. Line a deep casserole dish with foil. Carefully transfer pork from the braising pan to casserole dish.
Note: You could try using two spatulas to do this. Or bite the bullet and get two hot pads dirty.

Pat brown sugar onto the top of the pork. Return to oven until sugar is completely melted.
Note: At this heat, the sugar will likely smoke. Opening windows and doors are highly recommended.

Remove from oven. Transfer pork to a serving platter. Allow to cool for five minutes. Serve family style with lots of napkins.

Scallion-Ginger Sauce

This is intended as a topping for the Bo Ssam lettuce wraps. Would also add a good twist to sushi rolls. Heck, add a dash of white wine to the mix and you’ll have a killer chicken or fish marinade.

1 bunch scallions (green onions), sliced thin (including all the green part)
1 – 3″ long piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 tsp sherry vinegar
1 TBS soy sauce
2 TBS vegetable oil

Throw everything in a cuisinart and pulse gently five times. Hold at room temperature for up to six hours.

Recipe in print-friendly format

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About Mikaela Cowles

I’m a food-gobbling, book-reading, aspiring photog. Born and raised in Seattle, I love dancing in the rain, bouquets of fresh basil and green grass between my toes. I like how kneading butter into flour makes my fingers soft. I’m passionate about all things sweet potato. I prefer my coffee black, my scotch on the rocks and my steak bloody. I hunt, when I have time; play basketball; and hike. I’ve been known to laugh so hard I hyperventilate. And, I’m the owner of Making Language Count, a boutique freelance writing business.


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4 thoughts on “Bo Ssam – Like a Lover

  • Hannah

    Salty, sweet tenderness sounds incredible – I love all the flavors here and I can understand why it called out to you. Do you think it would work well with beef? That scallion ginger sauce looks lip smacking, too.

    • Mikaela L. Cowles Post author

      Thanks Hannah! I think beef could work, but it wouldn’t be as fatty as the pork which is what makes it so tender. But, beef brisket’s pretty darn tender, so the same “low and slow” principals seem like they’d be in play to me. If you try it, please let me know how it turns out.

    • Mikaela L. Cowles Post author

      Merry –

      I’m so glad you liked it! Did I ever tell you I tried making that bread again? I think I need a bakers touch.

      Mikaela