Not possum! Bo ssäm! (보쌈)

Did I tell you we’re visiting Japan next year? Oh, I did already? Well, yes we are. And aiming to eat our own body weight in the food delights from there. But before I delve again deep into the delights of pork dishes from Nippon, my eye was caught again by this one, albeit a pork plateful that originates from a neighbouring Far Eastern country, and not The Land of The Rising Sun.

© / Korean Culture and Information Service

This is Bo ssäm or Bossam, a classic Korean pork belly (or shoulder) dish. The pork is boiled in a pot of water along with some star anise, some sliced fresh ginger, diced scallions, a couple of cloves of smashed garlic, doenjang (soybean paste), coffee powder and tea leaves until tender. Then it’s cooled and sliced and served with side dishes which sometimes means with fresh raw oysters, when it’s called gul-bossam (굴보쌈; “oyster bossam“).

I saw a piece back in 2012 about the version served at his Momofuku restaurant, by David Chang, who charges upwards of $200 for his version (albeit as a shared dish for between 6-10 covers) which looks completely different in this photo based on his recipe versus that one above at Wikipedia. They both look great; different sure, but great.

© Marcus Nilsson for The New York Times. Food stylist: Brian Preston-Campbell. Prop stylist: PJ Mehaffey.

Here’s David’s recipe which he released into the public domain some time ago:

INGREDIENTS (gives 6 to 8 servings)

  • 1 whole 8- to 10-pound bone-in Boston pork butt
  • 1 C granulated sugar
  • 1 C (plus 1 T) kosher salt
  • 7 T light brown sugar
  • 1 dozen oysters, shucked
  • 3-4 heads Bibb lettuce, leaves separated, well-washed, and spun dry
  • + Maldon or other high-quality coarse sea salt


NAPA CABBAGE KIMCHI (Makes 1 to 1½ quarts)

  • 1 small to medium head Napa cabbage, discolored or loose outer leaves discarded
  • 2 T kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 C (plus 2 T) sugar
  • 20 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 slices peeled fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 C kochukaru (Korean chili powder)
  • 1/4 C fish sauce
  • 1/4 C usukuchi (light soy sauce)
  • 2 t jarred salted shrimp
  • 1/2 C 1″ pieces scallions (greens and whites)
  • 1/2 C julienned carrots
  1. Cut the cabbage in half lengthwise, then cut the halves crosswise into 1-inch-wide pieces. Toss the cabbage with the salt and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
  2. Combine the garlic, ginger, kochukaru, fish sauce, soy sauce, shrimp, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl. If it is very thick, add water 1/2 cup at a time until the brine is just thicker than a creamy salad dressing but no longer a sludge. Stir in the scallions and carrots.
  3. Drain the cabbage and add it to the brine. Cover and refrigerate. Though the kimchi will be tasty after 24 hours, it will be better in a week, and at its prime in 2 weeks. It will still be good for another couple weeks after that, though it will grow incrementally stronger and funkier.

GINGER SCALLION SAUCE (makes about 3 cups)

  • 2 1/2 C thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1–2 large bunches)
  • 1/2 C finely minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 C grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 1 1/2 t usukuchi (light soy sauce)
  • 3/4 t sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 t kosher salt, or more to taste
  1. Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Though it’s best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion sauce is good from the minute it’s stirred together to up to a day or two in the fridge.


  • 1 T ssämjang (fermented bean and chile paste)
  • 1/2 T kochujang (chili paste)
  • 1/4 C sherry vinegar
  • 1/4 C grapeseed or other neutral oil
  1. Combine all the ingredients and stir until evenly mixed. Ssäm sauce will keep in the fridge for weeks.

SHORT-GRAIN RICE (Makes 4 cups)

  • 2 C short-grain white rice (sometimes labeled “sushi rice”)
  • 2 C water (if cooking on the stovetop)
  1. Put the rice in a large bowl (or in the insert that fits into the rice cooker) and add enough water to submerge it by an inch. Use your fingers to stir the rice—stirring the rice like this will loosen the powdery rice starch from the grains and cloud the water. Tilt the bowl to drain the rice, using your hand to keep the rice from going down the drain with the water, and repeat until the rice no longer clouds the water.
  2. If using a rice cooker, cook the rice according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If cooking on the stovetop, put the rice in a medium saucepan with a lid, add the water, cover the pan, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water boils, reduce the heat to low and cook, covered, until the rice has absorbed all the water in the pot, about 20 minutes.
  3. Regardless of whether you’ve cooked it on the stove or in a cooker, when the rice is ready, paddle it: we use a short, wide, wooden rice paddle to do so, but any wooden spoon will work. Just stir and fluff the rice, letting the steam escape, then let it sit for another 10 minutes with the lid of the pan or the cooker slightly ajar before serving.


  1. Put the pork shoulder in a roasting pan, ideally one that holds it snugly. Mix together the granulated sugar and 1 cup of the salt in a bowl, then rub the mixture into the meat; discard any excess salt-and-sugar mixture. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
  2. Heat oven to 300°F. Remove the pork from the refrigerator and discard any juices that have accumulated. Put the pork in the oven and cook for 6 hours, basting with the rendered fat and pan juices every hours. The pork should be tender and yielding at this point–it should offer almost no resistance to the blade of a knife and you should be able to easily pull meat off the shoulder with a fork. Depending on your schedule, you can serve the pork right away or let it rest and mellow out at room temperature for up to an hour.
  3. When ready to serve – sauces are made, oysters are ready to be shucked, lettuce is washed, etc.– turn the oven to 500°F.
  4. Stir together the remaining 1 tablespoon salt and the brown sugar and rub the mixture all over the pork. Put it in the oven for 10–15 minutes, until the sugar has melted into a crisp, sweet crust.
  5. Serve the bo ssäm whole and hot, surrounded with the accompaniments.
And finally, if that’s not enough to get your juices flowing, here’s a shot of his killer dry-aged ribeye.

© William Hereford/Momofuku

About Salute The Pig

Charcuterie, smoking, curing, brining and all things porcine. Brought to you from deepest, darkest Cambs, England by Chris Bulow. In the smoker or in the kitchen.... Salutate porcum!
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