05/23/2024
Bossam showcases Korean wrap mastery, featuring succulent pork, tangy sauces, crisp pickled veggies, all wrapped in a cabbage leaf.

Elevate Your Korean Cuisine with Bossam: A Step-by-Step Recipe

Recipe by Annie Tibber
Servings

4

servings
Prep time

5

minutes
Cooking time

1

hour 

30

minutes
Calories

421

kcal

Bossam is a prime example of Korean wrap perfection: it combines tender pork, flavorful dipping sauces, crunchy pickled vegetables, all encased in a cabbage leaf wrapper.

Ingredients

  • For the Cabbage:
  • Kosher or sea salt

  • 1/2 Napa cabbage (approximately half of a 2-pound or 900g head), with core and tough outer leaves removed (using only the tender yellow inner leaves)

  • For the Pork:
  • 1.5 pounds of pork belly slab (about 680g), preferably with the skin on

  • Optional: Rice-rinsing water (see note for details)

  • 3 tablespoons (45ml) of doenjang (Korean fermented soybean paste)

  • 1 whole medium yellow onion with skin on

  • 10 scallions or 3 daepah, which are larger Korean scallions

  • 1/2 medium apple

  • One piece of fresh ginger, about the size of a thumb, peeled

  • 1 piece of cinnamon stick (about 1 inch or 2cm)

  • 10 whole medium garlic cloves

  • 1 teaspoon of whole black peppercorns (approximately 15)

  • 1 small bay leaf

  • 1/4 cup (60ml) of soju or vodka

  • For the Saewoo Jeot Seasoning:
  • 1/2 tablespoon (8ml) of saewoo jeot (Korean salted shrimp)

  • 1/2 tablespoon (8ml) of soju or vodka

  • Optional: Pinch of gochugaru (Korean chili flakes)

  • Optional: Pinch of crushed toasted sesame seeds

  • Optional: Pinch of minced Korean green chili pepper

  • For the Ssamjang:
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) of doenjang (Korean fermented soy paste)

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) of gochujang (Korean chili paste)

  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed, toasted sesame seeds

  • One medium-sized garlic clove, minced

  • 1/8 teaspoon (0.5ml) of toasted sesame oil

  • For Serving:
  • One small container of mu malaengi muchim (chile-sauce seasoned rehydrated radish)

  • Thinly sliced garlic

  • Thinly sliced fresh Korean green chili peppers (optional)

Directions

  • For the Cabbage:
  • Prepare a large bowl filled with a 3% cold-water brine. To make a 3% brine, dissolve 3g of salt per 100g of water, which is roughly equivalent to 3 tablespoons of Diamond Crystal kosher salt per quart of water.
    Immerse the cabbage leaves in the brine, ensuring they are fully submerged. Place a plate on top to keep them submerged and allow the leaves to soften. This process should take at least 3 hours and can extend up to 8 hours. Once softened, drain the cabbage leaves and set them aside.
  • For the Pork:
  • Rinse the pot, then add a similar amount of fresh water. Take a pot large enough to accommodate the pork belly and fill it with rice-rinsing water or plain water to fully submerge the meat. Bring it to a rolling boil. Add the pork belly, bring it back to a boil, and cook for 5 minutes. Drain the pork.
  • Rinse out the pot and add a similar amount of fresh water. Add the doenjang (dissolve it first in some water for better mixing), onion, scallions, apple, ginger, cinnamon, garlic, peppercorns, and bay leaf. Bring it to a boil over high heat.
  • Add the pork, cover the pot, and boil for 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, uncover the pot, and add the soju. Continue cooking until the pork is tender and can be easily pierced with a fork, which should take about 40 minutes longer.
  • For the Saewoo Jeot Seasoning:
  • In a small bowl, combine saewoo jeot with soju. Optionally, add a pinch of gochugaru, crushed toasted sesame seeds, and/or minced green chile to taste.
  • For the Ssamjang:
  • In a small bowl, mix together doenjang, gochujang, crushed roasted sesame seeds, minced garlic, and toasted sesame oil.
  • To Serve:
  • Thinly slice the pork. Arrange a platter with the sliced pork, drained cabbage leaves, and mu malaengi muchim. Provide dishes of ssamjang and saewoo jeot, along with sliced garlic and green chiles. To enjoy, each person should dip a piece of pork in the saewoo jeot, place it on a cabbage leaf, add garlic, ssamjang, mu malaengi, and optionally a slice of green chile. Wrap everything in the cabbage leaf and savor it in a single delicious bite.

Bossam is a delectable dish consisting of thinly sliced, tender, boiled pork belly wrapped in cabbage along with fresh, crunchy kimchi and various seasonings. This delightful dish can be enjoyed whenever you have a hankering for a flavorful and meaty feast. However, in Korea, there’s a special time of year when bossam becomes an absolute must-have: the onset of winter, right after we complete our annual kimchi-making process. This tradition is known as “gimjang,” and it is a lengthy and labor-intensive undertaking.

The Kimchi-Making Process and Bossam To grasp the amount of work involved, consider that my mother-in-law used to engage in gimjang, which often involved handling between 200 to 300 heads of cabbage. Each cabbage head typically weighed between three to four kilograms (six and a half to nine pounds). Just imagine the meticulous cutting, brining, and rinsing required for hundreds of these cabbage heads. And that’s just the first day of the process. On the second day, you’d find yourself shredding numerous mu radishes (Korean radishes, each weighing about three kilograms) and preparing vast quantities of chile powder, fish sauce, garlic, and other ingredients. All of this would be used to generously coat every single cabbage leaf, creating what we call “sok,” the kimchi’s stuffing.

This is why gimjang is usually a community affair. It’s practically impossible for one person to complete all the tasks alone. During gimjang, on the day following the brining of the cabbage, my aunts and grandmother would gather at our house. We would sit together, mixing and applying the sok onto the cabbage leaves. While I didn’t technically do much work, I’d scurry around between different aunts, eagerly sampling fresh kimchi from each of them.

Meanwhile, my grandfather would be occupied at the firepit in our courtyard. There, he’d kindle a fire beneath a large cauldron and start preparing bossam for everyone. Once the last of the kimchi was stored in clay pots buried in the yard, it was time to feast. In earlier times, when meat was considered a precious commodity, sharing such a meal was a way to commemorate gimjang and express gratitude to all the individuals who had lent a hand.

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