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[Holly’s Korean Kitchen] Bossam, boiled pork belly wraps

Bossam, boiled pork belly wraps (Holly Ford)
Bossam, boiled pork belly wraps (Holly Ford)
If you are hosting a dinner party, this Korean pork dish will definitely be delicious and memorable for your guests. Have a bossam party! You will love the taste and texture, and most of all, it’s fun dining together making bossam wraps with varying ingredients.

What is bossam?

Bossam is a popular Korean dish, consisting of boiled pork belly wrapped with napa cabbage leaves or lettuce, and served with dipping sauce.

Traditionally a thick cut of pork belly is boiled in a slightly flavored broth until tender and moist. Then each person makes a wrap with a cabbage leaf, a slice of the cooked pork and a variety of side dishes -- such as spicy radish salad, raw garlic, salted shrimp (saeu-jeot), fresh chili, and wrap sauce (ssamjang).

Every year in the late fall, Koreans make a huge batch of cabbage kimchi to last through the cold winter months. This kimchi-making activity is usually done with extended family members or neighbors. After making kimchi, people often gather around and enjoy bossam with salted cabbage leaves or freshly made kimchi. It is an iconic cultural dish that Koreans share with one another. Treating any helpers with bossam is a sign of gratitude for their support. Check out my cookbook, Korean cooking favorites, for more authentic kimchi recipes.

Best way to cook pork belly

Most cooks boil their pork belly for bossam in a broth seasoned with Korean soybean paste (doenjang). Some add coffee or other spices mainly to get rid of any gamy smell. However, I found it unnecessary. You will lose a lot of natural flavor of the pork if you simmer it in water too long. Simmering a piece of meat in water is good for making soups and stews for which you enjoy the broth you cooked the meat in. We don’t consume the broth after cooking bossam.

I suggest trying a low moisture (minimum moisture) cooking method for bossam. Your pork will cook in its own juice along with vegetables and fruits, which creates sufficient moisture inside the pot while simmering. The only liquid you add is sweet rice wine (mirim). Other than that, you don’t need any liquid to cook the pork. You will have tender, juicy, and succulent pork meat, guaranteed. And there’s no gamy smell at all!

Ever since I learned the low-moisture cooking method for pork belly, I can’t go back to the old-fashioned boiling method to prepare bossam. It’s much simpler, too. The only drawback is that you will need a heavy-bottomed pot with a tight lid, such as a dutch oven, in order to obtain the best results. Any heavy-bottomed pot will do a great job.

For bossam wraps:

• a bunch of assorted lettuce

• a bunch of perilla leaves (kkennip), optional

• cabbage kimchi, freshly made preferred

• a bunch of fresh oysters, optional

• 2 tbsp salted shrimp

• 5-7 cloves fresh garlic, sliced

• 1-2 fresh green chilies, sliced

For pickling cabbage:

• 1 head (about 1 kg) small napa cabbage, quartered

• 4 tbsp kosher salt

Use the yellow inner part of napa cabbage. Quarter the cabbage lengthwise. Depending on the size of your cabbage, you might only need 2 of them. Rinse the cabbage with water and drain.

In a large shallow mixing bowl, place the cabbage pieces and sprinkle salt over the cabbage trying to reach in between the layers of leaves, especially the thick white stem parts. Let the cabbage sit for 50 minutes, turning them upside down 2-3 times. Rinse the cabbage once and squeeze out the extra moisture.

For pork belly

• 1.2 kg thick pork belly, preferably skin removed

• pinches of salt and pepper to season

• 2 onions, roughly sliced

• 1 apple, roughly sliced

• 10 cloves garlic

• 2 bay leaves, crumbled

• 1/2 cup sweet rice wine (mirim)

• 1 tbsp ginger puree

• 1 Asian leek, roughly sliced, optional

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, put in diced onion followed by sliced apples. Season pork belly with salt and pepper and place it on top. Add the garlic and crumbled bay leaves.

In a small mixing bowl, mix together sweet rice wine and ginger puree, and drizzle it around the pork belly. Top the pork belly with sliced leek (or green onion).

Cover with lid and let it cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 40-50 minutes depending on the thickness of your meat.

Let the pork rest in the pot for 10 minutes, then slice it.

For radish salad

• 0.5 kg Korean radish, peeled

• 1/2 cup Korean corn syrup (mulyeot)

• 2 tsp salt

• 2-3 tbsp Korean chili flakes (gochugaru)

• 1 tbsp Korean fish sauce

• 1/2 tbsp salted shrimp

• 1 tbsp minced garlic

• 1/2 tbsp sugar

• 1 tbsp Korean plum extract (maeshil-cheong), optional

• 1 tsp ginger puree

• 2 green onion, finely chopped

Slice radish into 1/4-inch thick matchsticks. Place them in a mixing bowl.

Add corn syrup and 1 tablespoon of salt. Toss well and let it sit for 30-45 minutes. You will see lots of moisture come out from the radish. Squeeze out the moisture firmly and put the radish into another mixing bowl.

Add the Korean chili flakes, Korean fish sauce, salted shrimp, sugar, garlic, Korean plum extract (optional), ginger puree, sesame seeds, and green onion. Mix well and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

For bossam topping sauce

• 3 tbsp Korean soybean paste (doenjang)

• 1 tbsp Korean chili paste (gochujang)

• 2 tsp minced garlic

• 1 tbsp Korean plum extract (maeshil-cheong) or water

• 2 tsp sesame oil

In a small bowl, combine Korean soybean paste, Korean chili paste, garlic, Korean plum extract (optional), and sesame oil. Mix well and chill until ready to serve.

To serve bossam

Put pork belly slices on a large serving platter and arrange the spicy radish salad, salted cabbage, and other wrap materials around it.

To make a wrap, place a piece of pork belly on a cabbage leaf, lettuce or perilla leaf. Dot with bossam sauce, and top with a tiny bit of salted shrimp, raw garlic, green chili, and serve. You can also use a piece of cabbage kimchi to wrap the sliced pork.

By Holly Ford (https://www.beyondkimchee.com)

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Hye-gyoung Ford (aka Holly) is a well-known Korean food blogger and the author of “Korean Cooking Favorites.” Born and raised in Korea, she has lived in many countries. She shares her recipes and food memories in her blog, Beyond Kimchee. - Ed.

By Korea Herald (khnews@heraldcorp.com)
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