Butt Ssäm-wich

March 28, 2012

There is no such thing as an ugly woman.
~Vincent Van Gogh

Ssäm (쌈) simply translates as “wrapped,” and refers to a Korean dish in which larger leafy greens — lettuce, cabbage, seaweed, sesame or bean and pumpkin leaves — are often used to cloak meat such as slow and low roasted or braised pork (belly or butt). But tongue, fish, kalbi, bulgogi, roe, and clams have also lined these luscious roll ups over time. Have to suggest and although this is by no means a directive or ethnically correct, ssäm would be divine with braised sweetbreads. Just a little whimsy.

Some say that ssäm was first savored by certain young women of the Goryeo dynasty, called Kisaeng (euphemistically pronounced kis-sang) or “art persons.” These comfort women emerged in the 10th century and were meticulously trained in music and poetry, but were also conscripted and subjugated as courtesans. Closely regulated as government slaves over time, they were obliged to entertain and offer their sensual wares with local royalty, military officers and dignitaries from China, Japan and other reaches. Sadly, other than rather vague anecdotal references, an unnerving and undeserved, even shameful, cold silence has enveloped the centuries old Kisaeng — likely resulting from repeated sexual abuses, horrid exploitation and degradation, and harsh postcolonial memories in Korea. Japan was particularly complicit in war crimes involving sexual violence with “comfort women” in territories occupied by the imperial military during World War II yet the country continues to ignore and abstain. The atrocious horrors of human servitude and trafficking usually meet with baseless denials and have ever been worse than intolerable. Is there true remorse?

(With a few alterations, this recipe is more than loosely adapted from the phenom chef/owner David Chang from New York’s momofuku restaurants — noodle bar, ssäm bar, ko, má pêche, seiōbo, and the bakery milk bar.) I might add this dish is flat sublime and will no doubt enrapture all around your table.

PORK BUTT SSAM

7-8 lb bone-in pork butt
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/2 C white sugar
1/2 C raw sugar
1 C coarse sea salt

1 T coarse sea salt
1/2 C light brown sugar

1/4 C honey

Thoroughly mix both sugars and salt in a bowl. Rub pork with a few smashed garlics then rub the dry sugars/salt mixture all over the pork butt and cover thoroughly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate for about 6 hours or overnight.

Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300 F

Remove pork from refrigerator, discard any juices and allow to reach room temperature. Place the pork in a large, heavy roasting pan, place in the oven and cook, basting every hour after the first two hours, until meat is tender and easily shredded with a fork, about 7 hours or so. The internal temperature should read about 195 F.  At that temp, the connective tissues have melted, and the pork will be fork-tender and juicy.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix together remaining tablespoon of coarse sea salt and brown sugar and then set aside.

Increase oven temperature to 500 F

Sprinkle and rub in the salt and brown sugar mixture over the top and sides of the pork, then drizzle with honey. Return pork to oven until nicely crusted, about 10 minutes. Remove the meat from the oven and allow to rest some. Carefully extract the single bone in the butt and discard, then shred the butt with forks and fingers.

White rice, cooked (bap)
Kimchi

Bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
Chinese steamed buns (mantou)
Flour tortillas, warmed

Serve shredded pork enveloped in lettuce wraps bedded in rice or noodles or in chinese steamed buns or in small flour tortillas. Bed in some rice or noodles, lightly mount with kimchi and lather with ginger-scallion, ssäm, gochu garu and sichuan pepper, Korean soy sauce, and/or red curry peanut sauces. Try to avoid the urge to overload.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce
2 1/2 C thinly sliced scallions
1/2 C fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil
1 T light soy sauce
1 t sherry vinegar
Pinch of sea salt

In a medium bowl whisk all ingredients together.

Ssäm Sauce
1/3 C fermented bean & chili paste (ssamjang)
2 T chili paste (kochujang)
1 t sherry vinegar
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together.

Gochu Garu and Sichuan Pepper
3 T Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
1 t Sichuan peppercorn, toasted and ground
1 t white sesame seeds, toasted
Pinch of sea salt
2 T canola oil
Pinch of sugar

In a small bowl, combine the Korean red pepper powder, Sichuan peppercorn, sesame seeds and salt. In a small saucepan, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Pour half of the hot oil over the chile powder mixture. Whisk the mixture and add the remaining oil. Stir again to moisten all of the dry ingredients and add the sugar.

Allow the mixture to cool, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and/or sugar.

“Korean” Soy Sauce
2 T shoyu
1 T water
1-2 t sesame oil
1 t white sugar
1 t raw sugar
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 t Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
2 T green onion, white and green parts finely chopped
3 t sesame seeds, toasted then crushed with a mortar and pestle

In a small bowl, stir together the shoyu, water, sesame oil and sugars, until the sugars have fully dissolved. Add the garlic, red pepper powder, green onion and sesame seeds. Refrigerate while the pork cooks to allow the flavors to meld.

Red Curry Peanut Sauce
1/4 C roasted salted peanuts
1 T brown sugar

2-3 t Thai red curry paste
8-10 T water
2 t peanut oil
3 plump, fresh garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1/4 C shallot, peeled and finely chopped
2 fresh Thai or serrano chilies, including seeds, thinly sliced crosswise

Finely grind 3 tablespoons peanuts in a food processor along with brown sugar. Finely chop remaining tablespoon peanuts by hand and set aside.

Stir together curry paste (to taste) and 6 tablespoons water until paste is dissolved.

Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté garlic, shallot, and chiles, stirring, until golden, about 4 minutes. Add ground peanut mixture and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Stir in curry mixture and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and stir in chopped peanuts.

Allow to reach room temperature, then dilute with water to reach desired consistency.

Advertisements

It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want – oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!
~Mark Twain

For those ‘que souls who shamefully limit their grilling to fair weather, the season is upon you. Honor thy grill—light up. Rebirth it. Many love grilling in the chill.

A balance of sweet and savory, kalbi kui are a Korean culinary hallmark. In the mother tongue kalbi or galbi are translated as “beef ribs” and kui means “grilling.” Linguistic and culinary morphology converge, straight to the point.

Korean style short ribs can be found at Asian markets or your local butcher’s…you know, that carver with whom you have or should have curried favor. The cut, also known as “flanken,” refers to a strip of beef cut across the bone from the chuck end of the short ribs. Unlike American or European short ribs, which include a thick slice of bone-in beef, Korean short ribs are cut lengthwise across the rib bones. The result is a thin strip of meat, around 9″ long, lined on one side with 1/2″ thick rib bones. The thin slices make for prompt grilling, so Kalbi requires vigilance and nurturing. Please have your grilling drink already at hand or you will surely overcook these succulent delicacies by stepping inside for a refill.

To serve Kalbi, cut into pieces with a heavy chef’s knife or hefty kitchen shears, and then wrap inside a crisp lettuce leaf with a slathering of steamy white rice, a swab of gochichang (Korean red bean paste), a sauce/condiments or two, toasted sesame seeds and green onion slivers.

Kimch’i, the ubiquitous and revered Korean pickled cabbage side dish varies rather widely according to region, season and kitchen. For instance, a coastal kimchi will be saltier than that of a landlocked area, and summer cooks produce cooling water kimchis to contrast with the heartier cabbage kimchis of the autumn and winter. Korea boasts hundreds of differing kimchi recipes, each rich in vitamins, minerals, and proteins fostered by the lactic acid fermentation of cabbage, radish, and other vegetables and seafood.

The kind of food you are destined to fall for…

KALBI KUI (GRILLED KOREAN BEEF SHORT RIBS)

4 lbs beef short ribs, Korean style
3/4 C sugar
1/4 C honey

1 C soy sauce
2 T canola oil
1/4 C mirin (rice wine)
1/2 medium onion, peeled and finely grated
1 Asian pear, peeled and grated
8 plump fresh garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 T sesame oil
1 t red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

Lettuce leaves
Cooked white rice
Gochichang (red bean paste)
Sauces/condiments as below
Toasted sesame seeds
Green onions, thinly sliced lengthwise

Mix sugar and honey with beef and mix well to evenly coat. Set aside while preparing marinade. In a bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients. Transfer beef into a large sealable freezer bag. Add marinade and seal well. Turn bag several times to ensure beef is evenly coated. Refrigerate at least overnight, turning the bag a few times more while marinading.

Heat charcoal grill to medium high. Drain excess marinade off beef. Grill short ribs, turning once, to desired doneness, about 3-4 minutes per side.

Serve in lettuce leaves as described earlier.

Pourboire: many cooks prefer to use a cup of citrus soda (7up, Sprite, et al.) in lieu of the sugar and honey in the marinade claiming that it further tenderizes the meat.

BAECHU KIMCH’I

1 head Napa or Chinese cabbage, cored and finely shredded
Water, to cover
1 C coarse sea salt

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1/4 C rice wine vinegar
2 T fish sauce
1 T soy sauce
1 – 2″ piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
1/4 C+ red chili flakes or 1/3 C chili paste (to taste)
1 medium daikon radish, peeled and grated
2 T sugar or honey
1/4 C peanut oil

In large glass bowl, dissolve the salt into the water. Add cabbage to salt water and if necessary, weigh down with large plate so leaves remain submerged. Soak cabbage in refrigerator for 5-6 hours, preferably overnight. Remove cabbage and rinse in cold water, squeezing out excess liquid.

Place rinsed cabbage and green onions in a large glass bowl.

In a processor or blender, combine rice wine vinegar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger, garlic, chili flakes or paste, radish and sugar or honey, blending until smooth. With the blade running, slowly add the oil. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Pour the mixture over the shredded cabbage and onions, and gently toss.

Pack the kimchi in a large, well fitted glass jar and cover tightly. Let stand for one to two days in a cool place, around room temperature. Check the kimchi after 1-2 days. Once bubbles appear on the surface, place in the refrigerator. It should be refrigerated for 2 days before serving to allow the cabbage to further wilt and the flavors to meld. Kimchi will grow increasingly pungent as it sits, so it is ideal after about 2 weeks and surely eaten within a month.

Ginger-Scallion Sauce
2 1/2 C thinly sliced scallions
1/2 C fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil
1 T light soy sauce
1 t sherry vinegar
Pinch of sea salt

In a medium bowl whisk all ingredients together.

Ssäm Sauce
1/3 C fermented bean & chili paste (ssamjang)
2 T chili paste (kochujang)
1 t sherry vinegar
1/4 C grapeseed or canola oil

In a medium bowl, whisk all ingredients together.

Gochu Garu and Sichuan Pepper
3 T Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
1 t Sichuan peppercorn, toasted and ground
1 t white sesame seeds, toasted
Pinch of sea salt
2 T canola oil
Pinch of sugar

In a small bowl, combine the Korean red pepper powder, Sichuan peppercorn, sesame seeds and salt. In a small saucepan, warm the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking.

Pour half of the hot oil over the chile powder mixture. Whisk the mixture and add the remaining oil. Stir again to moisten all of the dry ingredients and add the sugar.

Allow the mixture to cool, then taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and/or sugar.

“Korean” Soy Sauce
2 T shoyu
1 T water
1-2 t sesame oil
1 t white sugar
1 t raw sugar
1 plump, fresh garlic clove, peeled and minced
1 t Korean red pepper powder (gochu garu)
2 T green onion, white and green parts finely chopped
3 t sesame seeds, toasted then crushed with a mortar and pestle

In a small bowl, stir together the shoyu, water, sesame oil and sugars, until the sugars have fully dissolved. Add the garlic, red pepper powder, green onion and sesame seeds. Refrigerate while the pork cooks to allow the flavors to meld.