I never realized how little I knew about Korean food until I became an assistant cook at a Korean company. The head chef taught me several Korean dishes that I had never tasted, let alone heard of, including a dish called bossam. Bossam consists of slow-cooked pork, usually boiled, wrapped in salted cabbage, and topped with various pickled items and condiments. Every component plays a part in the wrap to create one flavor-popping dish. This meal requires a bit of effort but the end result is, without a doubt, worth every minute.
- 1 head napa cabbage
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup sea salt divided
- 2 ½ lb pork butt
- ½ Fuji apple unpeeled, cut into quarters
- ½ Asian pear unpeeled, cut into quarters
- 5 ounces daikon radish peeled, cut into large chunks
- 2 cloves garlic whole
- 1 inch ginger root peeled
- ½ onion cut into large chunks
- 3 tablespoon instant coffee
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- ½ tablespoon fish sauce
- 1 ½ tablespoon sugar
- 3 tablespoon soybean paste dwenjang
- 3 tablespoon rice wine
- 1 dried chili de arbol
- 1 bay leaf
Kimchi seasoned radish
- 6 ounces daikon radish julienned
- 3 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon Korean red chile pepper gochugaru
- 2 clove garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon fish sauce
- 1 ounce Korean chives cut into 1 inch length
- salted fermented shrimp
- rice on the side optional
- Whisk together 4 cups of water with ½ cup salt, stirring until the salt has dissolved. Cut the napa cabbage head into 4 wedges. Rub the remaining ½ cup salt in between each of the leaves. Soak the cabbage in the salted water for 5-6 hours or until the cabbage has softened and can easily be bent without snapping. Rinse the cabbage in water and drain. Set aside.
- Combine all of the ingredients for the pork (includes all items listed from pork - bay leaf) in a large pot. Fill the pot with enough water to completely submerge all of the ingredients. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook the pork at a soft simmer for 2 hours or until the pork is tender.
- Meanwhile, prepare the kimchi radish. Toss together the daikon radish with the salt and let sit for 10 minutes. Combine the red chile pepper, garlic, sugar, fish, sauce, and chives, and let sit for 10 minutes. Rinse the salted daikon with water and drain. Mix together the radish with the chile pepper mixture, making sure the radish is evenly coated with the sauce. Set aside.
- Remove pork from the cooking liquid and let rest for 10 minutes. Thinly slice the pork against the grain. Serve with salted cabbage wraps, kimchi radish, ssamjang, salted shrimp and rice.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
Bossam is a meal that has several components including the main protein and the toppings. It takes a bit of work but the end result is so worth it. Let's start with the topping that takes the most amount of work, the salted cabbage.
The salted napa cabbage is the wrap for the bossam and an important component in this dish. Marinate the cabbage in a water and salt solution and let it sit for a couple of hours. If you ever made kimchi, this is the same first step.
How quickly the cabbage softens can also depend on the temperature of your kitchen; the warmer the kitchen, the quicker it will soften. You will know when the cabbage is ready when the thick part of the cabbage can easily bend.
Now it's time to move on to the pork. I've seen many recipes for bossam that cook the pork only in water and ginger; however, rather than simply boiling the pork in just water, I prefer to season it with aromatics and spices.
An ingredient that may be unfamiliar is the soybean paste, called "doenjang" in Korean. Doenjang is a fermented bean paste that can be eaten raw or used to flavor stews. I used my leftover bean paste to make doenjang jjigae to be served on the side.
Throw all of the ingredients into a pot and braise the pork until tender. Make sure to monitor your flames and keep the heat on low; you want to slow cook the pork to yield tender pork rather than quickly cooking it on high heat.
While the pork is cooking, make the kimchi seasoned radish. Purchase daikon radish, also known as lo bok, for this topping. This particular radish is popular in Asian cuisines, specifically Japanese and Korean. It is quite large and has a mild flavor.
Gather the remaining toppings for the bossam including ssamjang and the salted fermented shrimp. Both the ssamjang and fermented shrimp are very salty so be careful to only add a small portion to the wraps.
Many restaurants that serve bossam offer other side dishes such as seafood pancake, kimchi stew, and doenjang jjigae. You can also top the wrappings with fresh oysters, kimchi, or jangajji.
It's been at least a year since I had this dish but once I bit into the wrap, I was immediately reminded of why I loved it in the first place. Such a simple dish that comes together with the help of condiments and toppings. Can I have some more, please?
For more Korean food inspiration check out this tangsuyuk recipe!