Bo Ssam

Bo Ssam

For those who have spent any time in NYC, the Momofuku Bo Ssam does not need any introduction.  But for those who have yet to see the path to meat enlightenment that Chef David Chang has paved, here goes…

You start with 8 lbs of pork butt − this cut is also known as the shoulder… don’t question it.  You dry cure it overnight and then slow roast it for 6 excruciating hours (because the delicious aroma will torture you every time you open the oven to baste).  By then, the fat will be bubbling and the meat is ready to fall off the bone.  Finally, you give the skin a brown sugar rub to finish the masterpiece off with a golden caramelized coat.  And then you eat it.  Duh.

I have Bo Ssam this several times, including feeding all the guests for my sister’s surprise engagement party.  Hiding two 8lb pork butts from my sister arriving home early was not an easy task.  But making the roasted meat is ridiculously simple, and a must try for all pork lovers.

bo ssam lettuce wraps

Usually this pork is served “lettuce wrap style” with bibb lettuce, kimchi, rice, oysters, and sauces of varying spice levels.  However, the last couple times I have prepared this for dinner parties, my guests have generally given up on the lettuce wrap construction after the first try as they prefer to just eat the meat straight.  Which is fine by me because those sauces and other condiments can be a bit tedious to prepare and I never have gotten the texture exactly the way it should be yet…

Another way to serve this is to make pork buns, especially using the fatty pork bits for the sandwiches is delicious.  You can buy ready-made Chinese steamed buns in the fridge aisles and then assemble the sandwiches with slices of cucumber, kimchi, and your choice of sauce (I love using hoisin sauce like in Peking duck buns).

pork buns

Bo Ssam (recipe adapted from “Momofuku” by David Chang and Peter Meehan)

Yields: 6-10 servings

Pork Butt Ingredients:

  • 1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)
  • 1 C white sugar
  • 1 C + 1 T kosher salt
  • 7 T brown sugar

Ginger-Scallion Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2½ C thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
  • ½ C minced fresh ginger
  • ¼ C neutral oil (like grapeseed)
  • 1½ tsp light soy sauce
  • 1 scant tsp sherry vinegar
  • ½ tsp kosher salt, or to taste

Ssam Sauce Ingredients:

  • 2 T fermented bean-and- chili paste (“ssamjang”)
  • 1 T chili paste (“kochujang”)
  • ½ C sherry vinegar
  • ½ C neutral oil (like grapeseed)

Accompaniments Ingredients:

  • 2 C plain white rice, cooked
  • 3 heads bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and dried
  • 1 dozen or more fresh oysters (optional)
  • Kimchi


Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl.  Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat.  Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

salt and sugar dry cure overnight

When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300°F (150°C).

Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices.  Place the pork in a roasting pan and set in the oven and cook for approximately 6 hours, or until it collapses, yielding easily to the tines of a fork.  (After the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices.) At this point, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.

Meanwhile, make the ginger-scallion sauce.  In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients.  Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.

Make the ssam sauce.  In a medium bowl, combine the chili pastes with the vinegar and oil, and mix well.

Prepare rice, wash lettuce and, if using, shuck the oysters.  Put kimchi and sauces into serving bowls.

oysters and sauces

When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 500°F (260°C).  In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar.  Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork.  Place in oven for approximately 10 to 15 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat.  Serve hot, with the accompaniments.

bo ssam beauty with a brown sugar crust


One Response to “Bo Ssam”
  1. trialsinfood says:

    Mmm looks so good! I don’t know if I have the patience for the 6h cook time though.

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