Bossam (Boiled Pork Wraps)


Bossam (보쌈) is a boiled pork dish. The meat is boiled in a flavorful brine until tender and served thinly sliced. At the table, each person wraps the meat in salted napa cabbage leaves along with radish salad (musaengchae/muchae) and salted shrimp. Salted napa cabbage is traditional, but you can also use lettuce and/or perilla leaves to make wraps.

Every time I make or eat this dish, I think of my father. He loves it! My father was born and raised in Jeju Island, where Korea’s most flavorful pork (meat from black pig) comes from. So, he knows his pork! When it was time to make kimchi, my mother would boil big chunks of pork. Because there was plenty of salted cabbage and radish stuffing, all we needed was boiled pork to have a delicious feast. Uncommon for his generation of Korean men, my father spent (still does) a lot of time in the kitchen helping my mother, especially on kimchi making days. He was always the one who cut the meat into thin slices. Then, with his hands wet from pork fat, he would pick a cabbage leaf, place a slice of meat on it, top it with a dollop of the radish mix and a pinch of salted shrimp, and roll it up and enjoy the much deserved bossam. Sometimes, he would add fresh garlic slices, chili pepper slices, and/or fresh oysters. My father also loves it simply wrapped in a piece of well fermented kimchi with some saewujeot. Delicious!

Pork belly (samgyupsal, 삼겹살) and Boston butt (moksal, 목살) are the most commonly used cuts for this dish. Some people also use picnic shoulder (apdarisal, 앞다리살). Korean cooks add a variety of ingredients to the boiling liquid to eliminate the unique smell of pork and flavor the meat. The addition of doenjang is not surprising because pork and doenjang go very well together in dishes like doenjang jjigae. Many years ago, word got around, among us Korean home cooks, that coffee was the secret ingredient. Well not so secret anymore. We all use it. You will hardly taste doenjang or coffee from the boiled meat. They simply enhance the natural flavor of the pork. The result is rich, but subtly flavored, deliciously moist meat!

Now, can you imagine the textural contrasts and the burst of flavors when you bite into this pork wrap?


Ingredients:
For the wraps:
tender inner parts of 1 napa cabbage, salted* (or red or green leaf lettuce)

(* Dissolve 1/2 cup coarse salt in 4 cups of water, and soak the cabbage leaves until softened, 2 to 4 hours. Rinse and drain well.) 

Radish salad (musaengchae) – See recipe.
saewujeot (salted shrimp)

For the meat:
2 whole fresh pork belly about 3-inch wide cut (about 2.5 pounds)
1/2 medium onion
2 – 3 white parts of large scallions
7 – 8 plump garlic cloves
1 inch ginger piece, sliced
1 teaspoon whole black peppers
1-1/2 tablespoons doenjang (fermented soybean paste)
1 teaspoon instant coffee (or a cup of brewed coffee)
1 teaspoon salt
2 bay leaves
10 cups water

Bring the water and all the brine ingredients to a boil over medium high heat, and continue to boil for 5 minutes. Add the pork belly and boil for 20 minutes, uncovered. Reduce the heat to medium low, and cook, covered, until the meat is very tender, 40 to 50 minutes. Turn the heat off, and cool the meat in the cooking liquid. This will keep the meat moist.

Thinly slice the meat and serve with the salted cabbage (or lettuce), saewujeot, and musaengchae.

Keep any leftover meat in the cooking liquid. Boil the meat in the liquid to reheat. This prevents the meat from drying out.

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Comments

  1. What a lovely story about your father and bo ssam! Here in North America it has definitely evolved to slow roasted pork with lettuce wraps, so it was very interesting to read your story about the authentic version. I can’t wait to try this!

    • Thank you, Vincci! I know David Chang’s slow roasted version is hugely popular. I’m sure it’s delicious, but that’s a creative interpretation of the dish by the awesome chef Chang, not the traditional way we Koreans prepare bossam. Thanks for coming by! Cheers!

  2. I read that you can use green tea also if you don’t want the caffeine from the coffee. I’ve had bossam at a restaurant, but I’ve never cooked it myself. I’ll have to give it a try.

    • Hi Me – Tea leaves are also used. I have a small jar of decaffeinated coffee that I use for cooking and making ice cream, etc. Please try it and let me know how it turns out. Thanks for visiting!

  3. I have been living in Korea for the last two years and this is by far one of my favorites and was the first meal that my fiance cooked for me.

  4. I ate this yesterday for the first time after a hike up mount Inwangsan in Seoul. What a delicious dish!

    • It is. My family loves it! I’m sure it was even better after the hike up the mountain. Oh I miss Korea…

  5. My previous partner used to put soju in it to get rid of the 비린내, I’m thinking about making this for tomorrow night but I was just wondering if it’s necessary to do so. Thank you for your blog! I’d rather read your recipes than comb through naver!

    • Hi Hyunjin – There are enough ingredients in this recipe, such as doenjang, onion, and coffee, that help remove the pork order, so you don’t really need soju or any other alcohol. Enjoy! And thank you!

  6. Hi Hyosun,
    I made this for dinner tonight and ate it with ssamjang, kimchee and lettuce. It was delicious! Thanks for sharing. I forgot that I had to keep leftover meat in the stock, and threw it out before I realised it! ;p

    • Hi Fern – Thanks for trying the recipe! I’m delighted to hear it was delicious! I’m sure your leftover was still good without being in the stock.

  7. I love cook korean food…all recipes

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