If I can cook it, you can cook it And I'll travel the world to bring it back home to you.

What to serve for Chinese New Year? David Chang’s Bo Ssam, slow-roasted Pork with Ginger-Scallion Sauce, Ssam Sauce, Kimchi and Rice

Center this dish on your dining table and stand back.
        Chinese New Year is upon us.  This Sunday, February 10th is the start of the Year of the Snake. Despite all the negative connotations of snakes and snake-like behavior,  according to Chinese Horoscopes the year 2013 symbolizes action, energy, leadership and vitality. This year, the snake is obligated to do its best for the good of others.  All in all 2013 is seen as a good year.  So there’s something to celebrate.  And I can’t think of a better way than to serve this phenomenal dish. Not only will it bring Asia to your table for a New Year’s celebration, the leftovers can be turned into a decidedly American dish–pulled pork and an Italian one–pasta sauce.  I’ll save those recipes for a future post.  Today belongs to Bo Ssam, the brain child of David Chang, everyone’s favorite renegade chef.  
         Chef Chang’s tiny Momofuku Ssam Bar, on a decidedly unfashionable strip of lower Second Avenue (207 2nd avenue new york, NY 10003), is perpetually packed.  David is a particular favorite of ours and not only because he loves one of our absolute favorite Montreal restaurants –Joe Beef– so much (http://www.chewingthefat.us.com/2011/10/next-stop-in-montreal-homage-to-joe.html), that he wrote the introduction to its cookbook.  David Chang is inventive, highly skilled and most of all, magnanimous.  If you need proof of that last characteristic, consider his sharing this particular recipe: He has included it in his Momofuku cookbook (Clarkson Potter 2009) even though it is such a hit at his eponymous restaurant that, even at $200, a 6 to 10 person Bo SSam has to be ordered well in advance.  But here’s the incredible thing:  You can make this amazing dish at home for well under $40.00!  Now if that sounds like some kind carnival barker talking, it’s because I was astonished at how good it is and, quite frankly, while I am not a complete skinflint, nothing makes me happier than a great food bargain.  Particularly one that tastes this good.

Momofuku Ssam Bar, home of the $200
Bo Ssam
         Sam Sifton featured the recipe in a recent New York Times Sunday magazine, which is where we found it.  Sifton wrote “This weekend’s dinner is a slow-roasted shoulder of pig, a meal that can be picked apart by a table of friends armed only with chopsticks and lettuce.  A tight and salty caramel crust sits on top of the moist, fragrant collapse of meat…it is pork as pommes soufflé.” Now if that description doesn’t have you high tailing it to the supermarket for this weekend’s dinner, what will?  Perhaps the fact that pork butt cost me $1.89 lb. at Fresh Direct and that this dish, to quote Sifton again, “turns anyone with an oven and a few hours into a chef.”  I’ll drink to that.  While you are picking up your pork, buy the ginger and scallions you’ll need for the sauce.   
A Primer on Korean Pastes…
you want the one on top and the one
on the bottom of this photo
         There are a few ingredients that may not be quite that simple to find and they are pretty well essential to the dish.  These are the Korean pastes, Gochujang, the sweet one and Ssamjang, a spicy fermented soybean paste.  Also recommended to be served with your Bo Ssam is the ubiquitous Korean fermented cabbage, Kimchi, which is showing up all over the place — I got mine at Trader Joes. As to the pastes, fortunately, New York has an entire Koreatown and I was able to get everything I needed at Han Ah Reum Supermarket (25 West 32nd St. between 5th and Broadway. Tel. (212) 695-3283.)  Having made the trek downtown, I was somewhat chagrinned to find them both at Fairway! But if you can’t find them locally, you can order everything you need from this site http://www.hmart.com or search the site for a Korean market close to home. 
         What is it about this dish that makes it worth the effort?  First of all, shopping aside, there’s not a lot of effort involved.  It’s an ideal dish to cook when you’re home for the day, hiding out from the cold. It’s perfect for a Saturday night gathering or a Sunday night you won’t soon forget.    You basically use a salt and sugar rub overnight then the next day, put the pork in the oven for a good long time, assemble the sauces, cook some rice, then at the last moment encrust the pork with a brown sugar and salt mixture, put everything in the center of the table and stand back.  You and your guests will devour this dish, wrapping the unbelievably tender pork in crisp Boston lettuce leaves then topping it with rice, sauces, and kimchi, all at once or in any combination you please.  Please make this sometime soon.  You won’t believe how good it is.  Here is the recipe.


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