Bo Ssäm and Ssäm Sauce

I’ve been putting off making the bo ssäm for a while now, for reasons I’m not too sure of. It might have been the idea that Chang’s bo ssäm is quintessentially Momofuku or because I haven’t bothered to find myself a bone in Boston pork butt. Excuses aside, I finally gave my butcher a call and had him order me an extremely large piece of meat.

Twelve pounds of meat to be exact. Twelve pounds seemed like entirely too much for the intimate party of five I was inviting over for dinner so the nice butcher said he’d cut it in half to a sizeable six pounds. Mike wanted to go for five, but I figured one pound of bone and a pound of meat each. My justification: people eat more than one pound of chicken wings at a time, don’t they?

Making bo ssäm at home is dead simple. In fact, going to the butcher to pick up the pork butt might have been the most laborious part of making the bo ssäm, aside from being tortured by the delicious smell of slow roasting pork for over six hours.

Warning: staying in the house while making this will have you smelling like pork. Your clothes, your hair, your skin will all have that identifiable smell of meat. It’ll get so that you don’t even notice the smell until guests start arriving claiming, “it smells amazing in here!”

Don’t pat yourself on the back too quickly though, because after you rub on your final brown sugar salt crust and turn the oven up to 500˚F to create a crisp crust, the fire alarm will inevitably go off and guests will rush around waving tea towels and try to use a plastic bag to cover the smoke detector.

After the smoke’s gone and your sitting with your glorious piece of meat, you’ll note that it’s all worth it. The seemingly brunt brown sugar crust is phenomenal in the way that only caramelized brown sugar and meat can be. It’s the perfect meaty blank canvas for the bunch of sauces served along side.

The idea is everyone makes their own lettuce wraps with the melty, almost cottony soft, fall off the bone pork, rice and sauce. Sauce-wise, there’s an actual ssäm sauce recipe in the book, which turned out too vinegary for my tastes, but was well received by others. Personally, I loved my wrap with rice, kimchi puree and ginger scallion sauce best.

There wasn’t much conversation after we started eating, just a couple of “wows” and a lot of “mmms.” When the table goes silent with contentment, you know you’ve done a good job.

35 Comments add yours

  1. Looks amazing!

  2. I hope I’ll smell like pork very soon – irresistible!

  3. No oysters? Shameful.

    Rusty Shackleford on July 18, 2010 at 2:09 pm
  4. Slow cooked pork shoulder is always great. That crust is gorgeous.
    The best part about having a large pork shoulder is left overs.

  5. Am I right in thinking I just roast the pork butt for 6 hours?

    Martha has the recipe on her site:

    steph on July 19th, 2010 at 10:15 am
  6. Wow, this looks spectacular. I wonder if I could use the same preparation to make beef rather than pork?

  7. I wonder if there’s a way to adapt the final sear to an outdoor grill instead of an oven.

    i think it would fall apart no?

    jae on October 26th, 2010 at 3:29 am
  8. Great job! Looks like the one I made for Christmas last year. Wow. Mmmm.

  9. No pics of a complete wrap?

  10. i would have loved if you had put up a picture of it sliced :p but yay for ‘pork butt’! i remember asking a butcher where i could find ‘pork butt’ and they just gave me a ‘what you talking ’bout?’ look and i just slowly backed away and said sorry..haha
    but yes, brown sugar and pork. delicious.

  11. How much did the pork cost?

    I don’t remember the exact price, but I think it was around $30-40.

    steph on July 24th, 2010 at 10:20 am

    I pay $3.49/lb for bone-in Boston butt here in west central FL.

    Lynne on January 15th, 2011 at 1:09 pm
  12. I found that leaving the first salt/sugar mixture on for cooking made it too salty. Did you remove the rub before cooking? I also found it cooked in about 5 hours, not 6. Did it take the full 6 hours for you?

    I actually did remove the sugar/salt rub and I let the meat cook for the full 6 hours.

    Thanks for this. I wondered the same thing — I’m making it today, using the recipe that was recently in the NYTimes, but seems to be identical to all the others I’ve since found. None of these recipes say to remove any of the initial sugar/salt coating. I wonder why not?

    Mike on January 29th, 2012 at 12:44 pm
    steph on July 30th, 2010 at 9:32 am
  13. Hi! I’m in Vancouver too, and I was wondering where you ordered the bone-in pork butt?

    I ordered it from Market Meats on 4th.

    steph on August 20th, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    You can get a pork butt at almost any butchers – Windsor Meats, Jackson, any of the Granville Island butchers. You don’t HAVE to use a bone-in roast, you can also go with a boneless. A whole bone-in roast is over ten pounds. They bone-in is supposed to be better, but I don’t notice the difference after all that sugar/salt rub anyway.

    Has anyone noticed that the Cactus Club is now carrying this on its menu? It is very close to Momofuku, except they don’t have oysters, the pork rub is a little different and they have added a mayo condiment.

    Jeff on September 7th, 2010 at 11:24 am

    You can probably get the port much cheaper at Cioffi’s on Hastings at Gilmour (just a half block past Gilmour). I buy bone in pork shoulder butt there, usually a half shoulder, and the price is good.

    Doug on November 23rd, 2011 at 1:39 am
  14. incidentally, if you follow the ssam sauce recipe to the letter, it will be way too vinegary and oily. it calls for waaaay too little ssamjang and gochujang. after making it, I was like “this looks nothing like it does when I had it at ssam bar”. proper ratio is something like 4 tbsp ssamjang and 2tbsp gochujang.

    Yes, if you notice, the measurements do not add up to 1 cup! I was wondering if anyone else had corrected the recipe. FYI, the two sauces demonstrated on “Working Class Foodie” for this are awesome. ;-)

    Lynne on January 15th, 2011 at 1:10 pm

    I did not rinse either time I made it; the meat is salty, but when you put it with the lettuce, a little rice and some sauce it seems to even out.

    Lynne on January 15th, 2011 at 1:11 pm
    albert ocampo on December 24, 2010 at 1:06 pm
  15. Hi. This dish looks awesome and I would love to try making it. Can you post the recipe? I can’t seem to find it on your site. Thanks!

  16. I’m sure this is a fabulous recipe, but I have to ask: what’s with the umlaut? Has this version of the dish been designed to appeal especially to Germans? Norwegians? Heavy metal fans? I don’t get it.

  17. Made this over the weekend with skin-on pork butt cut from the blade side of the shoulder, and roasted it skin side up. The advantage: with almost an inch of fat cap, the meat bastes itself. And, there’s cracklins! be sure to baste the skin and meat one last time before you put the brown sugar rub on, otherwise I’ve read from others it can turn into a powdery burnt ick mess.
    Couldn’t get the ssam sauce ingredients together on a Sunday as the Korean market was closed, so mixed yellow miso with sambal olek, sherry vinegar, canola oil, sesame oil, and produced a pretty yummy/pungeant sauce although I have no idea how it might compare to the original. sooo so good.

  18. do you have any advice on cooking two at the same time in a conventional oven? how would you adapt temperature cooking time. thanks!

  19. At christmass this year instead of serving the traditional turkey I made bo ssäm. It turned out wonderfully and my whole family went ape-shit over the pork butt. Most everybody said let us forget the turkey again next year.THE KIDS LOVED THE IDEA OF STANDING AROUND THE TABLE AND EATING WITH THEIR HANDS!

    Pierre Normand on January 31, 2013 at 11:13 am
  20. I am very interested in your cooking adventures but disappointed to find only pictures and no actual recipes. Is there a reason

    These recipes all come out of the momofuku cookbook. They’re not really her recipes to publish.

    Mike on July 9th, 2013 at 5:52 am
  21. @Hank Mann: I think the reason is that these recipes are from a cookbook that is not available online, so the blogger is preserving the cookbook author’s work by not giving it away for free.

  22. If you go to the New York Times website and just do a search for “bo ssam pork” the recipe, and the accompanying article, pop right up.

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