Cooking For Others: Momofuku Pork Bo Ssam

EVENT: Valentine’s Day
VENUE: Cara’s Apartment, Park Slope
PARTY SIZE: 2 (there were leftovers)
MENU: Meat and Scallion Pot Stickers with Tangy Soy Sauce; Momofuku Pork Bo Ssam with White Rice, Butter Lettuce Leaves, and Ginger Scallion Sauce

There are a lot of reasons I was not a Momofuku early adopter, and living across the street from Ssam Bar for a year is not one of them. Mainly, there was the vegetarian issue: most everything at Momofuku is heavy on the pork. But there was also the line-out-the-door issue. I am very grouchy when it comes to waiting to be seated, especially because I know I could have pasta on the table at home in just a little more time than it takes to boil water. Call me curmudgeonly, but that’s how I roll.

So when I was invited to partake of Momofuku’s Pork Bo Ssam at a friend’s birthday feast, I went without all that much expectation, only knowing, via Google, that it was the restaurant’s Americanized form of a pork-centric Korean dinner. Next thing I knew I was squeezed onto a narrow bench taking off layers of winter gear (a snowstorm was raging outside), and a massive hunk of pork was being set down in front of the birthday girl like a cake. Beside it were: a pile of lettuce leaves, bowls of short-grain white rice, oysters, and at least six small bowls of sauces. We were instructed to try one wrap plain (rice, oyster, pork) before adding sauces, and that’s what I did, digging and ripping into the pork butt with my chopsticks along with everyone else. It was delicious–and the waiter was right, the sauces were good but unnecessary. What sets the Momofuku pork butt apart from some other butts we’ve made and eaten is that it’s a) brined overnight in equal parts sugar and salt, and b) finished in the oven at a very high temperature with a layer of brown sugar and yet more salt. The crust that develops from this second round of sugar is truly awesome.
When I made the butt at home, I have to say I was pleased with the results. No, it’s not something I’ll make every day. And yes, it made my apartment smell like pork fat until I lit all three of my candles and opened my door and my window. But it is cheap, food-coma filling, and very impressive, and I will definitely make it again.
From my kitchen, where I’m borrowing a little Momofuku magic, to yours,

Slow-Roasted Pork Bo Ssam
Serves 5

Adapted from Momofuku Cookbook by David Chang

1 4-pound pork butt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup plus 1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
3 1/2 tablespoons light brown sugar.

Combine the sugar and the 1/2 cup of kosher salt. Rub all over the pork, then put in a roasting pan, cover, and refrigerate overnight (at least 6 hours).

Heat the oven to 300°F. Take the pork out of the fridge and discard the juices. Put the roasting pan in the oven and cook for 5-6 hours, basting the butt with the fat from the pan every hour. Turn your fan on and open your windows: your apartment will smell strongly of pork. When the pork is very tender, remove from the oven. You can let the pork rest for up to an hour, or proceed immediately. Drain off as much of the fat from the pan as possible.
Preheat the oven to 500°F. Stir together 1/2 tablespoon salt and the brown sugar. Press it evenly on the top of the pork.

Bake for 10-15 minutes until a crust develops–watch carefully so as not to burn it. This is when you’ll want to open your windows even more, maybe even light some candles. There is pork fat smoking away in your oven.

Serve with short-grain white rice, ginger scallion sauce, chile sauce, and butter lettuce leaves, washed and separated. To eat, arrange a couple spoonfuls of rice in a lettuce leaf. Add sauces as desired. Then reach your chopsticks into the pork and pull out a chunk, making sure to get plenty of the crust. Add to the lettuce wrap, fold it up, and eat.

Posted in: Cooking for Others
  • Chrissy

    Being Korean- American born, I have had the original and it wasn't w/pork.. This is definitely a stepped up modern version to attract a newer crowd… I have to agree those extra sauces are unnecessary since the original lettuce cups just have the red chili hot sauce…The idea of pork threw me since Koreans eat mainly fish, chicken and beef…

  • Alex

    Those were some of the best meals I've eaten. And you would expect something that tastes that good would take a lot more effort and ingredients. Proof that good food can be simple and cheap! By the way, I still dream about those pork butt dinners mmmmmmm…

  • Robert

    absolutely delicious. i have to try this. thanks.

  • Nuwave Oven Reviews

    You had me at pot stickers. Those are my favorite.

  • Kate

    I have to agree. I was the lucky recipient of the leftovers, and it was delicious. The combination of crisp lettuce with the pork was absolutely perfect. I can't wait to have it again.

  • hannah | honey & jam

    that looks so, so good.

  • Jessie Blum @ Eclectic Unions

    Sounds delicious!

  • Frankie

    I have to admit I can't get past the name "Momofuku." Sorry, that's the way my mind works.

  • Katie

    Loved the article, and I'm so impressed you made bo ssam; it looks like it was amazing! You definitely inspire me to cook more. :)

  • Jen (Modern Beet)

    This looks mouthwateringly good… I have a beautiful piece of pork butt in my freezer now that I was planning on making sausage with, but this sounds pretty amazing and it may have to be repurposed…

  • Amy

    Was the brown sugar in the original recipe? I made your version and it was good but tasted a lot sweeter than what we had in the restaurant. Just curious.

    Thanks! :)

    • BGSK

      yes! it’s possible they use a little less…but I have to say I’ve always loved the crust that forms from the sugar and pork fat.

  • Lisa

    This is my 3rd time making this. I have all my child’s friends convinced I am a goddess of food. It is exceptional and at a size (4 pounds) that is reasonable.

    • BGSK

      So glad to hear this has become a favorite. It reminds me I should make it more often.

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