Ssäm Night

Ssäm night’s are the reason I started this blog.   This evening was 2 weeks in the making.  A group of friends had the Bo Ssäm a few weeks ago and came back together to try the homemade version.  How did it turn out?  The short answer is better than the one we had at Ssäm Bar.

Bold statement and not any delusions of grandeur.  The recipe is not difficult at all.  Salt & sugar, cure overnight, throw in oven.  It’s not a testament to any skills as a cook or refined cooking technique.  It just happened to be a beautiful piece of meat and came out perfect.  But I’m already getting to far ahead.  That’s for another post.

Ssäm night for us was a tasting of the Bo, Marinated hanger steak, and pork belly.  It was just as easy to make all three since we had all the same accompaniments.  Throughout the night we nearly smoked our guests out of the apartment (from the oven), went through a bottle of soju, 7 bottles of wine, a fifth of Jack Daniels and ate a phenomenal meal.

One of the last things I’ve learned is the first thing you read in the title, typing ä into Word.  It’s actually quite easy, Option + U than hit the letter a.  The Facebook fan group seems to believe it is a diaeresis, not an umlaut., but there are differing opinions if anyone wants to weigh in on the debate.  One of the many interesting facts you learn cooking international foods.  I have not had many diaeresis vs umlaut discussions, in fact, that was the first, and most likely, the last.

I have to thank Jessica and J.  They graciously hosted the event, helped with the planning and cooking.  When your cooking for a large group, it’s always a good idea to get help, and since Jessica is a professional cook, (that sentence had a Burn Notice feel to it).  Actually, Jessica did most of the cooking while I took photos and tried to understand the rules of curling.

Ssäm night takes 2 weeks to prepare for and I’ll try and do some of these posts in order.  In one night, we covered almost 10% of the cookbook.  We made ten recipes, the cookbook contains about 115 recipes depending on what you’re counting, I’ll leave it to someone else to determine if the same pickle recipe applied to twenty different vegetables counts as one or twenty.  Nevertheless, it’s a significant portion of the cookbook with recipes requiring recipes.

I’ll start with a fun recipe.

Ssäm Sauce (pg 167)

This was a fairly straightforward condiment for the Bo Ssam, our ingredients, mix and it’s ready to go.  Why did I have to do it twice?

First, a quick Korean language lesson.  Many fans of Ssäm Bar are aware, by now, that Ssäm means “wrapped” in Korean.  The recipe for the Ssäm sauce calls for ssämjang, kochujang, grapeseed oil and sherry vinegar.

Jang means “paste”.  Ssämjang than translated to wrapping paste.  I found this particularly amusing.  One could imagine if the inventor of ketchup decided to call it French fry condiment, what other uses would be have for it?  Ssämjang itself is a soy bean paste.

The kochujang is a hot pepper sauce, kochu means pepper, so it’s literal translation is pepper paste.

Kochukaru is a Korean chile powder used in the napa cabbage kimchi recipe (coming soon).  I’m guessing that karu mean powder, but had trouble finding the translation on the internets.

Together the ssämjang and kochujang are a lovely kicked up spread for the Bo Ssäm.  The mixture gets thinned out with the neutral vinaigrette.

Following the recipe from page 167, the ssäm sauce comes out very liquid without the correct consistency and not at all what we had in the restaurant.  Here was the first attempt.

I tried to capture the consistency of the first by pouring it.

This was a good lesson in using common sense over blindly following a recipe.  I made another pass at it and eyeballed the amounts of oil and vinegar to make sure the ssäm sauce had the correct acidity and texture.  It came out fantastic.   you can see the two versions next to each other.

The bowl on the right is the second attempt, with the correct consistency and acidity.  I prefer mine a little spicier and would use more kochujang next time, or purchase a hotter version from the market.  Maybe I’ll run into the same attractive Korean girl who helped translate the labels for me.

One thing is for sure, this sauce has numerous application, and I’ll be finding creative ways to incorporate it.

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