I came across this article about Bo Ssam in the NYTimes—the picture alone convinced me I would need to try this recipe, but then I read the article. The recipe is the creation of David Chang, chef and owner of Momofuku in NYC where it sells for $200 and feeds 6–10 people. (I get this on the table for less than $20.) And get this:
[R]ecipes like Chang’s bo ssam are a godsend. They make any cook appear to be better than he or she really is, elevating average kitchen skills into something that approaches alchemy. Tell no one how easy this all turns out to be, though. Simply cook the food and serve it and watch as those at your table devour the meat in a kind of trance.
Did you catch that bit about a trance? That's why I call it Mind Control Pork. The pork roast itself is delicious, but the salty/sweet bark that forms on the outside is amazing! If there's an unpleasant task on the Honey-Do list, or the list is getting particularly long, I just tell Scoob I'm making this for dinner and suddenly things start getting done.
In fact, Scoob prefers it to the kalua pig that he makes (which is also amazing and simple). Coming from him, that's saying something.
I've made this a few times now, and it just seems to get better each time. The last time I made it, I even invited neighbors over for dinner (that's how confident I am with this easy recipe), and now it's being requested whenever we're the host house for supper club.
I've made a few adjustments to the original recipe—I found it unclear at one point and reduced the oven temperature and increased the time for the final step in the oven (500° just filled the house with too much smoke—extremely unpleasant, especially if you're expected guests). The recipe also recommends oysters as an accompaniment, but I didn't go there with it.
The recipe includes directions for the accompanying sauces. I love the ginger-scallion sauce. Even though it sounds like an odd combination, I urge you to try it. Scoob refuses to try it because he hates onions—I don't care for a lot of onion either, but this stuff is addictive! Oh well, more for me! (I now make this sauce fairly regularly to go with noodles and pot stickers, too.)
Neither one of us really cared for the ssam sauce (pictured in the middle, above), so I usually skip this now and just set out some chili paste. And even though I do like kimchi (in the back, pictured above), I don't really care for the brand we have available locally. Scoob likes it though, so he gets the kimchi while I get the ginger-scallion sauce.
Prep time: 15 minutes
Total time: Overnight + 6½–7½ hours cook time (mostly hands-off)
- 1 whole bone-in pork butt or picnic ham (8 to 10 pounds)
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 cup plus 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 7 tablespoons brown sugar
- 2½ cups thinly sliced scallions, both green and white parts
- ½ cup peeled, minced fresh ginger
- ¼ cup neutral oil (like grapeseed)
- 1½ teaspoons light soy sauce
- 1 scant teaspoon sherry vinegar
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
- 2 cups plain white rice, cooked
- 3 heads bibb lettuce (we used Romaine), leaves separated, washed and dried
- Place the pork in a large, shallow bowl. Mix the white sugar and 1 cup of the salt together in another bowl, then rub the mixture all over the meat. (I know it sounds like a lot of salt, but you do rinse it off later. I've found ½ cup each white sugar and salt to be fine on a 6-pound pork butt.) Cover it with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
- When you’re ready to cook, heat oven to 300°. Remove pork from refrigerator and discard any juices and rinse off any excess salt and sugar. (The original recipe did not call for rinsing, and my first try at this recipe was extremely salty.) Place the pork in a roasting pan .
- Cook for approximately 6 hours, after the first hour, baste hourly with pan juices. Once the roast collapses (somewhere around 200° internal temperature) and yields easily to the tines of a fork, you may remove the meat from the oven and allow it to rest for up to an hour.
- You can make the ginger-scallion sauce while the roast rests, but I've found I like the taste even more after it has had a chance to meld—I usually make mine when I put the roast in the oven. In a large bowl, combine the scallions with the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and taste, adding salt if needed.
- While the roast rests, prepare the rice, wash lettuce, and set out the sauces.
- When your accompaniments are prepared and you are ready to serve the food, turn oven to 400°. (As I mentioned earlier, 500°, as called for in the original recipe, produced way too much smoke in the house. I may try this at 450° next time, but 400° did work, although it took a bit longer. You may want to wait on setting out your rice so it doesn't get cold.) In a small bowl, stir together the remaining tablespoon of salt with the brown sugar. Rub this mixture all over the cooked pork and spoon some of the pan juices over the top being careful not to rinse off the rub. (I found spooning some juices onto the roast at this point helped the sugar form more of a glaze-crust instead of the thicker, more sugar-granular crust I experienced the first couple tries with this recipe.) Place in oven for approximately 15–20 minutes, or until a dark caramel crust has developed on the meat. Serve hot, with the accompaniments.
The morning after.
Into the oven.
Somewhere around the 4 hour mark.
Going down in a glaze of glory—yes, it is Bon Jovi-worthy
Scoop some rice on your lettuce, layer on some pork,
and top with the sauce of your choice.
and top with the sauce of your choice.
Leftovers, if you're lucky enough to have them, are delicious as repeats, and when you get down to the nubbins, they make an awesome fried rice. If it's just the two of us, a 4–5 pound pork shoulder easily feeds us for several days (and no one complains about getting tired of it!).
Bo ssam pork fried rice