David Chang made bossam famous at Momofuku, and it truly is one of the best meals to wow a crowd

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It’s notoriously difficult to transliterate the names of many foods or recipes from the spelling in their native languages to what we call “Roman” letters, the letters for words that you see here. With languages that don’t use Roman letters at all, this difficulty is most pronounced, of course.

When users of a non-Roman script put their words into Roman letters, that is grace indeed. Nonetheless, that isn’t always the final word.

When, at a Korean or Asian grocery we buy a spicy chile and fermented soybean paste with Korean lettering, it helps that the small red boxes containing it usually are also labeled “gochujang.” It’s a handle, for we English speakers, for talk among ourselves and for future use or purchase.

But sometimes even a transliterated word has flux. The recipe here, a famed Korean meal for large groups or a family, can be written as “bossam,” bo-ssam,” “bo ssam,” even (if you can find the correct keyboard shortcut) “bo ssäm” and thence, I assume, variations on the spacing over and again.

The “ssam” part of the name refers to the idea of wrapping parts of almost all the rest of the recipe into small packages made of a lettuce leaf (or other green, leafy vegetable) formed by and held in the hand. After speaking with some Korean folk at a local HMart, I gather that the “bo” pretty much means “the,” or is just an indicative.

This recipe is a mere vestibule to the high church of Korean cooking, with its many various preparations of beef, pork and vegetables, its several soups and many rice dishes, its renown for the aromas and flavors of its dozens of side dishes and its love of eggs.

But it is a good representation of the main style of that cuisine as well. There is the requisite centerpiece (a long-cooked pork shoulder the likes of which will make you swoon) and a few “sides” for many flavor and aroma points.

In the early 2000s, chef David Chang made bossam (my option on the spelling) famous at his New York City Momofuku restaurant. People couldn’t get enough of it, and it truly is one of the best meals to make to wow a crowd.

If you’d like to learn more about the adoration of pork in South Korea, the swell Netflix mini-series “Korean Pork Belly Rhapsody” is fascinating.

Bossam (Korean Pork Roast with Accompaniments)

Adapted from David Chang, Peter Meehan, Jamey Fader, Bill St John and The New York Times. Serves 4-6.

Ingredients

For the pork roast:

  • 1, 4-pound bone-in pork shoulder
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup (plus 1 tablespoon, separated) kosher or fine sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons brown sugar

For the scallion-ginger relish:

  • 1 cup scallions (green onions), both white and light green portions, sliced thinly on the bias
  • 1/2 cup fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 tablespoons neutral vegetable oil (not olive oil)
  • 3/4 teaspoon light soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon aged balsamic vinegar
  • Pinch kosher or sea salt, to taste

For the ssam sauce:

  • 1 tablespoon fermented bean-and-chile sauce (ssamjang, available at Asian markets or online, or may use other chile sauce)
  • 1 tablespoon chile paste (gochujang, available at Asian markets or online, or may use other thick chile-garlic paste)
  • 1/4 cup aged balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cup neutral vegetable oil (not olive oil)

The accompaniments:

  • Cooked sticky rice
  • Prepared kimchi
  • Lettuce “cups” (red or green leaf, Bibb or Boston, inner leaves of Napa cabbage, or the like; not iceberg)

Directions

The night before cooking the pork, mix together the 1/2 cup of salt and the white sugar and slather the mix all over the pork, rubbing it in well. Place the pork in or on a non-reactive bowl or sheet, cover with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.

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