I didn’t get a chance to try the famous Momofuku bo ssäm when I was in New York a few years ago but I’d been meaning to make it at home for a while. The recipe is in the Momofuku cookbook but if you don’t have it, Sam Sifton detailed how to cook and eat it in the New York Times Sunday Magazine earlier this year. With my working from home one weekend and requiring something low maintenance and pork shoulder on sale at my local supermarket, it felt like the right time to finally try my hand at it. It was also a trial run for a possible dinner party centrepiece.
My pork shoulder (2kg) was smaller than what the original recipe required but the method still worked. I also reduced the amount of sugar and salt used in the dry brining stage – about 2 tbsps sugar and 1 tbsp coarse salt and again, this was fine and we didn’t find the surface of the pork too salty as others have. The mixture was pressed into the pork shoulder and the whole thing refrigerated overnight. The next day, about 6.5 hours prior to dinner time, the oven was preheated to 150 Celsius and the entire thing chucked in there in a roasting pan. I basted the meat (but not the skin) hourly.
After 6 hours of cooking, the pork was fork tender (and the flat was pork scented) but it wasn’t finished yet. With the pork resting on the counter, the oven was heated to its max temperature. A mixture of 2.5 tbsps of brown sugar and 0.5 tsp of salt were pressed onto the surface of the pork – it may not all stick but that’s alright. It went back into the oven until the sugar melted and caramelised all over (this step may cause a lot of smoking in your kitchen!). While the slow roasted meat was amazingly soft and incredibly porky, the skin had hardened into a crunchy shell of sweet, porky, fatty crackling: it was pig candy.
We ripped the meat apart with tongs and ate it ssam-style: each mouthful was built up with a base of lettuce, a dab of gochujang-based sauce, a spoonful of short grained white rice, a leaf or two of kimchi and then shredded bits of pork and, of course, a crackle of pig candy. It was a glorious dinner.
What was possibly even better was the leftovers. The following afternoon, a portion was chopped up and fried with kimchi and rice and all topped with fried eggs. Oooh, yes.
And after that, the rest of the pork was chopped up and cooked together with fried onions and rice and peas, similar to my recipe for chorizo rice but you know, without the chorizo and the tomato paste. The rice had become infused with all the porkiness of the bo ssam and was just insanely good.
Or maybe leftover pork tacos. Or pulled pork sandwiches with a bit of barbecue sauce. How about just pork and eggs? Or have it ssam-style again the next day?
So that 6 hours in the oven really paid off and yes, it’s definitely going on a dinner party menu later in the year. My fingers are crossed that there’ll be leftovers again… Bo ssäm: it’s the meal that keeps on giving.