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.

Momofuku Bo Ssam

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.

Momofuku Bo Ssam

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.

Bo Ssam Meal

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.

Leftover Bo Ssam with Kimchi and Rice and Egg

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.

Leftover Bo Ssam with Rice and Peas

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.

I love Brussels sprouts! Now, that’s not a statement I would have made the first time I ever tried them, also the first time my mother tried them, and she cooked them the only way she knew how – boiled, as depicted in so many western cookbooks and television shows. While not terrible, they weren’t very swoon-worthy either, being very often waterlogged and grey. But then during university, sprouts started to grow on me – and these were the boiled ones from halls! I suppose it was inevitable since I loved regular cabbage. Anyway, it was when I moved out from halls and discovered sauteed sprouts and roasted sprouts that my love affair for them began. I now love to buy whole stalks of sprouts from the farmers’ markets; I was once told that they keep better this way but I have no idea if there’s any truth in that. Now is the season for them, when bags and bags will appear in the supermarkets and stalks at the markets.

Now with my love for them, when I heard that Momofuku Ssam Bar had a dish of Brussels sprouts on their menu, I knew I had to try them. Unfortunately, when I did get a chance to stop by that fantastic restaurant, the menu had already changed – it seems to only appear in the winter. Instead of roasting, they fry their sprouts (wow!) and top them with chilies and mint and fish sauce and puffed rice. They also make another sprout dish with kimchee puree and bacon but it was that original dish that had me intrigued. Luckily, the recipe was published in Gourmet magazine and I’ve adapted it here, not bothering with the rice krispies topping for everyday and with only coriander since I had no mint in the flat. But for a dinner party … perhaps the puffed rice can make an appearance then!

Momofuku's Brussels Sprouts

The sprouts were tender and delicious – the addition of butter after roasting is a stroke of genius. The dressing is salty and sweet and quite moreish but I can very much understand if it’s not to your taste – there’s a lot of fish sauce in there.

Momofuku Brussels Sprouts
adapted from Gourmet, October 2007
serves 8 as a side dish or 2 as a main course!

2 lbs Brussels sprouts (I used all the sprouts from a stem about 2 feet long)
2-3 tbsps sunflower oil
2 tbsps butter

1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
1 clove garlic
1 Thai red chili, finely chopped, or 2 large pinches dried chili flakes
3 tbsps finely chopped coriander leaves and stems

Preheat your oven to 190 Celsius.

Toss all your cleaned and trimmed Brussels sprouts (cut larger ones in half) into a roasting tray and toss with the sunflower oil. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice during the roasting period. The Brussels sprouts should be tender (if you still want a bite, reduce the roasting time) and brown on the surfaces. A few leaves will fall off but they go dark brown and extra tasty!

While the sprouts are roasting, in a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, water and sugar, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. The original recipe asked for the clove of garlic to be minced and added to the dressing but I was worried there’d be too much raw garlic flavour and so instead, I smashed a clove and let it infuse in the liquid. Toss it the chili and coriander and stir.

When the sprouts have finished roasting, toss in the butter, let it melt and then stir through. Toss the dressing through as well and serve.

It was my first night in New York and I managed to eat at Momofuku Ssam Bar: what an excellent start to the trip! I’d arranged to meet Don (Cocktailian on Flickr) and Robyn (roboppy on Flickr and TGWAE) that night and had brought along a few of my colleagues too. Altogether there were six of us and that meant lots of stomachs to hold lots of food and we could try a good chunk of the menu.

We left Don to the ordering, he being a regular there. Quite a few dishes were marked and I did start to worry that we’d never finish them all but somehow we did clean all the plates. I should mention here that it was my first time meeting Don and he’s just a wealth of knowledge on the food scene in New York; he also recommended an amazing sushi restaurant to us but that’s for another blog post. And Robyn is just so cool and nice and pretty awesome all around – I’d met her before when she came to London for a short visit. We’d all known each other through our Flickr photostreams.

Did I mention there were a lot of dishes? This is what came out to our table.

Diver sea scallops – pickled cherries, lemon
These were incredibly fresh and the lemon came in the form of a puree or creme under the scallops. Delicious.

Diver Sea Scallops

Cured hamachi – edamame, horseradish, pea leaves
The black-greenish stuff on top of the hamachi is furikake, Japanese sprinkles normally put on rice. It was great textural contrast to the hamachi (yellowtail).

Cured Hamachi

Sliced Long Island fluke – yuzu kosho, peaches
Uh oh. I’m going to have to admit that I can’t remember much of this one other than the fish was very fresh and in a fruity sauce?

Sliced Long Island Fluke

Seasonal pickles
I insisted on these as I’m a big pickle fan! There was kimchi, daikon, carrot, Asian pear, cucumber, ramps, mushrooms, beetroot, etc. I was quite a pig on these, wanting to try at least one of each type – and I loved them all. It seems I like any pickled vegetal matter.

Seasonal Pickles

Ossabaw lardo – pickled carrots
We all got a lesson that day on the Ossabaw pig (quick story: feral pigs living on an island and they have some special biochemical system so they’re popular with medical research – and with eaters it seems!). These thin slices of cured lard melted in the mouth.

Ossabaw Lardo

Eckerton Hill Farm’s tomato salad – fried tofu, opal basil
Gorgeous tomatoes. And it was some fantastic, crispy fried tofu; I like the idea of using tofu instead of bread croutons.

Eckerton Hill Farm's Tomato Salad

Steamed buns – pork belly, hoisin, cucumbers, scallions
Oh my goodness. This is a Ssam Bar classic and I can see why. Don told us that the pork belly was first cooked sous vide which gives it its melt in the mouth consistency. The bread too is soft and steamed and it all goes down quite easily. I was savouring mine, taking itty bitty bites to make it last longer! I want this now!

Steamed Buns

Inside a Steamed Bun

Meacham country ham (Sturgis, Kentucky), Benton’s Smokey Mountain country ham (Madisonville, Tennessee)
See the sauce on the side? I thought it was mustard at first but nope, it’s red-eye gravy. That’s a gravy made with coffee (geddit? red-eye?). The smokiness of the ham and the caffeinated gravy did go well together – and yup, it was some mighty fine ham. (The bread was freaking good and Don told us that it was from the Sullivan Street Bakery.)

Meacham Country Ham

Benton's Smoky Mountain Country Ham

Bahn mi – ham and chicken liver terrine sandwich
Another classic. The filling was really lovely but I wish the bread was the more usual light white bread used in these Vietnamese sandwiches. That said, the bread used here was really very good otherwise and again from the Sullivan Street Bakery.

Banh Mi

Roasted stone bass – Jersey corn, chantarelles, pancetta, lima beans
Fresh fish and it wasn’t nice but not something I would crave. But that’s just me.

Roasted Stone Bass

Bev Eggleston’s pork shoulder steak – zucchini, buttermilk dressing
Oh, this was one of my favourites that night. I really can’t turn down a good pork dish.

Bev Eggleston's Pork Shoulder Steak

Spicy pork sausage and rice cakes – Chinese broccoli, crispy shallots
This one was quite spicy with a few chilies and some Sichuan peppercorns within. The rice cakes were Korean deok and were fried – so slightly crisp outsides and heavy, chewy innards. I liked this dish!

Spicy Pork Sausage & Rice Cakes

Crispy pig’s head torchon (Newman’s Farm, MO) – sucrine, sugar plums
One in the party described this as “better than sex!”; I don’t think I’d go that far but it sure was good! My first bite was ok – quite meaty as I must’ve got a bit of cheek. The second bite burst into my mouth – amazing fatty goodness! If you’re wondering what sucrine is, as we all were, it’s the type of lettuce.

Crispy Pig's Head Torchon

Sichuan beef tendon – green mango, peanuts
Oooh, it seems I like tendon! When sliced thinly, it’s soft but with a gelatin feel.

Sichuan Beef Tendon

Crispy lamb belly and roasted loin (Four Story Hill Farms, PA) – cippolinis, violet mustard
The belly was soft and the loin tender and I preferred the flavour of the latter. I couldn’t discern the violet in the mustard.

Crispy Lamb Belly & Roasted Loin

Then all those were gone. We were all pretty full but still Don went ahead and ordered one each of the desserts!

Chocolate hazelnut croustillant – nectarine, cherry
Oooh, I do like chocolates with that crispy nutty fillling. But this wasn’t just a chocolate – it was like an oversized chocolate! It might seem like a small dessert but a little goes a long way.

Chocolate Hazelnut Croustillant

Tristar strawberry shortcake – corn, Kendall Farm’s creme fraiche
What I wasn’t expecting was the fresh kernels of corn in there! Nice twist on the classic.

Tristar Strawberry Shortcake

Blondie pie – cashews
This seemed to go down well at the table – strangely enough, I can’t remember much of this one as I only had one bite.

Blondie Pie

And the cost of all this decadence? $40 a head and that’s for all the food and a drink each to start. Further drinks can add up though and I have to thank Don for all the rest!

So, my other opinions. I loved the food and I loved the company but I didn’t love the loud music and dark room. It’s a little annoying having to shout at your companions to be heard and having to look very hard at the dish on the table to see each ingredient. And the waitstaff did have a habit of showing up all at once and talking over each other so some of the details of the dishes did get lost. But we’re really there for the food, no?

Thanks again, Don and Robyn! We’ll go back next time I’m in New York, won’t we?!

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Ave., corner of 13th and 2nd
New York, NY

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