It all started with a recipe from American Iron Chef Judy Joo featured in an old issue of Where Women Cook Magazine. The pictures were certainly tempting: a whole slab of roasted pork belly slathered in a rich, thick sauce bundled into an iceberg lettuce leaf with some rice and kimchi. Mouthwatering would have to be an understatement here.
The dish in question was a roasted pork belly bossam, a modern spin on a traditional Korean specialty. Bossam (보쌈) is a dish commonly served in autumn, just as families are preparing a fresh batch of kimchi from the year’s vegetable harvest or, as the period is called in Korea, at gimjang time. It is also a drinking-man’s dish, as it is usually featured as an anju, or one of a set of dishes made to accompany soju or other alcoholic beverages.
In a traditional bossam, a whole slab of pork belly is simmered down with ginger and other spices to remove the gaminess of the meat. The boiled pork is allowed to cool, then cut into thin slices that could be wrapped with kimchi and other condiments in a lettuce leaf and eaten like a hand-roll.
Judy Joo’s spin on the dish is twice-cooked: the pork boiled till super-tender in a miso and garlic broth, then slathered with a second miso paste – this time with ginger and honey – before roasting. The end result is a meltingly tender slab of pork with a subtle, nutty taste of soybeans and a hint of spice.
When I decided to cook the dish recently, I realized that I would do well to grab a tub of doenjang or Korean soybean paste (Korean miso, if you will). Doenjang has a coarser texture than the more common white and red Japanese soybean pastes with nubbins of crushed soybean that impart an almost peanutty nuance. Here, it is used to season the pork in two ways: first as the base of the simmering solution, then as part of the marinade rubbed onto the meat before the second phase of cooking.
One thing I had to change was the cut of meat. I still used pork belly, but – as seen here – I had to use pork belly ribs as these were what I had on hand at the time. Also, I didn’t bother roasting: we found that grilling the pork on a smoking-hot grill pan with some dark sesame oil works just fine.
The result: very tender pork that falls apart as you prod it with a fork with a subtly sweet and nutty taste and aroma that goes very well with spicy kimchi and just-cooked rice.
Grilled Pork Belly Bossam
- 1-1/2 kilos pork belly ribs
- 1-1/2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
For the broth:
- 2 tablespoons doenjang
- 8 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 inch of ginger, sliced but unpeeled
- 1 onion, cut into eighths
For the grill rub:
- 2 tablespoons doenjang
- 1-1/2 tablespoons grated ginger
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon kochujang or sriracha hot sauce
Place the pork and the broth ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn down the heat and simmer for 1-1/2 to 2 hours. Allow the pork and broth to cool completely. Remove the pork and reserve the broth for other dishes.
Combine all the ingredients for the rub and smear generously over the pork. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or overnight to improve the flavor.
Heat the sesame oil in a grill pan over medium heat. Add the marinated pork and cook for about 10 minutes, turning at the halfway mark. Serve with rice and kimchi.