Having been a pescatarian for about 10 years, I decided to become a meat-eater again on my arrival to NYC and I suddenly realised how much meaty goodness I was missing out on. Delicious fatty bacon, crispy pork belly… (drools). The rest of the crew will be very happy with me since I can now have a share when they roast a pig, or grill some skewers.
Ever since discovering Momofuku, I’ve always wanted to try the Bo Ssam. In the Momofuku cookbook, the Bo Ssam seems very time-consuming to make, no wonder why it costs $200 for the Bo Ssam at the restaurant! Momofuku recommends 6-10 people, so I had to muster up some friends willing to eat enough pork that would turn us into vegetarians for at least the next week. Lucky for me, I have 7 food-loving friends willing to take the dive with me so I could share this experience with you.
Here are some explanations as to why I suffered from a meat overdose…
What is Bo Ssam?
According to Wikipedia, Bo Ssam is pork wrapped in a leafy vegetable, mostly lettuce, served with small side dishes and Ssamjang (a thick spicy paste). At Momofuku, the Bo Ssam includes a slow cooked Pork Shoulder that’s been cooked for around 6 hours, Oysters, Rice, Bibb lettuce, Ssam sauce, Kim Chi and ginger scallion sauce.
How to prepare for Bo Ssam
- Find 6-10 friends willing to suffer a meat overdose and heartburn (the more big eaters, the better)
- Make your reservation after 10am each day on http://www.momofuku.com/ (I made mine 2 weeks ahead for a Saturday lunch)
- Start training your metabolism by going for jogs. (I went for a 4 mile run/walk that morning)
- Don’t eat meat for the few days prior (I had sushi for dinner the night before)
Starters – the downfall of the meal
Momofuku is also known for it’s steamed pork buns, so ordering them was a must. Knowing we had 8-10 pounds of pork to devour, we restricted ourselves to only one of the two types available each. In hindsight my advice is probably to just get one of them… even one to share if you’re a small eater!
I liked the regular Steamed Pork Buns more than the special Bar Bun (below). The Steamed Pork Bun has Pork Belly, Hoisin, Cucumbers and Scallions. You are also given Sriracha to drizzle on yourself, which complimented the bun quite well. The pork belly was nice and juicy and is a great start to the meal to follow.
The Bar Bun has Crispy Pork Belly, Avocado, Basil and Smoked Mayo in a white steamed bun. I didn’t feel that this was tastier as the crispy pork belly was a little dry, didn’t have as much flavour and definitely put me over the edge to near fullness.
And here comes the Bo Ssam
The assortment of “sides” are first to arrive at the table, Oysters, Rice, Bibb lettuce, Ssamsauce, Kim Chi and ginger scallion sauce all arrive in small dipping bowls and are a welcome compliment to the heaviness and fatty-ness of the pork.
As I read in the cookbook, the pork is marinated for a couple of hours then slow cooked in the oven for another few hours with the entire process taking around 6-8 hours, depending on the size of your pork butt. As we dug into the pork, you could tell how tender it was… the pork stripped off like string cheese and the oil slowly oozed out onto the plate.
Making the wrap combinations was quite fun. My favourite combo was easily the Oyster and Kim Chi wrapped with some juicy pork and a dollop of rice, sounds like a weird combination but try it before you judge! In the end I could only scoff down 4-5 of these, with a few breaks taken in between and I literally ate till my stomach burst.
Despite everyone eagerly awaiting to eat I made everyone wait till I got this perfect shot, before I allowed them to scoff their faces.
Even with 8 people at the table we didn’t even get half way through the plate of pork! At the end of the meal, I promptly announced my newly found vegetarian-ness for the next week. Unfortunately for me I took home the leftovers, so was stuck with eating pork for the next few days (it was great under the grill!).
This was definitely a memorable experience, an experience I probably will not want to go through again. But hey, my decision could be swayed if you give me some time and a great reason!
Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 Second Ave, New York City
(Cnr of 13th st & 2nd ave in the East Village)