A Korean BBQ Chef Says This Is Exactly How To Build A Perfect Ssam Bite

pork belly ssam
pork belly ssam - genielog/Shutterstock

If you've never been to a Korean BBQ restaurant, it's probably a good idea to learn everything you need to know about Korean BBQ, like how to build a perfect ssam bite. Ssam (쌈) means "wrapped" in Korean and a ssam bite includes a piece of lettuce or leafy green, an umami-rich condiment like ssamjang, some kimchi or another banchan, like delicious Korean potato salad, and a slice or two of barbecue meat like pork belly or short rib. The components all work together in perfect harmony, and since everything is eaten at once, all the flavors sort of explode in the mouth. But there's a way to achieve this harmony the right way. To learn more about building the perfect ssam, we sat down with an expert, John Bach, Executive Chef and Founder of Seoul Food KBBQ Catering in Los Angeles, CA.

Bach advised, "Start with red leaf lettuce and a perilla leaf together with a decent spread of ssamjang, a bite-sized spoonful of warm rice, at least two bites worth of pork belly (the thicker the better), topped with Pa Muchim." The lettuce serves as the wrap for the ssam and the perilla leaf adds an earthy, grassy flavor. Ssamjang is a condiment full of savoriness and umami, and it's perfect when paired with warm, plain white rice. Then you have the buttery grilled meat or pork belly, balanced with veggies, or Bach's recommendation of a simple flavorful Korean scallion salad, or Pa Muchim.

Read more: Styles Of Regional BBQ In The US

Ssam Is Meant To Be Eaten In One Big Bite

ssam - BAE YOUNGJU/Shutterstock

Now that you know how to build a perfect bite of ssam, it's time to learn the proper etiquette for eating ssam at Korean barbecue restaurants. John Bach advised, "Don't be scared to take it all in one massive bite." So if someone offers you an assembled ssam, don't put the ssam on your plate and pick it apart with chopsticks or a fork. Put it all in your mouth, as it is not meant to be eaten in multiple bites like other lettuce wraps, burritos, or tacos. It's also customary to be fed at a Korean restaurant with chopsticks, a fork, or in the case of ssam, directly from someone's clean hands.

Ssam has been enjoyed for centuries in Korea. It likely originated as food for farmers and farmhands who plucked green leafy vegetables from the fields and wrapped food in them for ease of transport. Once considered a seasonal and auspicious food in Korea, today you can enjoy ssam year round, assembled beautifully, preferably with a fatty chunk of pork belly or with one of the 10 best cuts of meat for Korean BBQ.

Read the original article on Tasting Table.