Crazy happy Sunday lunch.
by Trish Deseine
Sometimes a dish, like a piece of art, or love (arguably, food *is* both) hits you and nothing is ever the same again. Yet nothing happens completely by chance of course. Epiphanies lurk until you care to allow yourself to see them, ‘the dish that changed your life’, like love at first sight, is a complex emotional and sensual construct the romantic in us prefers not to unravel (unless you are Alain de Botton) and I knew SOMETHING would happen in New York last year. I hadn’t been for a while, and, about to start work on my book, had rarely felt such an imperious need to get on a plane. Walking around New York (everyone does this, I know) in an exalted daze, senses heightened & sniffing (the air, the taxi fumes) like a cokehead, indulging my delicious, childlike ridiculousness in a sea of total anonymity, I managed to book a table in David Chang’s Ssäm bar with, thankfully, a very sensible friend. Behind us was the table in the photo. 3 generations of handsome, healthy looking people, diving into & devouring a Bo Ssäm. Now, if I were a proper food writer, I would give an impassioned & wiki-informed description of the dish’s history and how it tastes. But the thing is, I didn’t eat it. I didn’t need to.(I have made it many times since, see recipe below) The pork bun I WAS eating, along with about six other plates my friend and I tried, told me all I needed to know. That Chang is a (filthy) genius and that the caramelised on the outside, confit on the inside, pork shoulder 100 fingers were pulling apart & wrapping in lettuce leaves, with oysters and kimchi and other Chang potions, was delicious. But, mostly, it’s what the dish did for the people around that table I loved – a magical concentration of fat, sugar, heat, sea, soil, greed and freedom, helping them celebrate the banal miracle of a united family.
Bo Ssäm for 6/8, 6 hours cooking plus 6 hours chilling for the meat. 25 minutes prep for the rest.
3/4kg bone-in, skin-on pork shoulder, 175g sugar, 125g coarse sea salt plus 1 tablespoon, 150 demerera or muscovado sugar. A dozen oysters shucked, a lettuce, washed, leaves separated, fluffy rice, kimchi, hoisin sauce. ( or check out David Chang’s recipes for his amazing sauces & pickles)
Score the skin of the shoulder, without piercing the fat. Mix the sugar and 125g of salt , put the meat in a snug roasting tin and rub it all over with the sugar and salt. Wrap it tightly in cling film and leave it in the fridge all night, or for at least 6 hours.
Next morning, 6 hours before you are to eat (sorry), pre-heat the oven to 150°, take the meat out of the cling film and discard the excess salt/sugar. Rince and dry the tin then put the meat back in and start roasting. Baste the meat every hour at least, until it is sticky and easily comes off the bone. Get the lettuce, oysters, (fingerbowls are useful), napkins and sauces on the table. 20 minutes before serving, take the meat from the oven, turn the heat up as far as it will go, ideally 250°, pub the meat with the brown sugar and salt and caramelise the outside for about 10/15 minutes. Remove from the oven, let it cool a little then unleash it on your guests and watch them smile.
Photo 1 taken by me at David Chang’s Ssam bar, New York with the family’s permission to publish online.
Photo 2 Bo Ssäm maison.