Finding Your Perfect Bite of Ssam

by | Mar 29, 2024 | Blog, Culinary Anthropology, Events | 0 comments

A person making ssam

If you’ve been to a Korean BBQ, you might have seen the word Ssam. What is it?

The word Ssam translates to “wrapped” and is usually done with leafy vegetables. Common veggies include red leaf lettuce, green leaf lettuce, and perilla leaves. However, there’s an entire world of ssam, including others like cabbage and pumpkin leaves. Perilla leaves are also known as sesame leaves and are a cousin to shiso. Personally, I find the taste to be quite assertive and can be divisive, much like cilantro.

This practice of using leafy vegetables came from the strong Buddhist presence in Korea, where killing and eating animals was highly discouraged. This brought on an emphasis on seasonal vegetables. For every Korean street corndog, there’s also a hyper-local, hyper-seasonal Buddhist food.

On a side note, if you ever want to watch a short documentary on a Korean Buddhist chef, the Chef’s Table on Netflix featuring Jeong Kwan is quite good.

So, is there a perfect bite of Ssam? While the perfect bite will be different for everyone, I always appreciate that you can try many different ssams during one meal. Red leaf lettuce, pork belly, ssamjang (sauce), garlic, Korean peppers? How about the same with a slice of kimchi? Maybe some freshly seasoned sesame bean sprouts for some crunch? Every meal has a world of possibilities. Much like a burrito, you can overstuff, but it’s common to try to eat your ssam in one bite. Yes, our Kimchi Harvest meal will give you the opportunity to try all sorts of Ssam. Join us for Kimchi Harvest demo to find out what your perfect bite is!

Our Kimchi Harvest event will be a mixture of a cooking class and dinner featuring kimchi, banchan, and pork belly. We’ll be making Kimchi Jjigae and assorted banchan (Korean side dishes), as well as doing some Korean pantry education and tasting. There will also be soju! I look forward to seeing you there.

Written by David Salerno

Originally from the Northeast, David (he/him) has been in Seattle since 2016. He studied classic culinary arts at the French Culinary Institute in NYC and currently works as the Senior Meal Program Coordinator at HIP. He can completely nerd out over culinary anthropology and can talk about food and food science for hours with anyone who is willing to listen. When not in the kitchen, you can find him playing hockey or running in different neighborhoods of Seattle.

March 29, 2024

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