Tuesday, January 17, 2012

#244 - Bo Ssam With Sparkling Riesling & Vouvray Sec

Crazy mad genius David Chang becomes more so once you see how easy it is to replicate one of the staples at his restaurant, Momofuku Ssam Bar in NYC.

The New York Times gives you the recipe, it's not labor-intensive in the least (just takes some monitoring) and only costs about $30 for the whole lot.

It's bo ssam, a salty, sticky, deeply delicious pork butt wonder that serves as the centerpiece to a Korean lettuce wrap buffet of goodness.

Chang leads the party here but a supporting cast of Michael Symon (pickled onions), Bill Kim (kimchi from Urban Belly) and Jacques Pepin (scallop pancakes) rounded out the party quite nicely, thank you very much.

And the wine...yeah...good enough with one being a winner.

Food:  Bo ssam pork with scallop pancakes, pickled onions, ginger- scallion sauce, ssamjang sauce, rice, kimchi and boston lettuce for wrapping

The buffet:

  • Pork butt roasted in the oven for six hours, coated with white and brown sugar and salt.  Crispy, caramelized pork that's entirely worth the effort, which isn't much.  It's great pork for people who don't care about pork, which we don't.
  • Jacques Pepin scallop pancakes made with scallops, club soda, flour, cornmeal and chives.  Didn't love them at first and they were a pain in the butt to make as they're so delicate but they grew on us.
  • Ginger-scallion sauce made with those two ingredients, a little soy, a touch of sherry vinegar and salt.  A bit intense at first, taking over the taste of the compiled Korean lettuce wrap but after a few bites, I got it.  It sets the tone for everything else, taking you to a food place first, almost like a bully, but then you see that it was for a reason.  It's almost like this sauce has to come first before you can completely get why bo ssam is good.
  • Ssam sauce made with ssamjang (didn't know what that was before yesterday, it's fermented bean and chili paste) and gochujang (that either - a hot chili paste), both I could only find at the Korean grocery.  Thai groceries didn't carry it, though in a sea of nice Thai mothers at one Thai grocery, I ran into the only other white face in the place attempting to shop for the same ingredients for the same recipe.  That made me feel a little too North Side New York Times-reading white.  
  • Michael Symon pickled onions, a house staple.
  • Bill Kim kimchi from Urban Belly, $4 a pop.  It's the best kimchi we've had in a very limited kimchi world.  Weren't making it, especially when kimchi this good is $4 a pop.
  • Boston lettuce for wrapping.
  • Rice

Seemed to us that each ingredient was essential to the success.  If you can't find ssamjang or gochujang (same thing as kochujang), sambal oelek could probably be substituted but that comes off more sharp and hot, if I recall correctly, than the gochujang, which while having an edge, tastes more like something that integrates itself more gracefully into the rest of the food in the buffet of goodness.  More Korean that way instead of offering a bold, in-your-face punch like some SE Asian condiments.

Particularly due to the ease of the preparation of this meal, we'll be placing it into the rotation.  It's that good.  Oodles of surprisingly lower-level dark and surprisingly savory deliciousness here with everything playing in the lower realms of punch.  But those realms were new, broad and pretty damn wonderful.

The wine played a role.  That's the best that can be said but we were fine with that.

Wine:  2007 Vincent Carême Vouvray Sec ($24 - WDC) & NV Loosen Bros. "Dr. L" Sparking Riesling ($14 - Binny's)

Expecting things to be a touch more spicy, we figured a touch of sweetness to balance that would be prudent.  We didn't get that spiciness, which sort of left the sparkling riesling D.O.A. with the food, in the end serving only to offer a refreshing chilled bubble factor to the meal.  Nice bargain sparkler here with the Dr. L but that bargain-ness comes with a shaky backbone.  It's excelled more as a pleasant afternoon sipper more than anything for us.

But the Vincent Carême Vouvray Sec was another matter.  An idiosyncratic Vouvray from a region that prides itself on its idiosyncrasy.  No two are ever the same with nobody following anyone's lead, making for a region that's always full of surprises.  What struck me most with its singular expression of honeycomb and flowers without being the traditional definition of floral.  Almost dandelion-like at times with honey, touch of quince/blood orange and a spectacular chalky finish, all of that wrapped in a body that was streamlined and very medium to almost light.  It's one of those wines that becomes lighter in the best way due to its grace and craft, almost ethereal in a way.  Loved it.

Pairing:  88  Mostly due to the loveliness that was the Vouvray and how it did with the lighter flavors in the food

We could have went with a juicy red with this meal and done just fine. A chilly Beaujolais, maybe.

While the sparkling riesling didn't mingle much with the food (though it made efforts later in the meal), the Vouvray became another great element to the meal as it played well with the scallop pancakes, the rice, the lettuce and, in particular, the pickled onions, even becoming a bit more full-bodied with the ginger-scallion business.  Offered little with the pork or the chili sauce by itself but those elements were mixed in with the Korean taco goodness for the most part.  We were content to let it play with the supporting actors in the meal and let that be that.

A lot of success here.  The Vincent Carême will be bought again while bo ssam was utterly unique stuff in our world and shall be eaten again quite soon.  Too much ssamjang and gochujang left to not to.

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