If you love Korean BBQ, I got something for you that is a game changer. This recipe is for suyuk, otherwise known as boiled meat. Yes, it's not KBBQ, but hear me out! Suyuk is a delicious alternative to KBBQ. You don't need special grilling ingredients to make it. You would also eat it with the similar sides and sauces as KBBQ!
It's a simple dish made after making kimjang, kimchi for the winter. A cook would boil meat in flavorful broth to feed people who worked hard to make kimchi. The suyuk come with freshly made kimchi to celebrate the completion of kimjang. I got to participate in the eating portion of this tradition when I lived in South Korea.
But even before that, I first tasted suyuk in the form of bossam (boiled pork wraps) during a work dinner. Bossam is a style of eating suyuk, where the meat is exclusively pork belly. It involves wrapping the pork in salted cabbage leaves, topped with spicy radish, minced garlic, and shrimp sauce. It was then that I fell in love with Korean-style boiled meat.
What is Suyuk vs. Bossam
In Korean, there are multiple words for water and meat, depending on the context, but these two words refer to meat boiled in water. Suyuk means "water meat." Su means water, and yuk means meat. This is a catch-all name for these dishes, but most of the time, when you hear suyuk, you can expect boiled pork.
Bossam is a boiled pork eaten in a specific way, wrapped with leaves. I've seen pork neck and pork shoulder served as bossam, so for this particular dish, you need a fatty cut of pork with salted cabbage or simply lettuce for wrapping.
In general, all bossam is suyuk, but not all suyuk is bossam!
Ingredients for Suyuk
I love Korean food because there are many variations available across the cuisine. This recipe refers to a shorter list of easily sourced ingredients to make suyuk. Boiled meat won't typically give off a lot of flavor. The ingredients listed after pork are what makes a savory broth.
- Pork Belly or Pork Neck: Fatty cuts do well with this recipe. Use about one kilo or about two pounds of pork.
- Green Onions: Use at least four whole green onions, both green and white parts.
- White Onion: Cut a whole onion in half so the flavor will be absorbed faster yet it's easy to clean up.
- Garlic Cloves: I list a suggested amount of whole garlic cloves, but use as much as you'd like! Peel the garlic cloves before throwing them in the pot.
- Ginger: Helps to tenderize pork, and adds savoriness with a bit of a bite when boiled together.
- Doenjang (Korean Soy Bean Paste): This very salty paste is a foundational ingredient in many Korean dishes. For suyuk, it adds a salty and umami flavor. This flavorizes the meat so use as much or as little as you'd like.
- Ground Coffee (instant or finely ground): Neutralizes the odor of pork.
- Black Peppercorn: Emits an earthier flavor.
- Bay Leaves (optional): These aromatic leaves provide a depth of flavor to the meat. But they are subtle so you can choose to leave them out.
- Soju (optional): Helps to eliminate the gaminess of pork. I haven't found a major difference in using or not using soju. But if you do, let me know in the comments!
How to Make Suyuk
Suyuk is surprisingly easy to make and this rendition of mine is inspired by this Korean cooking show. There are more intricately made suyuk, in particular those made for bossam that involves fruit and shallow braising. But this recipe is a straightforward one that gets you great results.
- First wash the pork belly, and prep the vegetables. Then add water to a large pot, and fill about three quarters full or to a point you think will cover the pork belly.
- Add the vegetables, water, coffee, doenjang (soybean paste), seasonings, and pork belly. Boil everything together for ten minutes.
- Bring the heat to a low simmer, then cover and let it cook for about an hour.
- The pork belly is done once you can easily poke it with a blunt chopstick. Alternatively, you can slice a piece and bite into it to decide if it's tender enough.
- Pull the pork belly out of the pot and set it aside on a dry chopping board for about five minutes before slicing.
Tip Do not rinse the pork! Let it rest in the juicy goodness before slicing into it so it absorbs as much liquid as it can.
How to Serve and Eat
Slice the boiled meat and serve with fresh lettuce leaves. To serve this as proper bossam, make salted cabbage to serve it along the pork belly.
There are some special sauces to present with bossam which would include this shrimp sauce and simple mince garlic. But another sauce I like to use for suyuk, or boiled meat, in general is ssamjang.
Make Salted Cabbage Leaves For Bossam
The ssam in bossam means "wrap" and in Korean cuisine usually means wrapped in a type of leaf. Traditionally bossam is wrapped with prepared cabbage leaves. But restaurants also offer perilla leaves and fresh lettuce. Feel free to use lettuce leaves such as romaine that are not too big. They are an excellent option for when you're pressed on time.
You will need the following:
- 1 pound napa cabbage leaves, separated
- Inner leaves only and dark green leaves removed
- table salt; about half cup
The classic salted cabbage leaves take a little longer to make - hours! But the preparation method is simple.
- Add a little water (1 cup) in a large bowl then add salt and mix until it dissolves
- Add the leaves and fill with more water until they are slightly submerged
- Let it sit in the salty brine for two hours
- They are ready when you can bend the hard white part just a little, but they still snap
- Rinse with water and pat dry
- Serve alongside bossam on a plate
Boiled Pork Belly (Suyuk) Wraps (Bossam)
- 1 kg pork belly, sliced into 4 pieces
- 2 tablespoon doenjang (Korean-style soybean paste) +2 tablespoon to your taste
- 1 whole onion, cut in half
- 4-6 green onion stalks
- 100 grams ginger, sliced in large pieces
- 4-6 pieces garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 teaspoon instant or finely ground black coffee
- 3 pieces bay leaves optional
- 45 ml plain soju optional
- salt & pepper to taste
- Fill a pot with water that will cover the pork belly completely. Mix in doenjang (Korean-style soybean paste) until it melts in the water.
- Taste to see if the water is salty enough to your taste. Add more doenjang if necessary. Mix in ground or instant coffee.
- Add sliced onion, green onion, ginger, garlic, black peppercorns, and bay leaves. Bring the water mixture to a boil.
- Add pork belly. If using soju, add at this step.
- Boil on high heat for 10 mins. Then lower to a simmer and cover. Simmer for 50-60 mins until tender.
- Eat with salted napa cabbage or fresh lettuce
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