21 of the best Korean side dishes for Bossam (boiled pork wrapped in lettuce), ranging from vegetables to drinks and dessert!
What is Bossam?
"Ssam" means to wrap and Bossam is literally boiled pork wrapped in cabbage!
I must admit, my 1st trip to (South) Korea, I wasn't a fan. Boiled meat sounded really bland! But 8 visits to Korea later (in about 3 years), this is 1 of my favourite Korean dishes!
True, the boiled pork alone isn't that mouthwatering. However, combined with the soybean paste and other ingredients such as jjangachi (Korean pickles), it's simply a knock-out combination!
When to eat
You can have bossam anytime- I just made some last week and it's almost 35C here!- but the tradition is to eat it at the start of winter, immediately after the Koreans have finished making kimchi. This is called "Gimjang."
Fun fact: "bossam" also refers to the Joseon practice of a bachelor wrapping a widow in a blanket and making her his wife! (There was a movie about this- anyone else here a fan of K drama?)
How to eat
When eating bossam, you must have:
- Boiled pork
- Lettuce (or cabbage)- washed well!
- Ssam or salted shrimp
Simply take a cabbage leaf and spread it on your palm, then add a piece of boiled pork and some ssam or salted shrimp, roll and eat it! You can also add other sides such as kimchi to your pork wrap but they're optional.
Scroll down for my recommendations of the best Korean side dishes for bossam!
Characteristics of Korean food
Korean food is almost always served with kimchi. Grains are a big part of the culture- although steamed white rice is served at most meals, it's sometimes mixed with beans and barley.
For a general list of the best Korean dishes, check out CNN's article: "Korean food: 40 best dishes we can't live without"
Stocking a Korean pantry
To make Korean dishes regularly, the basic ingredients you will need are:
- gochujang (Korean fermented red chilli paste)
- gochugaru (Korean red chilli flakes)
- doenjang (Fermented bean paste, a heartier version of Japanese miso or Chinese taucheo)
- sesame oil
- Don't tell anyone, but I sometimes use my Chinese sesame oil for Korean recipes!
- ganjang (Korean light soy sauce)
- Not to be confused with dark soy sauce, which is more characteristic of Chinese cuisine!
- white sesame seeds
Korean food is famous for its delicious side dishes, also known as banchan (반찬). They make it possible to have a great meal with just white rice! Most Korean families will keep a supply of batch-made banchan in the fridge, to eat over the week.
If you're too busy to make your own, you can get them ready-to-eat at Korean supermarkets, such as H Mart.
Although Korea also has lots of good meat sides- hanwoo beef and Jeju pork are both delicious!- since the focus of this post is bossam (pork), I'll include more veggie dishes to balance the meal out.
Mu Saeng Chae (Spicy radish salad)
If you're not into the fermented foods, try this radish side dish, known as mu saeng chae (무생채.) Click here for the Koreanbapsang recipe.
Tip: I recommend making this fresh kimchi a little ahead of time, to allow the flavour to develop!
Oi Muchim (Spicy Cucumber salad)
Korean spicy cucumber salad (오이무) keeps well in the fridge for a few days- I've made it for many friends and they've all loved it!
Sigeumchi namul (spinach in sesame oil)
Korean spinach barchan (시금치나물) is a great option for people who can't take chilli!
How to make
You will need: baby spinach (older leaves can be bitter), garlic, soy sauce and sesame oil.
- Blanch the spinach: bring water to a boil, add the spinach and strain after 1 minute.
- Run the colander (with the spinach leaves) through cold water, then use your hand to squeeze as much water out as possible. Don't worry about being gentle- give the leaves a good squeeze!
- Place in a bowl and season with the garlic, soy and sesame oil.
- Optional: garnish with lightly toasted white sesame seeds.
Kongnamul muchim (seasoned beansprouts)
Unlike other banchans, beansprouts don't last for as long, so try to finish up what you make within 1-2 days.
Try My Korean Kitchen's mung bean salad here.
Hobak-jeon (Zucchini pancakes)
This is such a simple recipe, it doesn't need its own post!
How to make
Simply slice zucchini slices thinly, dip in beaten egg, then dip in some salted flour. (I use 1 teaspoon of sea salt for every 4 Tablespoons of flour- this is sufficient for 1-2 zucchinis (they vary in size.) You will need 2 large eggs.)
Pan fry the slices till golden brown on both sides on MEDIUM heat- if your fire is too hot, the zucchini will burn before it cooks! (This will take about 3-5 minutes depending on the thickness of your pancake.) Serve with some ssamjang dipping sauce.
Gamja salad (Korean potato salad)
1 of my absolute favourite Korean dishes! The addition of apples and hard boiled egg make for a nice contrast in texture and give the dish a nice sweetness! Check out Kimchimari's delicious recipe here!
Note: use Kewpie mayonnaise if you can get it- it's more savoury than regular mayo. If not, add a pinch of sugar and dashi stock powder to your mayo!
Soondubu-jjigae (Korean Tofu stew)
Since we may be rolling the bossam with kimchi and lettuce, I'll skip the Kimchi stew and recommend my all-time favourite, silken tofu stew, instead.
I'm actually working on a "best" version of this dish in which I test several "famous" versions. I love this Korean stew so much I could have it every day!- but in the meantime, I'll leave you with this vegan version from Thefoodietakesflight (available through the link.)
Doenjjang-jjigae (Bean stew)
This is such a quintessential Korean dish that it's the 1st dish many learn to make. Doenjjang is fermented soy beans, the Korean cousin of Japanese miso, but this soup has a much heartier, in-your-face flavour. It's great for people who can't take spicy food!
Try the Serious Eats recipe here.
Korean jeon (savoury pancakes)
If you're not a fan of seafood, skip the haemul jeon and go for Pajeon (scallion pancake) instead. This is a super easy few-ingredient dish: you only need the flour mixture, scallions, water and salt! Or, go global and try Taiwanese scallion pancakes!
Tip: make your Korean jeon with soda water or cold water for an extra crispy and light batter.
Dubu Muchim (Pan fried tofu)
How to make
Slice your firm tofu then pan fry till golden and crisp- don't use the soft tofu as it'll break easily in the pan! This will take about 4-5 minutes per side.
Once done, serve with a dipping sauce made of soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar, garlic and gochugaru (Korean chilli flakes.) You can add some sliced scallions for colour!
Asians love tofu! Koreans have their silken tofu stew (soondubu-jjigae), Singaporeans have salted egg tofu and Chinese people have mapo-tofu, to name a few of the many Asian tofu dishes.
Gyeran Mari (Korean Eggroll omelette)
A little similar to the Japanese tamagoyaki, a Korean friend brought this rolled omelette (계란말이) to dinner at mine a few years back and, since then I've made it regularly!
I'm linking to Seonkyoung Longest's YouTube video here, as this is 1 of the recipes that benefits from watching the process. (Gyeran-mari is easy to make, but describing the processing of getting the rolls may be convoluted in writing!)
Note: there is a steamed version (gyeran-jim) but I find it can be hard to make it taste good, so I'm not including it in this Korean side dish round-up! (Bold flavours only on Greedygirlgourmet, remember?)
Mandu (Korean dumplings)
Make them Yachae- veggie dumplings- since we're already loading up on the meat! Mandu freeze really well so you can prep ahead and make a huge batch! Try Maangchi's recipe here.
For (non-Korean) ideas on what goes with dumplings, click here.
Cold noodles (Naeng Myeon) goes really well with bossam. This is another Korean dish that I was initially ambivalent about but now LOVE. You can make your own or cook up an instant naeng Myeon packet!
Kimchi fried rice
The recipe for this kimchi fried rice is on my instagram (@greedygirlgourmet)- if you have some, top with some melted cheese to upgrade your dish!
Korean rice bowl
Hotteok is 1 of my absolute favourite Korean sweet snacks, but it is surprisingly difficult to get outside of Korea! (It sells for around 1000 Korean won/ $1 in Korea.) Thankfully, it's not difficult to make at home, just somewhat time-consuming!
Bingsu is such a big thing, you get specialised bingsu cafes in Korea! It's different from the typical Asian ice dessert, as the ice here is so fine it's like a powder that melts in your mouth.
If you've never had it, I highly recommend trying it! You can make your own with this Mykoreankitchen recipe!
A big part of Korean cuisine is making your own cheong, or fruit syrups, every summer- 2 of my favourites are maesil plum syrup and tangerine-cheong. Click the respective links for sure detailed instructions on how you can make your own!
Maesil cha (plum tea)
Boricha (Barley tea)
In Korea, bossam is often served as "Anju" - a food accompanying an alcoholic drink- so some makegeolli or maesil-ju sounds just right to me!
Korean plum wine
What's your favourite Korean side dish? If I've missed out a great banchan, do let me know in the comments!