7 (Wed) December 2011
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ
Bossam Kimchi is a Korean dish. Like standard kimchi, it consists of Napa cabbage, but with the addition of pine nuts, jujubes, chestnuts, and other traditional goodies, as well as raw oysters and octopus, all wrapped in the outer leaves of the cabbage. The word literally means “treasure” (bo) “bundle” (ssam). Being North Korean in origin, bossam kimchi tends to be on the whiter and lighter side in terms of both spices and seasonings, thus requiring quick consumption in the initial stages of fermentation before the ingredients turn overripe. Incidentally, this unrelated to the pork dish bossam, a homophonic coincidence.
For some reason, my mother suddenly made a batch. She hasn’t made her own kimchi in years. She claims not to have made bossam kimchi in decades, even though it’s one of those things that good North Korean girls are supposed to do on a regular basis. She gave us several bundles upon the condition that we promise to eat them within the next couple days.
While I suspected that bossam kimchi would work with pan-fried pork bellies, the combination far exceeded my expectations. Not entirely without precedent, Koreans often eat pork dipped in gaggingly fishy condiments, such as pickled shrimp, fish paste, or even fermented fish, which really isn’t my thing, though I do acknowledge that the fishiness surprisingly pairs quite well with the flavor of pork. The fresh oysters in my mother’s bossam kimchi (no octopus because my father doesn’t eat octopus) provided a subtle brininess, not really fishy, North Korean food being relatively understated as a general rule. Moreover, just a few days old, the fresh kimchi still retained a bright acidity in taste and lively crunch in texture that complemented the soft and fatty slices of pork belly. Synergy.
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