Cycle 4 – Item 64
10 (Sun) March 2013
Beef Weollam Ssam
at Shabu Hanssam
-Oksu, Seongdong, Seoul, Republic of Korea-
with W and DJ, Mom + Dad
Weollam Ssam (월남쌈) is a Korean dish. Technically, the term refers to the circular translucent rice paper sheets most commonly used to wrap spring rolls throughout Southeast Asia, including Vietnam; in fact, “weollam” is the Korean pronunciation of the Chinese characters for “Vietnam,” while “ssam = wrap.” The sheets are initially dipped in warm water to soften them up then used to wrap handfuls of meats and vegetables cooked in a hot pot filled with boiling broth, like Japanese shabu shabu. I have no idea where/when/how/why this method began. Despite the apparent Vietnamese and Japanese aspects, the concept as a whole seems very much Korean. While an internet search does return several websites of restaurants offering the spread, as well as recipes and blog descriptions, I’ve never encountered it before today.
Shabu Hanssam (샤브한쌈) is a Korean restaurant. Specializes in weollam ssam. The menu offers beef, pork, duck, chicken, as well as fake meat made of soy.
We went with beef. A basic order comprised 120 grams of frozen beef sliced razor thin (cut unidentified), a few complimentary pieces of soy meat, all-u-can-eat side dishes, sauces, and veggies from a self-service salad bar, plus noodles and rice to be cooked in the remaining broth at the end of the meal. At 14,000 per person, with supplemental orders of meat at 8,000 won for 150 grams, a decent value. More important, everything was pretty good in terms of taste and quality.
Procedurally, however, the ssam part of it was a major pain in the ass, requiring a perfectly timed/coordinated series of steps: (i) place some veggies in boiling broth, starting with napa cabbage and other items that take longer to cook; (ii) place meat in boiling broth just when veggies are about done; (iii) remove everything and set aside to cool, so that it won’t scald fingers when wrapping; (iv) meanwhile, dip sheet of rice paper in beet water for about 10 seconds; (v) remove paper while still slightly stiff and place on plate; (vi) wait about 3 seconds until paper softens; (vii) quickly, before paper dries out and sticks to plate, transfer now-cool meats/veggies to paper; (viii) top with additional veggies; (ix) top with sauces; (x) wrap carefully so that (a) nothing falls out and (b) paper doesn’t tear; (xi) eat; (xii) repeat. After a couple iterations of this nonsense, we all put the rice paper aside and just ate the food like standard shabu shabu.
(See also GLOBAL FOOD GLOSSARY)
(See also RESTAURANTS IN KOREA)