What Is Ssam?

A. Leverkuhn
A. Leverkuhn
Woman baking cookies
Woman baking cookies

Ssam is a kind of Korean dish where vegetable items are wrapped around internal fillings that often include meat or seafood. This dish is served in many different varieties, and often accompanies a sauce called ssamjang that is often made up of bean or soy paste, garlic and oil, and a few other ingredients. This dish goes back to ancient cultures in Korea and other nearby areas of Asia.

A wide variety of ingredients are used to wrap up the ssam. One of the most common ones is cabbage, which is the basis for many Korean staples, including a dish called kimchi. Kimchi is fermented cabbage, and this can be added to the ssam in various ways.

Other wrapping materials might include lettuce or the leaves of other vegetables. Seaweed can sometimes be used to wrap up this dish, and in some less common versions, fish or octopus might be used as a wrapping. Other varieties of ssam might be wrapped with thin flour cakes, making them similar to crepes or other prominent items in different ethnic cuisines.

One of the most common internal meats for ssam is steamed pork. Some other varieties may use beef tongue. Seafood items might also go into this dish. Clams are featured in some forms of this food, where others may include pieces of squid, which present their own cooking challenges.

A unique aspect of this kind of food is the use of many raw materials, such as uncooked vegetables or even raw seafood. Another common element is the use of specific Korean bean pastes that have their own unique flavors. Yet another unique aspect of the dish is the many side dishes or condiments that may go along with it.

Some of these ssam dishes might include rice, either as a side dish or included in the wrap. Hot peppers and additional garlic may also be presented with this dish. Many versions of ssam feature something called banchans, or side dishes. These side dishes may be placed in separate containers or in many small concavities of a specialized bowl or plate that may be used to present ssam. The side dishes are crucial to the overall presentation of some traditional varieties, and add to the flavor profile, as well as being effective decorations for the dish.

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