Although I accepted samgyupsal (grilled pork belly) into my late-night diet of soju and beer outings while living in Seoul, I really didn’t have a strong yearning for it when I returned back to the States. One reasoning was that it too closely resembled something that I didn’t really care for in the first place: American style bacon. However, it is the most popular BBQ dish among Korean males (and foreigners too) who love to combine this with plenty of soju, beer, etc. For this recipe, I used a completely different method using a combination of herbs and garlic powder for a pre-rub and simply cooking them on the stovetop. With good fortune on my side, the pre-rub really did wonders for the pork, resulting in flavorful pieces of pork that didn’t require any sauce. This will be a mainstay for future meals. Also, we were lucky to find thick strips of pork belly sold at the local Whole Foods Market. Who knew Americans were into samgyupssal?!
The best thing about samgyupssal is that there is little or no marinating involved. You just need to cut it into bite-size pieces and cook it on the stove top. Don’t stop there though. All the fatty oil from the pork belly is perfect for sauteing any of the following sides: kimchi, peppers, mushrooms, onion rings, and whole garlic pieces (my favorite). Another must when eating samgyupssal is the lettuce and sauce which accompany the samgyupssal. We prefer using red leaf lettuce, romaine lettuce, and perilla leaves (or kkaednip), but any of the leafy vegetables will do depending on one’s preference. Lately, we have also enjoyed Boston bibbs and frisee to the mix for some variety. And lastly, the sauce (known as ssamjang) is vital because it brings all the ingredients together into one satisfying bite.
For those who love sauce as much as I do, ssamjang is the best dipping sauce that can be used with Korean BBQ meats, vegetables, rice, and lettuce wraps. It is basically a mixture of red chili pepper paste (gochujang) and fermented soybean paste (dwenjang), and the latter being a bit pungent and repugnant to those with sensitive smell. It is fairly easy to make it from scratch, buying the ingredients ready-made at the local Korean or Asian market. For those who enjoy making it from scratch, here are the ingredients for this delicious sauce (just mix the last 7 ingredients together).
Servings: 4 people
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 20 minutes
Herb Rub Marinade: 15 minutes
- 2 lb pork belly strips
- 1 tsp thyme (fresh or dry)
- 1 tsp dill weed (fresh or dry)
- 1 tsp rosemary (fresh or dry)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- lettuce varieties (red leaf lettuce, Boston bibb, frisee)
- 1 garlic bulb, peeled
- 3 scallion, (pajori)
- 1 cup chopped kimchi
- 2 tbsp gochujang (red pepper paste)2
- 2 tbsp dwenjang (soybean paste)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced (or garlic powder)
- 1 tsp rice wine
- 1 tsp brown sugar (or honey)
- 1 tbsp sesame oil
1. Rub on the herbs and garlic powder to each of the pork belly strips. Let sit for a few minutes.
2. Wash and prepare the lettuce leaf varieties under cold water. Set aside on serving plates.
3. Cook pork strips on non-stick pan or skillet on medium-high heat. Make sure the pan is hot before adding the pork. Cook about 7 minutes on each side or until well-browned. Remove to a paper-lined plate to remove excess oil.
4. Meanwhile, make the samjang sauce by mixing the last 7 ingredients in the list above. For a spicier sauce, add more gochujang (hot pepper paste).
5. With the remaining fatty oil, saute the garlic cloves and kimchi for about 3 minutes. Drain and set aside.
6. Cut the pork strips into bite size pieces and transfer to a serving plate. Enjoy with lettuce varieties, rice, and samjang sauce.
*If you are pressed for time, you can skip the herb rub and buy ready-made samjang sauce sold at the Korean market. This will cut prep and cooking time in half.