I made this Korean/Japanese hybrid for the WBC championship game a few weeks ago. Yakitori is traditionally a Japanese dish, but these chicken skewers were marinated in a sweet garlicky bulgogi marinade, making them somewhat Korean. While the yakitori would be delicious as an appetizer or with a bowl of hot rice, I took the theme one step further and integrated the grilled chicken into the Korean version of a lettuce wrap.
Ssam (pronounced: sahm) literally means “wrapped” in Korean and is a common way to eat grilled meat. The meat is typically grilled at the table and served along with condiments such as ssamjang, raw garlic, chili peppers and plenty of lettuce leaves. Stateside, David Chang has single handedly gentrified this once humble dish at his over-hyped Momofuku Ssam Bar, where the $200 Bo Ssäm is the centerpiece at his East Village eatery.
To be fair, I’ve never eaten the bo ssam there, but the rest of his food has enough salt to disinfect a festering wound large body of water, so shelling out two Ben Franklins is a leap I just haven’t been willing to make. I guess that makes me one of the only people in Manhattan who isn’t an evangelical member of the cult of Chang.
If you haven’t noticed by the dearth of raw veggies on this site, I am not a huge salad fan. Don’t get me wrong, I love raw vegetables, but the problem with salad is that it takes some hunting to put all the elements of the salad together on the fork at the same time. Since a ssam is wrapped with the individual components evenly scattered within, each bite is like a perfect little salad. Expanding on this theme, you could do easily do a Caesar Ssam or a Chinese Chicken Ssam.
for bulgogi marinade
- Mix all the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and add the chicken. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or preferably overnight.
- Soak your skewers in hot water for 30 minutes. Skewer the strips of chicken lengthwise, so each skewer is roughly the same thickness. Setup a barbecue, or move your oven rack to the top position and turn on the broiler.
- Grill the chicken skewers until they are cooked through, rotating at least once.
- Serve with lettuce leaves, shredded Asian pear and gochujang. Because they don't hold together very well, it's best to have each person roll their own. Just spread some gochujang on a lettuce leaf, lay a few pieces of chicken down, top with some pear, then roll and eat.