There’s a serious lack of Korean food in San Francisco. Considering the fact that less than 400 miles south of us in Los Angeles, there exists the best Korean food in the world (second only to, perhaps, Korea), it’s a surprise and shame that San Francisco has basically crap for Korean food. So many of my friends love Korean food, but invariably, when asked to go out to dinner at a Korean restaurant, my answer is no, because I refuse to pay for something that I can cook infinitely better at home.
One such item is what is referred to as “Dduk Bossam” (떡보쌈). Dduk Bossam is actually a Vietnamese item — rice rolls, to be exact. This item has been prevalent in Vietnamese cooking for ages — but the Koreans took it and created a nice accompaniment to the typical Korean BBQ meats. In Korea and in Los Angeles, this type of cuisine is readily available and extremely economical; in San Francisco, there aren’t many decent places that can serve this item. (Update: there is one now that does! Check out YakiniQ.) So, I’ve now resorted to preparing it at home and thought I’d write a review about that, since you, too, can make it at home.
What You Will Need for Dduk Bossam
I’ll assume you have the items needed for a Korean BBQ, like an electric grill and good meats. I usually use thinly sliced brisket and/or boiled whole pork belly. In the examples below, I am using the pork belly.
In cooking the pork belly, I always boil the entire thing first. This serves two purposes: one, it rids the usually fat-heavy pork belly of much of the fats; and two, it makes the meat very soft. When put atop a grill, the meat will become crunchy on the outside and a retain a soft chewiness on the inside with minimal fat drippings.
Whether you’re at a restaurant or doing this at home, knowing how to eat dduk bossam is imperative to truly enjoying the experience. While any good quality meat will work with dduk bossam, I have found that the ideal vegetable mix makes or breaks the entire experience. With a lesser vegetable mixture, the whole thing fails and I’m near tears when I try a new dduk bossam restaurant that offers sub-par vegetable mixes.
For my vegetable mix, I always use the following:
1. Red Leaf Lettuce
2. Green Leaf Lettuce
3. Red Perilla Leaves
4. Organic Kale
Using a combination of these four has never failed me. The only one that is hard to acquire will be the red perilla leaves; I can most often find them at Chinese or Vietnamese supermarkets, but never have I found it at an American or Korean supermarket. (Keep in mind that these are slightly stronger in taste that the Korean perilla leaves which are all green.)
All the vegetables should be washed, thinly sliced, then spun to rid the mixture of all water.
Another personal addition that I like with dduk bossam is something called 굴젓 (gool jut) which is basically a raw oyster spicy concoction. This won’t be a necessity, nor is it everyone’s favorite, but those of who love this will often salivate at the thought of it. I include a photo of it, but won’t go into how to make this as it’s not really a major player with dduk bossam. Perhaps I will do a separate post about how I make this piece.
Additional items you may need are fresh jalapeno or serrano peppers, thinly sliced; fresh garlic, thinly sliced; Sriracha-based hot sauce to dip (if you like things spicy as I do); and a dipping sauce for your meats made of sesame oil, salt and pepper.
For the rice wrappers, I can only find them in large Korean chains in Southern California, or Chinese and/or Vietnamese markets in San Francisco. I have yet to see this made available in Korean supermarkets in Northern California. I know for a fact that New May Wah Market on Clement Street has a variation of this made available on a daily basis — fresh, to boot!
They will usually be extra-long strips in the package. I have never needed to alter the width of the noodle/wrappers, but always need to cut it in length into perfect squares. Unless they were just made, I find that I need to take these squares, a thinly laid plateful at a time, and nuke them for about 15-20 seconds to make them oily and soft. I’ve also been known the steam them, too, which might work better but is so time-consuming for basically the same taste.
Now, we’re ready to begin eating. (And yes, I’m getting hungry while writing this.)
The instructions are in the captions.
How to Eat Dduk Bossam
Now, all that’s left is to eat it, and my beloved Yuni is modeling that for you. She so wanted to eat this at my house the way I made it, and this was the price for having that opportunity!
And finally – there is only one thing left to do — put it in your mouth and enjoy!
The Vietnamese and Chinese have so many more dishes you can make with these rice wrappers, and I’m excited to learn all of them over time. But for the time being, I am so excited about being able to make Dduk Bossam at home that I’m inclined to obsess over this for the next year or so.
I found one site that gives you the recipe on how to stir-fry these delicious noodles, and the outcome looks simply delicious. Check out Dang It Delicious. (Incidentally, I robbed the photo of the packaged noodles used in this review off of Linda’s site.) If that doesn’t get your stomach growling, you need your vision checked.
Give it a whirl and try Dduk Bossam at home. While the wrappers have some carbohydrates, for sure, the remainder of the meal is light and not burdensome on the stomach if you don’t eat it as spicy as I usually do. If you like meats, and you like salads — this is right up your alley but you’ll never crave for regular Korean BBQ again.
Dduk Bossam ROCKS!
Grace Keh is the author of "Food Lovers' Guide to San Francisco" and the critic, editor and photographer behind San Francisco Food. In her regular day job, she consults for corporate clients in marketing and event strategy. Once the sun sets, she's on the hunt for great food in what she considers to be one of the world's greatest cities, San Francisco.