Korean Grilled Pork Belly (Sam Gyeop Sal)Steven Raichlen
Paradoxically, sam gyeop sal is simultaneously the most simple and one of the most complex dishes in Korean barbecue. Simple, because the main ingredient, thinly sliced fresh pork belly, has no marinade, rub, or spice paste. Complex, because to get the full eff ect, you must season the grilled pork with sesame salt and Asian pear dipping sauce and serve it wrapped in lettuce leaves with grilled garlic and onion, chile paste, and steamed rice. Do all that and you’ll be rewarded with pork that, while fatty, could almost qualify as barbecue health food—almost—thanks to the high ratio of crisp vegetables to meat. Here’s how they make sam gyeop sal at Seoul’s popular grilled pork house, Mapo Choidaepo.
Korean Grilled Pork Belly (Sam Gyeop Sal)
- Advance Prep: The seasoned salt and Asian pear dipping sauce can be prepared ahead.
- Yield: Serves 4
For the Sesame Salt
- 3 tablespoons coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 3 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground white pepper
For the Asian Pear Dipping Sauce
- 1 small or 1/2 large Asian pear or Bosc pear (about 12 ounces)
- 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
- 2 slices (1/4 inch thick) peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
- 1 scallion, trimmed, white part coarsely chopped, green parts finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 1 teaspoon coarse salt (kosher or sea)
- 3 tablespoons Asian (dark) sesame oil
- 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
- 1 tablespoon Korean chile paste
- 1 to 2 teaspoons Korean chile powder or hot paprika
- 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
For the Sam Gyeop Sal
- 8 cloves garlic, peeled and skewered on wooden toothpicks
- 1 medium-size onion, peeled and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices
- 8 small hot green peppers, such as serrano peppers
- 1½ pounds pork belly, rind trimmed off , cut crosswise into ¹⁄8-inch-thick slices Your choice of Korean barbecue accompaniments, for serving
You’ll also need:
- A grilling grid, fish grate, or grill basket (optional); kitchen shears
1: Make the sesame salt: Place the 3 tablespoons of salt, 3 tablespoons of sesame seeds, and the white pepper in a bowl and stir to mix. Divide the sesame salt among 4 tiny bowls.
2: Make the Asian pear dipping sauce: Place the pear, chopped garlic, ginger, scallion white, sugar, and salt in a food processor and puree to a smooth paste. Work in the sesame oil, rice vinegar, chile paste, if using, and hot pepper powder. Add the sesame seeds and the scallion greens and pulse the processor once or twice just to mix. Divide the sauce among 4 bowls for dipping. The dipping sauce can be made several hours ahead.
3: Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat it to high. In Korea, they use a fine mesh wire grate to keep the small pieces of pork from falling through the bars of the grate. An American wire grilling grid or fish grate will do the same and so will a grill basket. But you can use a regular grill grate if you’re careful.
4: When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange the skewered garlic, onion slices, and hot peppers on the hot grate and grill until the vegetables are browned, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the grilled garlic, onion, and peppers to a platter. Arrange the pork slices on the grate or grilling grid and grill until sizzling and browned, 2 to 4 minutes per side. Transfer the grilled pork to the platter with the garlic, onion, and peppers.
: Set the table with the barbecue accompaniments of your choice, being sure to include lettuce leaves and chile paste. Using kitchen shears, cut the pork, garlic, onion, and hot peppers into bitesize pieces. To eat the sam gyeop sal, dip a piece of pork in the sesame salt. Next, dip it in the Asian pear dipping sauce. Spread a little chile paste on a lettuce leaf. Place pieces of the seasoned pork and some grilled garlic, onion, hot pepper, rice, and any other condiments, if using, on the lettuce leaf. Roll it up and pop it into your mouth.