Growing your own Korean ssam ingredients

Growing your own Korean ssam ingredients

For Maryland Sheep & Wool, I'm bringing plants. I'm excited to share the Ssam Set with with everyone.

Korean Ssam Set:
깻잎 Kaaenip (Perilla)
쑥갓 Crown Daisy (Korean Chrysanthemum Greens)

Korean ssam is a rice wrap, with leafy greens as the wrap. I’m sure every family has their own tradition of eating ssam. Ssam always reminds me of warm summer evenings, of eating outside on the deck and the water from the freshly-washed lettuce leaves dribbling down our arms. My parents took up gardening when they retired, and ssam, with his own lettuce, became my dad’s favorite meal.

At its most basic, ssam is rice, something toothsome (meat/seitan/fish/mushroom/tofu), sauce, and leafy greens to wrap it all in. In my family, the leaves were a rotating ensemble cast of red lettuce, green lettuce, watercress, crown daisy, romaine, and even steamed zucchini leaves. The one green that was essential every time was kkaenip (perilla). In my mind, ssam is a summer harvest meal. It feels wrong to me to eat ssam indoors, and I don’t think I could eat ssam in any season other than summer and early fall.

Kkaenip and cucumbers above. Ssukat, lettuce, and more cucumbers below.

Here are my instructions for making ssam, but there are no rules. My husband literally makes a sandwich with his leaves and rice, so I’ve used up my allotment of horrified judgment in this lifetime.

To make ssam:

  • Take the broadest leaf you’re using and lay it in your palm. Fold the stem toward the middle, since it won’t wrap around the rice without breaking.
  • Lay your kkaenip, then a couple of crown daisy leaves.
  • Add a spoonful of rice in the center, making a little bed for whatever else you’re adding.
  • Put a dollop of sauce (gochujang, doenjang, or ssamjang, which is a combination of gochujang and doenjang specifically for ssam) on top.
  • Wrap any way you want. Really. Remember my husband’s ssam-wich. This isn’t about beauty or structural integrity; it just needs to hold together long enough for you to eat it. Personally, I actually like to gather the edges of the lettuce on top, rather than tucking them into a parcel.

맛있게 드세요! Bon apétit!

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