When I lived in NYC, my first apartment was a 5-story walk up on the Upper West Side. Amazingly, my roommates were Korean American — just like me.
One day, we cooked a Korean meal together. I made Bossam. I wasn’t much of a cook back then. But I’d seen my Halmoni make Bossam a thousand times. It seemed like a no-brainer.
My new roommates were amazed. Until that moment, they never knew that Bossam was simply boiled pork. This much beloved, iconic classic seemed fancy-pants. But in actuality, it was easy enough for a new cook (like me) to pull off.
Since then, I’ve made this dish countless times. And each time, people have been impressed. With boiled pork! Now you can do the same.
What is Bossam?
Bossam is a classic Korean pork recipe that’s decadent, luscious, and fatty. Cut into thin slices, it’s eaten with oyster radish kimchi and wrapped into cured Napa cabbage leaves. The flavor combo is unbelievably delicious!
Bossam is typically eaten on kimchi making days. When kimchi is packed into jars, there’s always leftovers. The amount of spicy radish kimchi paste and salted napa cabbage leaves don’t always match. What’s a Korean to do with the leftover odds and ends? Make Bossam!
Nowadays, people eat Bossam even when it’s not a kimchi-making day. For my version, I’ve made it weeknight friendly by replacing the cured napa leaves with lettuce. Now Bossam can be an easy, no fuss dinner!
Instant Pot Bossam: Getting the Texture Just Right
Honestly, Korean Bossam is a recipe best made on the stove top so you can easily check the texture.
But nothing beats the ease and convenience of the Instant Pot! Simply throw everything into the pot and walk away. The only risk: since the Instant Pot stays sealed until finished, you can’t check during the cooking process.
The perfect Bossam texture: jiggly and soft enough so every bite feels decadently luscious. And yet firm enough to hold together and have some chew, but not too much.
To ensure the right texture, adjust cooking time according to the size of pork belly strips. Pork belly can be thin or thick, super long or short and squat, very meaty or substantially fatty. I’ve included my time recommendations in the recipe card below.
For the Bossam recipe:
- Pork Belly. Thick, long strips with an equal ratio of meat to fat is ideal.
- Onion, Garlic, Ginger, Green Onion. The aromatics that provide so much flavor.
- Instant Coffee. Removes that greasy, porky smell while imparting a beautiful brown color to the meat.
- Peppercorns. Gives subtle depth of flavor.
- Doenjang. Korean fermented soybean paste. If you don’t have it, sub with miso paste.
- Salt + Sugar. The perfect balance of salty-sweet seasoning.
For the Oyster Radish Kimchi recipe:
- Raw Oysters. Don’t buy the fancy kind that require shucking! Frozen raw oysters are so much easier and the taste difference is minimal. Find them in the frozen seafood section at your local Korean grocery store.
- Korean radish (mu). Look for heavy, plump radish with no cracks that’s faintly green.
- Salt. To cure the radish, salt is essential! A lot of liquid will release.
- Gochukaru, Fish Sauce, Sugar, Green Onion, Garlic. The flavorful seasoning paste!
Why Instant Coffee?
Koreans do not like gamey, strong-smelling meat. Instant Coffee neutralizes that greasy, fatty smell from meat. BBQ rubs made with coffee grounds work in a similar way to remove that porky smell while adding flavor and color.
My grandfather taught me this trick when I was learning to cook. He put a spoonful of instant coffee in his Bossam recipe and told me that’s his secret ingredient. Then I started reading about other Korean cooks doing the same thing!
Cooking Tips + Technique:
- Manually release steam IMMEDIATELY! Prevents overcooking. Once the timer beeps, uncover and remove from the heat source ASAP!
- Keep pork belly submerged in liquid until ready to serve. Makes for moist, juicy Bossam. Ideally, let the pork belly + liquid come to room temperature before serving.
- Use a SHARP knife. Makes slicing easier. The braised pork can easily splinter and shred if the knife isn’t sharp.
- Defrost frozen oysters in cold water. The easiest way to defrost frozen seafood. Like shrimp, oysters defrost quickly this way.
- Snip oysters in half (with scissors). If the oysters are very large, feel feel to cut them into smaller pieces for easier eating and more even distribution. Everyone will get a piece this way!
- Drain salted radish well To ensure the kimchi is not too wet, squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the salted radish. Squeeze with your hands, pressing against the colander with a wooden spoon. Or use a Korean trick: place in a thin dish cloth and wring out the liquid.
Can this recipe be made in advance?
Yes, the recipe for Korean Bossam is the perfect make-ahead meal. I actually prefer to make in advance!
Make sure to store the unsliced pork belly in the braising liquid until ready to serve. Also, the Oyster Radish Kimchi is technically not fermented. Keep in the fridge and over time, it will ferment and develop a stronger, more fermented flavor.
Can I use frozen pork belly?
Yes, frozen pork belly cooks beautifully in the instant pot! Make sure that the pork belly strips are separated from each other (not in one big clump) and add 1 additional minute to the cook time.
Watch How to Make Instant Pot Bossam recipe:
Watch How to to Make Oyster Kimchi Radish:
Essential flavor component: Oyster Radish Kimchi
If there’s one thing that will elevate your Instant Pot Bossam, it’s the kimchi that’s served alongside it. This is the classic flavour profile of Bossam: luscious pork, spicy radish, brine-y oysters.
Don’t be intimidated! Watch the video above or look at the visual below.
Now it’s time to eat. In the words of Albus Dumbledore, “There’s a time for speech making but this is not one of them. Tuck in.”
More Instant Pot Inspiration:
Instant Pot Bossam + Oyster Radish Kimchi
- Instant Pot or large stock pot
- 3 lb Pork Belly (long strips)
- 1/4 cup Doenjang (Korean fermented soy bean paste) or miso paste
- 1 onion (peeled and halved)
- 2 green onions (trimmed and halved)
- 10-12 garlic cloves (1 entire head, halved)
- 3 inch ginger (sliced thinly)
- 1 Tbsp instant coffee or 1 cup regular coffee
- 1 tsp peppercorns
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 6 cups water
Radish Kimchi with Oysters:
- 1 lb Korean radish or daikon (chinese white radish also works) peeled and trimmed
- 2 tsp salt
- 10-12 8 oz bag frozen (raw) oysters (find in the freezer section)
- 2 Tbsp Gochukaru (Korean chili flakes)
- 2 Tbsp fish sauce
- 1 Tbsp sugar
- 2 garlic cloves minced
- 2 green onions chopped
Instant Pot Bossam:
- Place all ingredients in the Instant Pot: pork belly, doenjang, instant coffee, ginger, garlic, onion, salt, sugar, peppercorns. Add the water last. It’s ok if the Doen Jang is in a big clump. Turn off KEEP WARM function. Lock the lid and set for manual mode.
- Add cooking time according to thickness of pork belly:14 minutes: for very skinny, short pork belly that's 1-2 inches thick16 minutes: for medium sized, meaty pork belly that's 2-3 inches thick18 minutes: for extra thick + meaty pork belly that's 3-4 inches thick
- When the timer beeps, manually release the steam. When all the steam has released, open the lid. Remove the Instant Pot container from the machine. Set aside. This prevents the pork belly from overcooking. Keep the pork belly submerged in the liquid until ready to serve. Ideally, the pork belly and liquid should cool to room temperature before serving.
- Place all Bossam ingredients in a large stock pot. It's ok if the Doen Jang is in a big clump. Bring to a boil and simmer on medium low heat until pork belly is soft and tender but not falling apart, about 1-1.5 hours. The cook time depends on the thickness of the pork belly and also the ratio of fat to meat. Start checking after 45 minutes of cooking time by poking the pork belly with your index finger or tongs. If the pork belly is still firm and overly "bouncy," it needs more boiling. Keep cooking and check in 15 minute intervals until the meat is tender and not so "bouncy" when you poke it.
- Remove the pot from heat source. Keep the pork belly submerged in the liquid until ready to serve. Ideally, the pork belly and liquid should cool to room temperature before serving.
Radish Kimchi with Oysters:
- Defrost oysters by placing in cold water. Drain well and set aside.
- Chop the Korean radish or daikon into matchsticks. Place in large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Mix thoroughly with hands. This begins the pickling process. Set aside for 10 minutes.
- Transfer radish into a clean bowl. There should be a lot of liquid left in the bottom of the old bowl. Do not use this liquid; dump it out. Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Press against a colander with a wooden spoon. Or, do it the Korean way: place in a thin dish cloth and wring out as much liquid as possible. This will ensure the kimchi is not too wet.
- In the new bowl, add the salted, drained radish. It will look wilted. Add fish sauce, garlic, green onions, gochukaru, and sugar. Mix thoroughly until well coated.
- Add defrosted oysters. Be gentle as you mix in the oysters. If they are very large, snip oysters in half with scissors. Cover and store in the fridge until ready to serve.
- Remove pork belly from liquid and slice into thin strips. Arrange on a platter. Serve alongside Radish Kimchi with Oysters, lettuce leaves and/or perilla leaves, and rice.