SEASAME SSAM JANG BRISKET LETTUCE WRAPS
Our badass ex-neuroscientist sous chef Emily developed this recipe, our take on the Korean dipping sauce ssamjang, which means “sauce for wraps.” Made from a fermented soybean paste called doenjang (similar to miso) and the more familiar chili paste gochujang, it’s spicy, sweet, salty, and in-your-face. Taste it and you’ll marvel at the funkiness and depth of flavor; I often find myself sneaking spoonfuls while preparing this recipe, like a kid with a bowl of brownie batter.
Ssamjang is often served with grilled beef or pork; once we happened to have an enticingly fatty cut of brisket around and fell for that. We braise it with beer and nestle it into a pile of onions that slowly cook into a jammy tangle at the bottom of your pot. After hours in the oven, the meat emerges tender and triumphant, the sauce thick and potent, and it’s all clamoring to be joined by something light, bright, and crunchy and enfolded in a refreshing lettuce hug.
1⁄3 cup (90 g) doenjang or miso
1⁄3 cup (70 g) toasted sesame oil
1⁄4 cup (80 g) gochujang
2 tablespoons (40 g) honey
1 tablespoon (15 g) Chinese sesame paste or tahini
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons (26 g) neutral oil, such as canola
One 3-pound (1.3 kg) beef brisket
3 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 cup (200 g) beer
INGREDIENTS FOR SERVING
Lettuce, for wrapping (we like Bibb or Butter lettuce)
Kimchi or another pickle of your choice (we like Mei Mei’s special Cabbage Pickles or Apple-Scallion Salad - both recipes can be found in our Double Awesome Chinese Food Cookbook)
Sriracha Sauce or another sauce of your choice (we like Mei Mei’s signature Soy Aioli - recipe can be found in our Double Awesome Chinese Food Cookbook)
Preheat the oven to 325°F (160°C).
Mix the miso, sesame oil, gochujang, honey, sesame paste, and garlic in a small bowl. Heat the neutral oil in a Dutch oven or a large heavy-bottomed pot for which you have a lid over medium-high heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the brisket and sear on both sides until well browned, about 5 minutes per side.
Using sturdy tongs or a large fork, carefully transfer the brisket to a large plate or platter. Add the onions and beer to the pot, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Cook the onions for about 10 minutes, until they are browned and softened. Turn off the heat, then place the brisket on top of the onions along with any juices from the plate.
Take the wooden spoon and smear the paste all over the top of the brisket. Cover the pot, place it in the oven, and cook, basting every so often, for 3 to 4 hours. Add more beer as needed (or even better, drink the rest of it). Pull the pot out of the oven, slice the beef against the grain, and return to the pot to soak up any juices. Let cool slightly and lay on a platter alongside lettuce, pickles, and sauce for people to assemble their own lettuce wraps.
Serves 6 to 8, with some white rice.
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