Roughly translated to “sauce for wrapped food,” ssamjang is commonly found alongside grilled meats like galbi (marinated short rib) and samgyeopsal (pork belly) at Korean BBQ restaurants, though I think its potential extends far beyond that. As far as condiments go, ssamjang ticks all the boxes for me: salty, sweet, spicy, savory. The diced onion and shallot offer a textural element, while the sesame lends a nutty quality that enhances any meat or vegetable. Pan-fried chicken, grilled skirt steak, roast squash—these are all dishes that would benefit from being served alongside a bowl of ssamjang.
Beyond the world of condiments, ssamjang could also be used to marinate meat. The sugar, allium, and doenjang, with its characteristic fermented and salty elements, would simultaneously inject a ton of flavor into chicken, beef, or pork while tenderizing the meat. I’ve also taken some leftover ssamjang and thinned it out with a little water and rice vinegar to make a dressing for salad or wilted greens.
As someone who lives and dies by their pantry and doesn’t make it to the grocery store as frequently as I’d like, having ready-made items on hand means never worrying about what to eat. At the very least, a bowl of rice and a spoonful of ssamjang is a perfect snack. The balance and punch of flavor make it an incredibly versatile addition to almost any meal, Korean or otherwise.
- Finely dice the shallot and white onion.
- Slice the scallions as thinly as possible; if they’re a little chunky, just give them a rough chop into smaller pieces.
- Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well to combine.
Kate Telfeyan is a New York-based chef, writer, and TASTE Cook In Residence.