The North Korean pork dish bo ssäm is the star of a delicious meal box that’s ideal for feeding a big group
Mister S, 32 Camden St Lower, Dublin 2; misters.ie
You may know the Korean-American chef, David Chang, from his Netflix Show, Ugly Delicious, or from his restaurants, the first of which was Momofuku Noodle Bar, which opened in Manhattan’s East Village in 2004 and is still right up there on the list of New York’s most essential. Chang’s Momofuku cookbook contains a recipe for bo ssäm, a slow-roasted pork shoulder dish originating in North Korea. Chang serves the pork with oysters, lettuce cups, kimchi and a couple of sauces.
Meryl Rothstein, a writer with Bon Appetit, is convinced “there is no greater dinner party recipe”, describing a short list of ingredients (pork butt, salt and two kinds of sugar) and the skill set required as “minimal”. She says she has never had as much praise heaped on her by her guests as when she serves bo ssäm. And perhaps, when we are allowed to have dinner parties again, if I am not fully institutionalised by then and feel up to the job, I may give it a whirl.
Jamie O’Toole, the owner of Mister S, and chef, Dan Hannigan, took inspiration from the bo ssäm feast they had enjoyed on a visit to Momofuku when they were trying to figure out how to maintain a connection with the restaurant’s existing customers and forge a relationship with new ones during the first lockdown.
“There were already lots of restaurant meals for two out there,” Jamie tells me, “but not so many designed to get a bigger group of people around a table sharing food. We wanted to come up with something that was — most importantly — delicious and, secondly, wouldn’t break the bank and would be something families and households could afford to do reasonably often. We also wanted to continue to work with vegetable supplier Sean Hussey and the small producers who have supported us since we opened, which wasn’t that long before we had to close.”
Happily, one of Mister S’s key suppliers is Andarl Farm near Brickens in Co Mayo, where Yorkshire couple Dave and Diana Milestone rear free-range pigs producing excellent pork, which you’ll see name-checked on the menus of good restaurants up and down the country. A third of a shoulder of this ‘velvet’ pork (weighing something between 3.5–4 kg) forms the cornerstone of the bo ssäm feast.
Cooked for 12 hours on the bone, it’s a theatrical-looking piece of meat, the skin cross-hatched and caramelised to almost-black. Your job, as the assembler of the feast, is to pop it in a baking tray with the glaze provided and some water, cover it in baking parchment and tin foil and wait as the aromas pervade your kitchen. After a while, you’ll have the arduous task of popping some pre-cooked potatoes into the oven to heat. (Later, you’ll serve these alongside brown butter miso mayo. Brown. Butter. Miso. Mayo.) At some point you will have to shred the meat, and sneak a few crisp shards just to make sure. You may need to double check.
Your other jobs will include brushing some flatbreads with a little olive oil and putting them in the oven to warm up, scissoring open a bag of cold-smoked celeriac remoulade, and assembling a couple of salads, one of beets baked in embers for three or four hours, which you’ll combine with goats cheese and dukkah, another of wedges of Little Gem with a preserved lemon dressing. There are pickles, and lemon and black garlic yoghurt, and peanut rayu, and apple hoisin and, honestly, could you be bothered doing any of this yourself when Mister S does it so very well?
The bo ssäm feast costs €85 and is available for collection at the restaurant and for delivery in the Dublin area, as far out as Wicklow Town and Maynooth. There’s a copy of the Momofuku book on my shelves, but I’m kidding myself if I think that I am ever going to take it down and give the recipe a go when I can just pop in another order to Mister S. A faultless, flavoursome, generous meal that’s fantastic value and a proper lockdown lift. An absolute joy.
ON A BLOW OUT
The bo ssäm feast for four-plus costs €85. It feeds six to eight with leftovers.
THE HIGH POINT
Top quality produce and vibrant flavours make for a generous meal box that is a true feast.
THE LOW POINT
There are only 30 bo ssäm meals available each week.
THE RATING: 10/10 food; 10/10 experience; 10/10 value