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Ssam (쌈), meaning "wrapped", refers to a dish in Korean cuisine in which, usually, leafy vegetables are used to wrap a piece of meat such as pork or other filling. It is often accompanied by a condiment known as ssamjang and can also be topped with raw or cooked garlic, onion, green pepper, or a banchan (small side dish) such as kimchi. Ssam is usually bite-sized to prevent spilling out the fillings.
Under the Buddhist influence that was especially strong during the Kingdom of Goryeo, killing and eating an animal was highly discouraged. This has led numerous Korean vegetable dishes, especially ssam, to be created and emerge as a prominent dish during the era. After its emergence, the dish was mentioned numerous times in the ancient Korean records.
The ancient Korean book of customs Dongguksesigi noted that the women of Goryeo who were taken as servants by the Yuan dynasty made and ate ssam to have the taste of their home country's food and soothe homesickness. The same book also noted that ssam had become an established seasonal dish by the Joseon era, which was especially eaten as a festive dish during the day of Daeboreum. The ssam eaten during Daeboreum was believed to bring a good fortune and called bokssam (복쌈), which meant "fortune ssam".
Ssam has also been mentioned by the numerous literatures in the Joseon era. One of them is Eou yadam, the Korean collection of stories written by the Joseon scholar Yu Mong-In. In the book, the author described the story of wrapping a sardine in a leafy vegetable with rice and ssamjang. In Sasojeol (사소절,士小節), the ancient book which explained the basic etiquettes and manners during Joseon era, the author Lee deok-mu said it is a manner to scoop and roll a ball of rice first before wrapping it with a vegetable from atop while eating ssam. He also told readers to wrap a ssam in a bitable size as it looked rude to puff the one's cheeks while eating. Jeong yak-yong, a highly notable Joseon intellectual, described in his poem about putting gochujang, the traditional Korean red chili paste, and the root of green onion on a lettuce along with rice to eat a ssam.
Ssam from Goryeo was also recognized in the poem by Yang Yunfu of Yuan dynasty. In his poem, Yang noted how the people of Goryeo eat rice by wrapping it with raw vegetables and complimented the pleasant scent of Goryeo's lettuce.
Various vegetables are used as ingredients such as lettuce, cabbage, bean leaves, and pumpkin leaves, which are used either raw or blanched. Seaweed such as miyeok (sea mustard seaweed) and gim (dried laver) are also used. Ssam can be used to refer to dishes using beef tongue, roe, pork, clams, or sea cucumbers wrapped and cooked in eggs. Depending on one's taste, Ssam can contain side dishes such as kimchi and garlic, and sauce such as ssamjang, doenjang, red pepper paste, and oil sauce. Sashimi and gwamegi are also eaten with wraps.
- Bossam: with steamed pork, e.g. shoulder and is a popular dish throughout Korea.
- Ssambap is a dish in which rice is included.
By wrap type
- Baechu ssam (배추쌈), wrapped with napa cabbage leaf
- Chwi ssam (취쌈), wrapped with chwinamul
- Eossam (어쌈), wrapped with thin fish filet
- Gimssam (김쌈), wrapped with gim, seaweed
- Gotgam ssam (곶감쌈), wrapped with dried persimmon
- Hobakip ssam (호박잎쌈), wrapped with pumpkin leaf
- Jeonbok ssam (전복쌈), wrapped with sliced and soaked dried abalone
- Kimchi ssam (김치쌈), wrapped with kimchi
- Kkaenip ssam (깻잎쌈), wrapped with perilla leaf
- Milssam (밀쌈), wrapped with a thin crepe made from wheat flour
- Muneo ssam (문어쌈), wrapped with sliced octopus
- Po'ssam (포쌈), wrapped with seasoned raw beef
- Sangchu ssam (상추쌈), wrapped with lettuce
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