Isnt' it great to know there are so many boys and girls out there that talk, sleep and write about food as much as I do? Today, I get to meet 49 of them -- including myself, 50 Sydney Food Bloggers were gathered around at Hyde Park for the Inaugural Christmas Picnic Party organised by Helen (GrabYourFork) and Suze (ChocolateSuze). It is possibly the biggest Sydney food bloggers gathering to date and is wonderful to see everyone got along so well with each other. My sincere apology that I didn't get the chance to say hi and chat with everybody at the party, it is my inner-asian-shyness when comes to big group gatherings. Hopefully there will be more outings in the future and get to feast with you all again.

In Helen's invitation email, it asked us to bring a plate to share, sweet or savory. I could just imagine all the girls are going to start baking, hence I decided to go for the savory option - Momofuku Bo Ssäm it is. During the event, everyone put their plates in the center of the group so everyone can just choose and grab whatever they want to try. Initially I thought the Bo Ssam would be a perfect communal DIY dish, until I saw everyone brought along mostly finger food. Unfortunately, the Bo Ssam needs a bit of DIY to really enjoy it, and there were a fair bit of flies loitering around the food, therefore I decided to keep it sealed until it is ready to serve. I probably look like a snobbish food blogger who keeps his pork to himself and not sharing, but cutting it in a far corner. Anyhow, I hope those who got to try it and tell everyone that I am actually a very nice guy. Ha!

Bo Ssam is a Korean cuisine where steamed pork is wrapped in lettuce leaf then accompanied by lots of condiments including kimchi, ssam sauce, steamed rice and the like. The momofuku version of Bo Ssam had me drooling over for days! And I knew instantly the Sydney food bloggers gathering would be the perfect day to make it, and show it off rather.

In the book it called for Boston Pork Butt to make the bo ssam, which is the most premium cut of the pig in US I believe. I only then learned the term "Butt" is actually mean the fore upper shoulder part of a pig. Hence, the best piece of pork I could get in Australia is the pork forequarter. The secret to make a nice juicy tender Bo Ssam is you need a piece of meat that still have a lot of rendered meat around it. As the recipe will need you to cook it for 6 hours until all the fat melted into the meat to become so moist and flossy that you can simply pull the meat off the bone with a fork. And many food bloggers wouldn't believe me when I told them the only ingredients to marinate the pork is only sugar and salt. Yes, is true!

6 hours of roasting you say? Yes, and the wait is totally worth it! The piece of forequarter I bought is only 2.8 kilo, and it actually achieves the result that I am looking for just under 5 hours of roasting. To time it right for the party, I roasted it for 4 hours the night before, and leave the last hour of roasting on the same day of the party. Unless you are willing to wake up at 5am and start roasting, you are more than welcome to do that.

As for the accompaniments, I served the pork in cabbage kimchi, radish kimchi, Ssam sauce, and a ginger scallion sauce. I promise I will make my own kimchi one day, but it will be store bought for now. In the Momofuku book, it suggested that you can also serve the Bo Ssam with steamed boiled rice, some shucked oysters, but I reckon you can also add a bit of pickled cucumber, radish and carrot for that extra crunch against the tender pork meat. But I think I am more than happy to just eat the meat on its own.

Bo Ssäm (Adapted from Momofuku cookbook)
Serves 6 to 8
Ingredients Pork Forequarter
1 whole 3 to 4kg pork forequarter (or Boston Pork Butt)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup plus 1 tbsp kosher salt
7 tbsp light brown sugar
Accompaniments Ginger Scallion sauce
Ssäm Sauce
3 to 4 heads Bibb or Butter Lettuce, leaves separated, well washed and spun dry
Radish Kimchi
Napa Cabbage Kim Chi

(Optional)
1 dozen oysters, shucked
Steamed boiled short-grain rice (around 2 cups)
Maldon or other good quality coarse sea salt

Methods

1. Put the pork shoulder in a roasting pan that ideally one that holds it snugly. Mix together the granulated and 1 cup of the salt in a bowl, then rub the mixture into the meat; discard any excess salt-and-sugar mixture. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for at least 6 hours, or overnight.

2. Heat the oven to 300ºF (140C). Remove the pork from the refrigerator and discard any juices that have accumulated in the tray. Put the pork in the oven and cook for 6 hours (I only needed 5 hours), basting with the rendered fat and pan juices every hour. The pork should be tender and yielding at this point - it should offer almost no resistance to the blade of a knife and you should be able to easily pull meat off the shoulder with a fork. Depending on your schedule, you can serve the pork right away or let it rest and mellow out at room temperature for up to an hour.

3. When ready to serve - sauces are made, oysters are ready to be shucked, lettuce is washed, etc - turn the oven to 500ºF (I used 220C).

4. Stir together the remaining 1 tablespoon of salt and the brown sugar and rub the mixture all over the pork. Put it in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until the sugar has melted into a crisp, sweet crust.

5. Serve the bo ssäm whole and hot, surrounded with the accompaniments.

Ssäm sauce (makes 1 cup)

Ingredients
1 tbsp ssamjang (fermented bean and chile paste, you can get it in Korean grocery store)
1/2 tbsp kochujang (korean chili paste)
1/4 cup sherry vinegar (I used shaoxing wine)
1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
Method Combine all the ingredients and stir until evenly mixed. Ssam sauce will keep in the fridge for weeks.

Ginger Scallion Sauce (makes 3 cups)

Ingredients
2½ cups thinly sliced scallions (green and whites; from 1 to 2 large bunches)
1/2 cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1½ tsp usukuchi (light soy sauce)
3/4 tsp sherry vinegar (I used shaoxing wine)
3/4 tsp kosher salt, or more to taste
Method Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Though it's best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion is good from the minute it's stirred together up to a day or two in the fridge. Use as directed, or apply as needed.