Ssam 쌈

In Korean cuisine, the concept of ‘ssam’ plays a pivotal role, offering a unique and interactive way to enjoy food. Translating to “wrapped” in English, ssam involves wrapping a piece of meat, seafood, or other fillings in a leafy vegetable with an assortment of condiments. This dining method is celebrated for its balance of flavors and textures, promoting a healthy and communal eating experience that is deeply embedded in Korean food culture.

Ssam: The Art Of Korean Wrapped Delights

1. The Essence Of Ssam

Ssam typically involves a leafy vegetable such as lettuce, perilla, or cabbage, which is used as a wrap for various fillings. Common fillings include grilled or cooked meats like beef, pork, or chicken, and seafood such as grilled fish or prawns. The essence of ssam lies in its versatility and the personal touch each diner can add by choosing their fillings and condiments.

2. Historical Roots And Cultural Significance

The tradition of ssam dates back to the Joseon Dynasty, where it began as a way to enjoy seasonal greens and herbs with jang (fermented soybean products) and meat. Over time, it evolved into a more elaborate dish often featured in Korean royal cuisine. Today, ssam is a popular choice in both formal and casual dining settings, embodying the principles of balance and moderation that are central to Korean culinary philosophy.

3. Components Of Ssam

[1] Vegetable Wraps

The most common leaves used in ssam are lettuce and perilla, known for their ability to complement the fillings without overshadowing their flavors. These greens not only add a fresh, crisp texture but also offer health benefits as they are rich in vitamins and fiber.

[2] Fillings

The choice of filling can vary widely, but popular options include bulgogi (marinated beef), galbi (marinated short ribs), and samgyeopsal (grilled pork belly). Seafood options like grilled eel or shrimp are also common.

[3] Condiments

Ssamjang, a thick, spicy paste made from fermented soybean and chili, is a staple condiment in ssam. Other additions might include sliced garlic, chili, rice, or a sauce like doenjang (fermented soybean paste) to enhance the flavors.

4. The Ssam Dining Experience

Eating ssam is a communal and convivial experience, often featured in Korean BBQ settings where diners grill their meats at the table and assemble their ssam to taste. The process of building your own ssam, passing ingredients, and sharing dishes fosters a sense of community and togetherness. This method of eating not only makes the meal more enjoyable but also allows diners to control their portions and flavor combinations, tailoring each bite to their preference.

5. Nutritional Benefits

Ssam is considered a healthful way to enjoy food. The wraps are generally low in calories, and the emphasis on vegetables and lean proteins contributes to a well-rounded diet. The interactive nature of ssam also slows down the eating process, which can aid in better digestion and satisfaction levels.

6. Global Appeal And Adaptations

As Korean culture continues to influence global culinary trends, ssam has gained popularity worldwide. Restaurants and home cooks are adopting the ssam style, incorporating local ingredients and flavors to create innovative and personalized eating experiences. From traditional Korean barbecue restaurants to fusion cuisines, ssam is celebrated for its simplicity and the delightful contrasts it brings to the table.


Ssam represents the harmony and healthfulness of Korean cuisine, offering a delightful blend of taste, texture, and nutrition. It is a testament to the communal spirit of Korean dining and continues to inspire food enthusiasts around the world to embrace the joy of wrapped foods. Whether in a bustling restaurant in Seoul or a cozy kitchen abroad, ssam invites everyone to wrap, roll, and relish the rich flavors and traditions of Korea.

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