A Brief History of Ssam

Rose Truesdale


We have Thai pork lettuce wraps on the menu this week, so we thought it an appropriate time to discuss ssam: a Korean dish in which leafy vegetables are used in place of bread to envelope a (generally carnivorous) filling. But first, a terrible pun to help you remember the word ssam… if wrapping carbs around meat makes a sammy, then wrapping greens around meat makes a ssam-y! Right?!

We’re sorry.

Anyway. Ssam literally translates to “wrapped” in Korean, and variations on the dish are typically accompanied by either kimchi or a condiment known as ssamjang. Our Thai variety, meanwhile, plays on the ancient favorite with hoisin sauce, sriacha and sesame dressing. And we do mean ancient: ssam was originally eaten in the Goryeo era (roughly 918–1392) by women who had been taken as maids and ladies of the court to Mongol’s Yuan Dynasty. By the end of the Joseon Dynasty in 1897, ssam was an established favorite — so much so that it became the dish of Daeboreum, The Full Moon Festival.

While lettuce wraps are widely used across the ssam sphere; cabbage, blanched pumpkin leaves, seaweed, and bean leaves are also traditional wraptastic options.

Wanna try ssam for yourself? Check out our favorite version!