Let’s take a look at Ssamjang – the spicy, savory, sweet and funky Korean condiment used for everything – from a dipping sauce for Korean BBQ ssam wraps to a full-flavor dip for your vegetable platter.
What is ssamjang?
Ssamjang is a thick Korean condiment made of gochujang, doenjang, garlic, onion, scallions, sugar, and sesame oil.
It’s used primarily as a dipping sauce at Korean BBQ joints – pairing its funky, salty, sweet heat with meats such as bulgogi and galbi that are wrapped in perilla or lettuce leaves (ssam).
Ssam means ‘wrap’ – and jang translates roughly into ‘paste’.
You might think of it as a Korean barbecue sauce.
The flavor profile is tends to be quite strong – a marriage of spicy, smoky, sweet, savory, and pungent notes.
How to use ssamjang
As mentioned, ssamjang pairs perfectly with the grilled meats and seafood usually served with Korean BBQ. The flavors work in tandem with the char on the meat – and the cool, crisp leafy greens used as a wrap.
However, it can be much more than a barbecue dipping sauce.
You can use ssamjang as a flavorful marinade for meats, tofu and veggies prior to cooking them.
And my favorite use of this funky Korean condiment is as a dip for freshly cut vegetables on a veggie platter. Place it in the center of the tray (much as you would a dish of hummus or ranch) and watch your guests tear into it.
But feel free to experiment! I’ve also used ssamjang on sandwiches and wraps (it’s delicious mixed with mayo).
Want to add effortless flavor to a burger? Spread a bit on the bun and prepare for tastebud nirvana. It also makes the best french fry dipping sauce!
Where to buy ssamjang
It’s fairly easy to track down ssamjang at most Asian grocery stores. While it may not be as readily available as gochujang in Western grocery stores, it may also be worth a look in the Asian ingredients aisle at your corner shop.
And since it’s a shelf-stable food until opened, you can always grab ssamjang on Amazon.
However, there’s no need to make a special trip to the store. You can make ssamjang at home fairly easily with a handful of ingredients.
How to store ssamjang
If you make your own homemade ssamjang, keep any unused portion covered and refrigerated – and use within 7 days.
Commercially produced ssamjang typically has a longer shelf life. You see, since this fermented food has a fairly high salt content, as long as it’s kept covered and refrigerated after opening, you should be good for a stretch.
It’s always best to follow any use-by dates – and use your best judgement otherwise. If it looks off, bin it. Better safe than sorry.