Beachside Ssam

Sunday, September 8, 2013

This weekend marked the first and last beach trip of the summer, or mine, rather. We walked out barefoot and gingerly on the mud flats of Jebu-do when the tide was at its lowest. We sunk past our ankles, the mud gurgled, we screamed. When the tide rolled back up the beach, we swam until sunset. Then we grilled dinner on the patio and wrapped it in lettuce with ssamjang and garlic. We chased tequila with bites of kimchi. When we were lightly stewed, we followed the boardwalk and bought tickets for the beachside carnival’s two most riveting rides, the Spinster and the Viking (only one of those names is made up). On our way back to the pension, we bought fireworks and sparklers and lit them on the beach.

This morning we woke up and cooked ramyeon outside in a pot over a portable burner, then walked to the main road and waited for an hour for a bus that never came. A group of teenagers with nothing better to do on a Sunday at seven a.m. tore up the road straight for us, swerving out of the way in the knick of time. They circled around and did it again, the punks. A sweet ajumma tended to her garden across the road, unaffected. Still without a bus, we caught rides from a pair of nice drivers and made it off the island before the tide would come up and close the main road for hours.


Beachside Ssam

1) Slice garlic and add to a foil dish with a glug of sesame oil. 2) Wash a heap of lettuce and perilla leaves, shake dry. 3) Heat a charcoal grill, then place pieces of sirloin (or other cuts of beef for grilling) on a big square grill rack above the flames. 4) Using tongs to hold the meat with one hand, cut each big piece into bite-sized pieces using a scissors with your other hand. Wear fire-proof gloves for maximum protection. 5) Grill cherry tomatoes, sliced rounds of eggplant, mushrooms and sliced pineapple. Grill pieces of cabbage kimchi. Grill anything conceivable to grill. 6) When ready, assemble the ssam. Take a piece of lettuce and a perilla leaf, and stack them. Add a piece of meat or two, some garlic, and a piece of eggplant or mushroom. Slather in ssamjang, which is to the Korean barbecue as ketchup is to the American. 7) Wrap tightly like a package and shove the whole thing in your mouth (feed your friend or lover the same way – it’s the ultimate sign of affection). Repeat steps 6 & 7.