Chilli & garlic braised pork belly wraps (a twist on a Korean favourite)

Having immigrated to Australia at the tender age of 4 and spending most of my life here, my memories of life in Korea are, unfortunately, few and far between. I feel more comfortable with sitting in a beer garden with glass of wine or gin & tonic rather than doing shots of soju.

With all credit to my mother, despite my growing up in Australia, she has used food and cooking to instill love and understanding of Korean culture and cuisine in me. Having me by her side from the moment I could walk, she taught me how to wash rice grains to make it fluffier once cooked, how to select the best lettuce for making kimchi, and best of all how to cook with intuition and taste rather than following a recipe word for word.

While salads or raw vegetables don’t feature heavily in traditional Korean fare, there is one particular style of eating that goes to the very heart of our culture, and that is the ‘ssam‘, or lettuce wrap. Those of you more familiar with Chinese cuisine may know of their ‘san choi bao’, where ground meat is cooked with vegetables, seasoned with spices and herbs and then spooned into lettuce leaves and eaten as little wrapped parcels.

In Korean cuisine, almost any pork or beef can be eaten as ssam, but one of the more popular ways of eating it is with “dwaeji bulgogi” (a direct translation of this is “pork fire meat”). This is thinly sliced pork belly which is marinated with gochujjang (Korean chilli paste) and preferably cooked on a Korean bbq. If you want to get even more traditional, whole garlic cloves are usually also placed alongside the pork on the bbq till cooked through and softened, then included in the wrap.

In this particular combination, the lettuce allows you to bundle the spicy pork with a small mouthful of rice into a lettuce leaf so that each bite is a combination of textures and where the cool crunchy lettuce provides a foil to the spiciness of the pork.

While my mother has nothing against this particular dish and loves it very much, it has to be said that slicing pork belly into pieces 3mm thick is a pain in the arse and particularly time-consuming. So, she thought of a way that would make it easy to have this as a dinner option within a few minutes, rather than having to spend a few hours freezing a slab of pork belly then donning gloves so you can handle it enough to slice off piece after piece.

The main components of enjoying this dish can be summed up as so – spicy pork belly pieces with the sweetness and muted pungency of caramelized garlic cloves, so the idea was to combine these two elements and bring them together in a much quicker way.

How she came up with the idea to cook it all together as a quick braise, I have no idea, but thanks to her ingenuity (I tried calling it ‘laziness’ and copped a slap across the back of the head!), I now have a very quick and easy way of making a much beloved dish in less than an hour for my family to enjoy.

So if you’re after a nice and easy dinnertime treat for the family (or even just for yourself) consider giving this a try. You can thank me later πŸ˜‰

Chilli & Garlic Braised Pork Belly

800g pork belly, sliced into pieces about 1.5 cm long and 1.5cm thick (try and pick pork belly which has minimal fat)
2/3 cup garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup gochujjang (Korean chilli paste)
1 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup water

1. Heat up the olive oil in a pot over a medium flame till it starts to smoke, then add the garlic cloves and briskly saute till they start to brown (but not burn)

2. Add the pork and continue to saute till it’s nicely browned, then add the gochujjang (Korean chilli paste) and ‘cook’ the gochujjang for about 5 minutes while continuously stirring.

3. Add the 1/4 cup of water and stir through, then put the lid on, lower the heat and leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes. Make sure to stir occasionally to ensure everything is cooking evenly, and once the liquid has almost completely evaporated and the mixture is nice and thick, remove from the heat and allow to cool before storing in an airtight non-reactive container.

This can be stored in the refrigerator and served as ‘banchan’ (side dish alongside rice) for up to one week. Whenever you wish to serve it, reheat it briefly in a pot or microwave till warmed through, then serve with rice and large leaf lettuce (such as iceberg, butter or mignonette) so each diner can make their own little bite-sized wraps.

Whether you decide to serve this pork as the main feature in a ‘ssam’ meal, or as a side dish featuring only as one of many ‘banchan’, with the strong flavours present you can be sure that this will be one of the highlights of the meal.

As a final note, I’ll be putting up a few other giveaways this week so if you’re a reader who resides in Australia, make sure to stay tuned for them :)


  1. That looks so scrumptious! Perfect for eating on the balcony. Summer food at it’s best.



  2. RT @thrasherDUDE: Commence salivation – RT @kitchenwench {New Post} Chilli & garlic braised pork belly – a twist on a Korean favourite

  3. Chilli & garlic braised pork belly wraps (a twist on a Korean …

  4. Love this modern interpretation, which doesn’t veer all that much away from the traditional dish/flavours. I for one would be happy to eat this :)

    • Glad to hear it, Simon :) I think that this is a great modern way of playing these flavours out, and one that my grandmother wouldn’t sniff at either πŸ˜‰

  5. Yum! Chilli & garlic braised pork belly wraps –

  6. This is one of my favorite Korean dishes and I like your mum’s version a lot! (Even if in Korea I can buy pork belly already thinly sliced.) Thanks for this recipe, I will be coming back for more.

  7. Oooh, I really love the sound of this dish. Pork belly is my favourite cut of meat, and this sounds fantastic. Yummm…
    InTolerantChef recently posted..Quinces And A Celebration

  8. This looks so good. Anything with pork belly sounds amazing to me. And at least there is lettuce so we can pretend it is remotely healthy.
    Crapieat (@CrapIEatNDrink) recently posted..Tandoori Chicken and Curried Roasted Cauliflower

  9. Chilli & garlic braised pork belly wraps (a twist on a Korean …

  10. It looks delicious! And such a great dish for us with a high degree of ingenuity πŸ˜‰ lol. Iv got pork belly at home but its got the skin on so I could so the crackling as a side dish!

  11. This was perfectly timed because I was trying to figure out what to do with my pre-sliced pork belly. I’m making it right now and it smells wonderful! :)
    jkru recently posted..Menu Part A Million

  12. Mmmm, it looks so delicious! So mouth watering!
    Jun recently posted..Peanut Cracker

  13. oh yum! I made a version of this as well… they are so good!
    penny aka jeroxie recently posted..A Preview – Starlight Five Chef’s Dinner 2011

  14. yumyumyumyumyumyum! i can’t wait to try this one. i loooooove garlic, spicey, and meat! sounds like the perfect combination πŸ˜€
    corbie recently posted..Terine Chicken with Preserved Lemons

  15. Pork belly braised with gochujjang would be so good!

  16. This would be a fun appetizer for a cocktail party out on the deck….

  17. Mmm great photos — this looks so good it’s too bad I don’t eat non-seafood meat hehe. My boyfriend would love this I bet though.
    Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets recently posted..A Lotta Chocolate Part 3- Chocolate Cake Roll with Chestnut Cream

  18. i can’t wait to try this, it’s making my mouth water!

  19. Suzanne says:

    Yum, your dish looks soooo tasty!

  20. mmmm, wish I could have this now! Can I substitute the korean chilli paste with another chilli paste? Just thinking I’m not likely to use a whole jar…

    • Unfortunately not, but the good news is that they sell Korean chilli paste in quite small tubs that only have about 250g or so, so you could just buy a small container and use it for this without any problems :)

  21. Love Korean food and love pork belly and this looks insanely good!

  22. Yeng-Yeng says:

    I’ve been wanting to make it but waited for a while since the asian store is quite aways from us. But I finally got the pork belly and today i patiently while drooling waited to be cooked.. And the verdict? This is soooooooooooooooooo ….SCRUMPTIOUS!!!!!!!! I would recommend it to all my friends. Thank u so u so much for sharing..keep on cooking. πŸ˜†

  23. how many would this feed as a main?

    • Depends on what it’s served with – at the very least you want rice and lettuce with it. As the main dish alongside those two, 3-4 people (depending on their appetites!)


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