On New Year’s Day, I wanted to make something that feels special and auspicious, and decided on ssam, which is a homey Korean dish that has achieved unexpected renown thanks to superstar chef David Chang and his Momofuku empire. This ssam stuffed with tofu and mushrooms is an easy, vegan adaptation of the traditional version made with grilled meat and lettuce leaves. But “ssam” by definition is not just a meat-dish–it actually means “wrap,” and can be any savory filling and sauce wrapped in leafy greens and eaten with your hand. I chose lightly steamed Swiss chard because raw lettuce doesn’t roll very easily–plus, green is believed to be a lucky color in many cultures, so the vivid green chard felt particularly fitting. The filling has the same sweet and salty sauce of traditional Korean bulgogi, but with tofu, portobello, and shiitake mushrooms instead.
Tofu Mushroom Ssam (Korean wrap)
4 medium to large Swiss chard leaves, washed and the tough stalk at the bottom removed
1/2 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 block extra firm tofu, in dominos
1 portobello mushroom, sliced
6-8 shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1/2 red bell pepper, sliced thin cross-wise
1 stalk scallion, chopped
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp agave
1/2 tbsp sesame oil
gomashio or toasted sesame seeds for garnish
Salt and pepper
1. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add onions and saute for 2 minutes, or until just beginning to turn translucent.
2. Add red bell pepper and saute for another minute.
3. Clear some room in the middle of the pan and add the tofu and garlic. Stir lightly, then let it cook undisturbed for a few minutes.
4. Meanwhile, mix the soy sauce, agave, and sesame oil in a small bowl. Add to the frying pan and stir well.
5. Add the mushrooms and the scallion to the pan and saute for another 4-5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are tender. Salt and pepper generously, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds.
6. Boil water in a medium pot with steamer and lightly steam the chard leaves for about 2-3 minutes, or until the stalk is tender. Take out of the pot and dab dry with paper towel.
7. To assemble, put about 1/2 cup of the filling on the center of the leaf and roll from the top of the leaf to the bottom.
More New Year’s Recipes: Lucky Black Eyed Peas
More Vegan Korean food: Pan Fried Tofu and Kimchi Sandwich
Photo: Peaceful Dumpling