Ssambap, the Korean rice wrap with assorted lettuce and leaves

by Beyond Kimchee on June 25, 2012 · 21 comments

SsambapOne of the fond memories of my childhood is having dinner with my family sitting on the outdoor table called “pyoungsang”, a large square low table that stands in the middle of courtyard of the house for people to sit on. It is unique to Korean culture that is easily found in the countryside.

Everyday we had our dinner sitting on this Pyoungsang during the summer season. My mother often prepared this delicious Ssambap (rice wrap with assorted lettuce and leaves) and made the fish topping sauce that goes with it. The blazing summer sun have finally settled down in the evening with a cool breeze and the night stars were popping out here and there in the sky, the moments and the foods of those summer days that we had together as a family still remains dearly in my heart.

Ssambap is a country style Korean food. Just picked from the farm, freshest lettuces and the leaves of all kinds are always available in the country. Many city people go to the Ssambap restaurant to comfort their nostalgic country mouse childhood memories.



Ssambap is very easy to put together. Get a varieties of leafy lettuces, cabbages, perilla leaves, pumpkin leaves, thin sea kelps. Most of them can be eaten fresh and some (cabbage and pumpkin leaves) are steamed.

Serve your Ssambap with multi-grain rice rather than white rice. It just taste better and healthier.

There are many different types of topping sauce you can serve with; meat, fish, tofu, mushroom, or just plain. Today I will show you one of my favorite topping that is very easy and inexpensive to make. The taste? You better try yourself to believe. If you like the rustic Korean flavored dishes like doenjang stew and fish, you will love this. I guarantee.



Get any assorted lettuce and variety of edible leaves you like. I added Perilla leaves and cabbage leaves. Boil cabbage leaves for 4 minutes and drain. Chill with lettuces.

Let’s make the delicious fish topping sauce (Ssamgjang, 쌈장) to go with our wraps.


Hello, I’m Mackerel Pike. Nice to meet you!‘.

Who is Mackerel Pike?

He is a cousin of Mr. Mackerel, a blue-backed fish. But Pikes carries a little smaller gene in the family. You can use canned mackerel or tuna if you can’t find him. Drain but reserve 3 tablespoon of the can liquid and set aside.

Oh! He has a Korean name, too.  “Kkongchi (꽁치)”


Here are the seasoning team who came all the way from the country of morning calm. Korean chili paste, soybean paste, black pepper, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, and Korean chili flakes.


Mix all together with given amount.


Chop a small piece of zucchini and onion. You might want to chop some garlic as well since you are holding a knife.


In a small pot, add a little oil and saute onion and garlic for 1 minute.


Dump the Pike family and the reserved juice. Don’t bother to de-bone them. They are perfekly soft and add 100% natural calcium to your body.


Using a spoon, break off the pikes into small bite size chunks.


Add 1/2 cup water and bring them to boil.


Add the seasoning paste…


And the zucchini pieces. Continue to simmer over medium-low heat for 7-8 minutes until the sauce gets thicken.


At last add green onion and green chili (optional) to add the extra spicy kick. Simmer for 1-2 minutes. The sauce will thicken more as it rests.

That’s it! This sauce it just so good to mix with rice as is.


Ssambap-W2Here is an image of how to put together!

Place your rice (Mulit-Grain Rice) on any lettuce or leaves, put some topping sauce on top, gather-up, and just SHOVE it into your mouth.

No biting-off, please! This is NOT a time to have the European table manner that you would do at a Michelin starred restaurant.

This is a country Korean food. Time to be a country mouse without the nibbling.  …I don’t like seeing people nibbling the food I made.


Two things in this world that makes me happy;

#1 – Apple stock share going up
#2 – Watching the food entering into my child’s mouth

I hope you experience the same joy I had today.



Ssambap and the fish topping sauce
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: about 4-6 servings
  • assorted leafy lettuces and edible leaves, cleaned and some leaves steamed
  • cooked multi-grain rice or brown rice to serve
For the topping sauce
  • 1 canned mackerel pike or tuna, drained but reserving 3 Tbsp liquid
  • ½ small onion, chopped
  • ⅓-1/2 zucchini, chopped
  • ½ tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ green chili, chopped, optional
  • 1 green onion, chopped, optional
For the seasoning
  • 2 tablespoon Korean soybean paste, doenjang
  • 1 tablespoon Korean chili paste, gochujang
  • 2 tablespoon Korean chili flakes, gochugaroo
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon rice wine, optional
  • dashes of pepper
  1. Combine all the seasoning ingredients in a small mixing bowl, set aside.
  2. In a small sauce pan, saute onion and garlic in oil over medium heat until soft. Add the fish, reserved juice, and the water and bring to boil.
  3. Add the sauce to the pan and stir. Add the zucchini and bring to boil again. Reduce the heat to med-low and simmer for 7-8 minutes or until the mixture thickens a little.
  4. Add the chili and green onion, if using, and let it cook for another 1-2 minutes.
  5. Remove from heat and let it cool. It will thicken more as it cools.
  6. To serve the dish, place 1 tablespoonful of rice in the middle of lettuce, top with the fish topping sauce, about ½ Tbsp, and gently bunch the lettuce together and eat in ONE bite!

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

kitchenriffs June 26, 2012 at 12:45 am

Love the picture of your child eating! Really, really nice. As is this recipe – incredible flavors. I think nostalgia in food is universal, it’s just that different cultures have different foods that evoke that emotion. Really interesting and fun post – thanks.


Ursine Cuisine June 26, 2012 at 1:07 am

Another gorgeous post, and one bookmarked to try. I’m a fan of anything designed to be eaten with fingers, and gusto! This looks totally delicious – thanks so much for sharing.


Holly June 26, 2012 at 9:39 am

I love eating with my fingers, too.


Lyndsey@TheTinySkillet June 26, 2012 at 1:38 am

This is great, how beautiful that bite looks…love it going into your child’s mouth! :) It would make me smile too! The dish of lettuce is so pretty! Thanks for this great recipe…I have some multi grains and rice just waiting for this!


Holly June 26, 2012 at 9:38 am

Thanks Lyndsey. Make some rice with multi grains and try with any lettuce you have. It is tasty and so good for you.


Ashley June 26, 2012 at 4:08 am

Ssambap is my ultimate Korean favourite!!! Love this post!


Sook June 26, 2012 at 6:35 am

I’ve heard of this dish but have never really tried it. I can’t wait to try it. Thanks for the recipe!!


Sook June 26, 2012 at 6:37 am

Also is there anything else I can use instead of the fish? Any suggestions?


Holly June 26, 2012 at 9:34 am

If you want similar flavor, canned tuna will work. If you prefer non-fish, try with tofu or mushroom.


Sook July 2, 2012 at 10:55 am

Great idea! I think I will try tofu! Thanks!


Erica S. June 26, 2012 at 7:05 am

Ahh, this mackerel pike ssambap looks delicious! I had some with bulgogi a couple days ago and it was so delicious (especially with the perilla leaves) that I can wait to have some more! Don’t have access to a kitchen these days on my travels, but hopefully I can find a restaurant serving something like this!! :)


Debs @ The Spanish Wok June 26, 2012 at 4:32 pm

This is my kinda food. Will have to have it this week me thinks, thanks.

You are welcome to join in my monthly food blogger event THE SOUP KITCHEN, here for entry details and current theme offering a new theme each month. All bloggers are welcome, hope to see you participate soon.


Sissi June 27, 2012 at 3:49 am

It’s so hot today and no wind… I wish I have seen your post earlier and made this fish sauce with canned tuna or canned mackerel (I don’t think mackerel pike exists here in any form… I remember reading about it on Japanese blogs and I think I have never seen it). Using lettuce as wraps is so refreshing, healthy and light! I will soon start experimenting with this excellent Korean way. It also makes a particularly beautiful dish.


Holly June 27, 2012 at 8:47 am

Thank you Sisi. This is perfect summer dish and healthy. Hope you get to give it a try.


Nami | Just One Cookbook June 27, 2012 at 1:12 pm

I loooove your pictures. Everything you cook and photograph is DELICIOUS! We love fish, all kinds. Mackerel sounds wonderful especially wrap like this! Now I’m so hungry looking at your photos (at wrong time!).


Allison June 29, 2012 at 2:22 am

Yum. I LOVE Ssambap! I once had a super memorable Ssambap meal in Gyeongju, with a million different leaf types and fillings. Thanks for this recipe, I look forward to trying it!


Holly June 29, 2012 at 8:38 am

Thanks Allison. So, you’ve been to Gyoungju. That is great. It’s been such a long time since I have been there. I am glad that you tried this dish before.


Joy June 29, 2012 at 6:21 am

I love your blog
Everything looks delicious

° A French girl exiled in Luxembourg °


rowena June 29, 2012 at 4:06 pm

Drool…. That first image will be stuck in my head as soon as the temperatures begin to rise. So refreshing (and a snap to eat)!


Kathy G. July 7, 2012 at 12:31 pm

I have just returned from a 2 week trip to Korea and had just that kind of dish served to me in Busan. Instead of lettuce, the wrapping was more like one of the other leaves in the pictures you posted. My host called them pumpkin leaves. Does that sound right? I have never seen this kind of pumpkin leaves in the states. I have a small garden and would love to be able to grow this at home. Do you happen to know the name of the species?


sagajagads July 28, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Thanks Holly for sharing this delicious recipe truly speaking this refreshed my childhood memories.


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