Korean Roast Beef Sandwich: Umami on a Bun

Among the problems to have, this was a good one: What to do with that tub of leftover ssamjang in the fridge?

After whipping up a batch of the sweet, spicy and garlicky Korean dipping sauce for a recent night of kalbi, the leftovers remained front and center in my fridge, nudging me to do something — anything.

Sure, marinating a few pounds of short ribs for another round of kalbi was tempting — perhaps when I have more time.

For now, however, I had other easier plans …

Now, ssamjang is pretty easy to make. I followed the fabulous Korean-American blogger Maangchi’s recipe to the letter and it was delicious. That combination of pepper sauce, sesame seeds, sesame oil, garlic, two kinds of onions and more is an umami explosion in a bite.

Which made me think that it would be perfect for jazzing up sandwiches, which are not my favorite thing to eat because I find them generally bland.

So, armed with some roast beef and bread, I started the experiment. First, I toasted some bread and spread wasabi mayo on one and a thick layer of ssamjang on the other …

… then layered on the beef and lettuce — which is so key to the kalbi-eating experience, which involves wrapping the grilled beef in lettuce with rice and kimchi. To finish, I gave it a bunch of sprinkles of fresh ground pepper and lunch was ready.

How was it? Just about the best sandwich I’ve ever made. The combination of sweet, garlicky and nutty ssamjang with the zing of wasabi and the tender earthiness of the beef was delicious.

As the sandwich disappeared, I wondered how this might taste with a layer of kim-chi, however.

Ah, well — time to whip up another batch of ssamjang, I suppose.


Korean Roast Beef Sandwich


  • Two slices of bread (any kind)
  • Ssamjang (Recipe here, via Maangchi)
  • Wasabi mayonnaise
  • Two large lettuce leaves — either green leaf or romaine
  • 3 slices roast beef
  • Fresh black pepper


Toast bread, spread a generous amount of wasabi mayonnaise on one slice and ssamjang on the other. (Note: If you would like this a little less sweet, go easy on the ssamjang.)

Place a lettuce leaf on each slice of toast, layer roast beef on top and give it five big sprinkles of fresh pepper. Combine the two sides and serve immediately.


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