Momofuku 01.04.2011

Since starting a business several months ago, I willfully have taken the word “hope” out of my vocabulary.  I know, I know.  Hope is so good.   Hope sustains us.  But it doesn’t stimulate commerce and it doesn’t create jobs, and, as an instructor recently told me, “Hope is not a business strategy.”  Well, hope crept back in a few weeks ago when we received a cookbook from our friend Emily:  Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan. 

One reason I love cookbooks is because they fill me with a hope that has an immediate possibility of flourishing:  Hope of a good meal, hope of good conversation, hope of good drink, and hope of satiated guests.  I hope for all of it.  When I first flipped through Momofuku, hope was coming out of my pores.

Momofuku is fabulous to look at and read. I haven’t finished reading it, and I’m having trouble putting it down.  It’s a casual read with intermittent swearing and tremendous passion for and about Chang’s work.  It’s not organized like a typical cookbook, and while that might be frustrating, it isn’t.   There isn’t, for example, a glossary.  And it’s written as stories – not the first time this is been done, but it’s done well here.
David Chang, who is Korean, is the chef behind the Momofuku group of restaurants in New York City – Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, Ko, and Milk Bar & Bakery.  Peter Meehan used to write the “25 and Under” food column for the New York Times; he now writes a bi-monthly column called “Grass Fed”.  If you haven’t read his work, I highly recommend it.  And if you pick up Momofuku, you’ll know why I make the recommendation. 

My attention immediately was drawn to the ginger scallion noodles.  It’s an easy recipe and the result was spectacular.  The first time I try a recipe, I stick to it to the letter but I was short on scallions and didn’t have the right noodles on hand.  I used 2 cups of chopped scallions instead of 2.5 cups, and used traditional Oriental noodles instead of ramen noodles. The ingredients can be adjusted up or down, but the noodles need to be ramen. 

Chang and Meehan say that if you have the ginger scallion sauce on hand, you’ll never go hungry – I agree.  Once I made it, I could envision using it with chicken, fish, and sticky rice, among other things.   I also took a few tastes right out of the mixing bowl – divine.  

The ingredients are: 

  •        2.5 cups scallions – thinly sliced, whites and greens
  •         ½ cup finely minced peeled ginger
  •         ¼ cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
  •      1.5 teaspoon usukuchi (light soy sauce)
  •      ¾ teaspoon sherry vinegar
  •      ¾ teaspoon kosher salt

Mix together, let sit for 20 minutes, and it’s ready to mix in the noodles.  The sauce can be left in the fridge for up to two days.

It was fantastic.  The scallions and ginger instead of fighting for attention create a crazy-big flavor.  This recipe made me aware of sherry vinegar and it’s powerful taste, and it’s ability to meld other ingredients.

A note about the chopping and slicing:  everything in this recipe needs to be thin or minced to the tiniest bit, and I cannot do either of those things.  I just cannot.  I’ve tried chopping, slicing, and mincing as small as possible but it never works out.  Is it my hands?  Is it because I’m Indian?  Who knows?

The cookbook also has a few kim chi recipes, and I am anxious to try the Napa cabbage version.  There are a number of Korean food carts throughout downtown DC and when I was working downtown, I became an addict.  My friend Andrew introduced me to the cart on 14th and L Streets, NW, which satisfied my desire for spice.  My friend Gregg introduced me to the cart on Vermont and K Streets, NW, which satisfied my desire for kim chi with a serious kick.

Momofuku also features Chang’s famous cereal milk custard, which our friend Emily has tried and about which she raved.  The recipe is in there, along with caramelized corn flakes.  I may have to take a week off and make as many of the recipes as possible. 

Ah, but there’s one more recipe that may make my head explode from pleasure:  shaved foie gras.  Chang discovered a torchon of foie gras in his fridge that had been forgotten.  In the spirit of innovation, he decided to grate it.  It was light, but once it hit the back of his tongue, it was “creamy, fatty, sweet, and cold”.  What’s not to love about that?  Also, the photo of the shaved foie gras is beautiful.

This is not a cookbook for someone looking to make quick, easy meals.  We often don’t have a luxurious amount of time to cook, but once (maybe twice) a week, one of us is able to make an extensive dish.  We remain hopeful we will be able to cook extensively throughout the week.  At some future date.  

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