This is a chunky, classy tome from Absolute Press (I hope they work the same magic with my book next year!). Its photography is stunning, urban and imaginative. It’s a cookbook, for sure, but it’s also a modern food history and a tale of a thriving empire.
This might not be the book that you buy your Auntie Bernadette who was until recently a nun. I am convinced she would enjoy the food but the language is uncensored and colourful. This will not be a problem for the rest of us who will have a wry smile at the journey of culinary- and self-discovery by the talented David Chang.
The original Momofuku Noodle Bar has blossomed into a fleet of eateries with distinct characteristics, and all in New York’s East Village. David is the much-praised chef who has enjoyed the patronage of such worthies as Ferran Adria, who described him as “a chef of prestigious talent.” The ever erudite Anthony Bourdain says that he is “the guy all chefs have got to measure themselves by, these days.” It’s evident that he will not be waiting with bated breath for more plaudits from Chrissie Walker of Mostly Asian Food, but he deserves them anyway.
Ramen noodles was the dish, or should I say, they were the dishes, that gave David his start. You might be familiar with packs of instant dried ramen noodles, but for preference one should use good quality fresh Chinese noodles for the recipes here. An important element of this comfort food is the topping. David offers simple and delicious meat in the guise of pork shoulder and pork belly. Perhaps the broth is, though, the key ingredient to a good bowl of noodles – without that you might just as well buy a pot of instant noodles and pour on boiling water. David’s homemade noodles might be quick to cook and the dish constructed in moments, but the stock is a long-hand cooking process, although it’s worth the effort. Consider making this in a large batch and freezing it for future use.
A less time-consuming topping for any Asian pasta is David Chang’s Ginger Spring Onion Sauce. It’s a simple preparation made with low-cost and readily-available ingredients. This represents all that is good about Chinese food: delicious ingredients prepared with little fuss. Quicker and much cheaper than a takeaway.
The Noodle Bar is famed for more than just heaping bowls of food. The Steamed Pork Buns have been exalted by the likes of such gastronomic luminaries as Martha Stewart. This moreish confection uses steamed bread, which can be made in large quantities and frozen. (More fast meals in future.) You could stuff these light fluffy rolls with your own choice of filling, but the pork and condiments given here would be a winning combination.
Then there is the Ssam Bar. Ssam might not be a familiar dish to Europeans. Ssam means “wrapped,” and refers to a Korean dish in which mostly leafy vegetables are used to wrap a piece of meat. It can be accompanied by kimchi pickles and topped with a variety of other tempting and tasty morsels. The traditional condiment is Ssam Sauce (Ssamjang – recipe in this book) which can be made at home from Korean chilli pastes which are now more available in Asian stores in Europe. This is a convivial and fun way to feed a crowd, and will be ideal for those days when it’s warm enough to use the barbecue to cook the meat filling.
Momofuku is a striking and energetic volume that follows the rise of this talented chef. It offers vibrant recipes from all of David’s restaurant collection, from the Momofuku Noodle Bar through to the Bakery and Milk Bar, with some stylish European fare from Ko along the way. This is a book for any lover of New York’s celebrated restaurants, for those that love good food, and it’s a must as a gift for anyone who thought that cooking was boring. A unique, memorable tome and great value for money.
Author: David Chang and Peter Meehan
Published by: Absolute Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018