Monday, November 07, 2011

Cooking The Books - David Chang's Momofuku

In the continuing Cooking The Books (CTB) meetups, someone, let's call her Penny for arguments sake, suggested that we try David Chang's Momofuku. While a challenge sounded like a good idea before looking at the book, once we all saw the recipes, we were cursing like mad. All the recipes took numerous days to make and lots of ingredients, some hard to find. Anyway, we soldiered along and did our best.

You can check out previous Cooking The Books meetups below:
Cooking The Books - Jamie's America
Cooking The Books - Bill Granger's Holiday
Cooking The Books - David Thompson's Thai Street Food
Cooking The Books - Nigella's Kitchen

The cast for this meetup were:
Michele, Cherrie, Agnes, Kat, April, I-Hua, April and Penny.

Here is what David Chang's Momofuku book looks like. A simple cover masks the complexity that lies beneath it.

I chose the easiest recipe I could find in the book, the Pan Roasted Rib Eye steak. As it was, the flavours of the steak were good but I overcooked it so that it was a tad dry. In contrast to my dry steak, Kat made a delicious Hanger Steak with red kimchi puree. The hanger steak was so tender and moist and had a wonderful flavour. I must try to get my hand on hangar steak from the butcher and cook it in future. Kat also made some brussels sprouts with bacon, which weren't too bad. Penny went for a high difficulty task and made Brick Chicken. This required boning out a whole chicken, not easy. It tasted good, but I didn't think it was worth the effort. For me personally, I'd rather just roast a chicken on the bones and get a similar result.

Pork featured a lot. Agnes made the Pork Buns, roasted pork belly sandwiched inside mantous with pickled cucumber and hoi sin sauce. It was indeed good, but I think the buns themselves were more a highlight for me rather than the pork. The way the pork was cooked is inferior to simply roasting it with an oven and getting that crispy crackling.

April also made a pork dish, Pork Sausage with fish sauce vinaigrette. The pork is like Vietnamese nam, minced pork mixed with herbs and spices. The dish was quite good, but inferior to Vietnamese nam which is grilled on a BBQ to give a wonderful smokey flavour and eaten in the same way wrapped in lettuce and with a fish sauce vinaigrette.

I-Hua outdid herself and contributed with three dishes. A Roasted Rice Cake was good, but it was the Pork Belly with mustard seed sauce and Momofuku Ramen that stole the day for me. The pork belly was pickled I believe, so had a sour note to it. Eaten with the pickled vegetable, it was a slow burning dish that got more and more addictive. The ramen on the other hand, was sublime and sensational from the outset. The broth was extremely rich, the way I like it.

We finally get to desserts, my favourite part of every meal. There was much anticipation as Michele and Cherrie had spent two days to make Cereal Milk and Fried Apple Pie. On paper these things had me drooling. However, the final results were a case of trying to reinvent a classic that failed for me. The cereal milk was a funny sour tasting thing and the caramelised corn flakes and avocado puree didn't really make it any better.

With the Fried Apple Pie with Cinnamon Dust, Miso Butterscotch and Sour Cream, again I was underwhelmed. The frying really didn't add anything to the dish. The traditional method of baking a pie means the apples are much softer and the pastry equally crisp. You can't go wrong with cinnamon and apple pie, but the miso butterscotch sauce was a weird thing that didn't work. Sour cream is not nearly as good as vanilla ice cream.

Finally, when you're out in the wild, beware of bloggers that attack....with their cameras.

So that wraps up another meetup. While there was much anticipation regarding the Momofuku recipes, I found that quite a few of them paled in comparison to similar dishes cooked in more traditional methods for less effort. Maybe our execution wasn't up to scratch and I'll only know if I get a chance to dine at the restaurant. But for now, I'm happy to bake my apple pie and eat it with ice cream.


  1. Yeah i didn't really get the cereal milk... should try again. The apple pie was okay, didn't like the miso butterscotch, but then again, these are flavours I'm not used to. I loved the savouries though.

  2. great snaps...looks good to me! esp like the 'out in the wild' comment. dayle

  3. I've flipped through the book before, it certainly is challenging! Good on you all for trying out the recipes!

  4. ohhhhh everything looks so delicious!

    i just had my momofuku experience last night...i want more!!

  5. Yeah the buns would've been much better with crispy roast pork. They were SO much work though.

  6. That was really yummy dishes. Must dig on that recipe / book next. :D

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  7. The pork belly wasn't pickled, the pickles were pickled :P And yeah.. I liked the apple pie, it was the miso bit that killed it :(

  8. Michele, that miso butterscotch was so weird. I wonder if it really works even when David Chang makes it?

    Dayle, thank you. It's pretty scary being around food bloggers.

    Leaf, extremely challenging but I'd say give the ramen a try as that was delicious.

    Sugarpuffi, where did you eat Momofuku food? Or what did you cook?

    Agnes, just imagine how good those buns would taste with crispy pork though. Maybe we can just buy them somewhere.

    I-Hua, ok I thought the pork wasn't pickled but I couldn't remember what was special about them?