by David Chang and Peter Meehan
Photographs by Gabriele Stabile
Clarkson Potter -- 2009
Buy it on Amazon
Even if you haven't eaten at one of the Momofuku restaurants in New York City, chances are you've heard about David Chang -- the James Beard award-winning chef painted at times as a "neurotic" "culinary rebel" who just happens to be "a pork-loving, pickle-happy individualist."
Well, now it's his turn to tell his story. The world is finally getting a cookbook from the man who built his food empire on a simple bowl of ramen.
"Living up to high expectations sucks," he writes in "Momofuku." "But for all that, I know this: I am one very lucky bastard."
Lucky, yes, but it helps that his creations are filled with unlikely but delicious flavor pairings.
See what we tested and whether it's worth buying after the jump.
"Momofuku" gives Chang's fans a guidebook by which to create their own Momofuku experiences at home, with sections on "Fun with Meat Glue," foie gras and ramen.
For newbies, it also gives a biography of this young (he's only 32) chef's rise to stardom. Chang fell in love with ramen while teaching English in Japan. On his quest to perfect the noodle dish he took a spin through culinary school, answered phones at Tom Colicchio's Craft, returned to Japan to study through apprenticeships at a ramen shop and with a soba master, came back to New York where he worked at Cafe Boulud, which he left to strike out on his own with Momofuku -- taken from the first name of the inventor of instant ramen, Momofuku Ando, which translates to "lucky peach."
This cookbook combines Chang's at times salty language with recipes that pair disparate, but surprisingly complimentary ingredients: kimchi, bacon and oysters; soy sauce and butter; shrimp and grits made with ramen broth and poached eggs; kimchi consommé.
Takeaway tips: "Everyone says ramen is rigid; that it has to be one exact thing. It isn't, and it doesn't ... the most important thing is that you make it delicious." That seems to be his motto -- make it tasty and the rest of it will fall into place.
Quality of pictures: Stabile doesn't focus so much on food in Momofuku as he does on kitchen process. The pages are rife with photojournalistic shots of the cooks in the kitchen, doing grunt work and getting dirty. Oh, and there's also Chang in a bumper car.
What we tested: Brussels Sprouts, Kimchi Puree and Bacon
"What the f--- would I do with Brussels sprouts?" Chang writes in the intro to this dish. He does something delicious.
The recipe is simple enough -- cook up some smoky bacon, then sear some Brussels sprouts and bake them in the oven. Toss the cooked spouts with the bacon, salt and pepper, and butter and serve over pureed kimchee (he suggests his Napa cabbage kimchi recipe, but we used our own homemade version). Garnish with carrots.
Brussels Sprouts with Kimchee Puree and Bacon. Photo: Sara Bonisteel