Here’s a fun little fact. Google may have fixed this, but the first time I looked up the listing for Momofuku using Goog411, they called it Momo F*ck You. That is just one of the hundred and one things that delight me about the Momofuku empire. Others include: the cute peach logo, the late-night hours, the Hitachino beer, oh, and I’ve heard they make noodles too.
I just read my way through the Momofuku cookbook in two days flat. I don’t mean flipped through and stuck little post-its next to the recipes that intrigued me. I mean, cover to cover, every single word, including the instructions for at-home sous vide and the recipes for desserts. And I never make dessert. This book is, without a doubt, my new favorite cookbook. I want to make every single thing in it. And if there's a funnier, more entertaining cookbook in print, then I certainly have not come across it. A sample: "I enjoy appropriating the out-of-date and borderline-racist term Oriental whenever I get the chance. But I was one of the few Orientals working in the kitchen at the Noodle Bar, and the rest of the round-eye crew wasn't happy with the name. So we kept it under wraps. Since we're here alone together, let's call it what it is: Oriental sauce." I was on the floor. So we've got noodles and jokes. That's a pretty good start. But what really makes this book a page-turner are the fascinating origin stories that David Chang includes for each recipe. He shares the thought process and the iterations that went into every single one of these mouth-watering creations. It was like getting to peek over a great chef's shoulder while he works. So cool.
About 30 pages into reading the book, I decided I couldn't wait a second longer to cook from it. The ginger scallion noodles were calling my name. This is a simple recipe that is filled with great ideas, and I can already see how I’m going to be making many variations of it in the months to come. Now, when David Chang makes this dish, I’m sure that angels sing, and the kitchen gods dance, and miracles happen. But strangely, my results were a little on the bland side. Still, I loved the overall combination of charred, slightly smoky cauliflower, salty bamboo and sweet, crispy cucumber. I’d just probably tweak the sauce a bit next time. I might add a tablespoon of oyster sauce and some homemade chili oil. Or, I could see mixing the sauce with a few tablespoons of warm duck broth and some fried shallots.
Ginger Scallion Noodles (adapted from Momofuku by David Chang)
Essentially you are going to be making three toppings and a sauce for these noodles. Each of the toppings is super easy to make: menma, quick pickles, and pan-roasted cauliflower. Make everything in the following order:
1. MENMA: Drain a can of bamboo shoots and place contents in a small pot. Add splashes of sesame oil and soy sauce, two chopped birds eye chilies and a pinch of salt. Cover with a lid and heat for about 20-30 minutes over a low flame. This did not come out dark and saturated with soy the way it does at the ramen shops I’ve visited. Perhaps I was too timid with my splashes. Next time, I might try pickling the bamboo.
2. SAUCE (I halved the original recipe to make two servings): Chop one bunch of scallions. Mince ¼ cup of ginger finely. Add scallions and ginger to a medium-large mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of light soy sauce, ½ teaspoon of sherry vinegar, and ½ teaspoon of sea salt. You can also add a couple of tablespoons of canola oil, though I’d probably skip this ingredient next time. As I mentioned, I would add either duck broth or oyster sauce at this point for more flavor. The term sauce is misleading. You’ll end up with more of a green onion paste at this point. Let sit for 15 minutes, or keep for up to two days in the fridge.
3.QUICK PICKLES: This was a nifty trick, and one I’ll be using often. Just thinly slice up a cucumber (my favorites are Persian and Japanese) and toss with one part coarse salt to three parts sugar. Let sit for 5-10 minutes and taste. If they're too salty/sweet, rinse them off and re-season. I did these again the next night and added a splash of rice vinegar at the end. Yum!
4. PAN-ROASTED CAULIFLOWER: Cut the cauliflower into florets. You know how to cut a cauliflower, right? (Hint: turn it upside down). Heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and cook the cauliflower in the oil for about 7-8 minutes, until browned on all sides. Season with a dash of salt.
5. ASSEMBLY: Cook noodles according to package instructions. Toss with the scallion sauce. Mound cauliflower, bamboo shoots, and cucumber pickles on top. Serve with sriracha or chili oil. I could picture furikake working here too.