On our cookbook shelves: Momofuku and what I’ve learned from the book and the restaurant.

Momofuku’s ginger scallion noodles with pickled cucumbers, cabbage, and shiitake mushrooms with fresh scallions and a slow-poached egg

Remember how I mentioned that August had been a difficult month? Apparently the month wasn’t finished with us at that point, because last week came more less-than-pleasant news, albeit news that could prove to be good in the long run. What was honestly the most difficult about all of this was having to grapple with it alone as Michael was away all week for business, and what was going to be a week filled with some interesting new salads I wanted to try ended up being one in which I didn’t want to eat much of anything. Ricotta dumplings, a two-cheese omelette, and leftover pasta from the weekend made for a somewhat pathetic sabor de soledad, but comfort food was definitely the thing I needed just to make it to Friday. (I apologize for being a bit oblique, but it’s for the best.)

By sheer coincidence we had planned to go to Momofuku Noodle Bar as part of a delayed celebration for Michael’s birthday (a departure from our usual trip to Keen’s, but one he requested) and it ended up being just what the two of us needed. We were there right as it opened, got two stools right away, and proceeded to demolish our bowls of ginger scallion  noodles (me) and Momofuku ramen (him). I can’t honestly say what took us so long to finally come to this restaurant given how much we rely on the Momofuku cookbook for interesting meals at home, but nothing proved the adage “better late than never” like our lunch on Saturday.

Michael going to town on some ramen.

What was so remarkable to me was how familiar everything tasted because it was nearly identical to food I had made in my own kitchen. A common criticism about restaurant-based cookbooks is that so few of them are effective in translating professional recipes and procedures for the home cook and home kitchen, but Momofuku, along with other perennial favorite The Barcelona Wine Bar Cookbooksuccessfully navigates this task. The latter book helped me fulfill my craving for interesting and delicious Spanish tapas when going to the restaurants was not nearly as convenient, and now I know that Momofuku will be able to accurately sate any cravings for some David Chang-style food when going to the real thing on a whim may not be possible.

PORK BUNS. I am going to have to break down and make a huge batch of the buns the next time we have a party.

Our meal also got me very excited to try some of the other recipes that had intrigued me in the book but I had otherwise resisted because I wasn’t sure how they would turn out or if they might be too complicated. At first I was a bit nervous to have the pickled Napa cabbage because while I like cabbage, I am also very particular in how it’s prepared. Turns out Chang’s simple vinegar pickling preparation is perfect in wilting the cabbage just enough to still retain just enough bite to be pleasing in texture. The pickled shiitake mushrooms were also a nice surprise (quite flavorful without being mushy), and the next time we deploy some dried guys for some ramen broth we will then save them to pickle them. Probably the most exciting element, though, was the slow-poached egg: it requires a lot of fussing over the heat levels to keep the right temperature, but the result is so damn delicious that once the weather starts getting cool enough to justify poaching eggs for 40 minutes, I’m going to have to give this a try at home. And then there were the pork buns–as much as I dislike the idea of having to figure out how to freeze a whole bunch of buns for pork buns, I will do it all the same in the name of how extraordinary the ones we had in the restaurant were because there’s no way I can’t not have them again in the near future.

In the meantime, I’m going to implore you to try Momofuku‘s tomato-tofu salad because of all of the recipes in the book, it’s both quite simple but also designed to be adaptable. (It’s also the perfect time of year to enjoy it.) His original recipe calls for a fine chiffonade of shiso leaves, but those are typically not readily available near me so we’ll either use regular or opal basil. I’ve also experimented with tofu textures depending on what Fairway would have in stock, and while silken is by far the most pleasing texture a firm-textured tofu will also work in a pinch. Sometimes I’ll skin some of the tomatoes, but sometimes I won’t and simply slice them all or cut them into wedges depending on size.

So here’s one way I make it–feel free to play around with it as you will.

Momofuku Tomato-Tofu Salad

Tomato-Tofu Salad

slightly adapted from Momofuku

makes 2 salads

  • 1 12-oz block silken tofu, drained
  • 1 12-oz package of mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon usukuchi (light Japanese soy sauce, not low-sodium)
  • 1/2 cup grapeseed oil
  • Kosher salt or sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 sprigs basil (regular or opal), leaves removed and sliced into a fine chiffonade

Carefully slice the tofu in half by running your knife blade parallel to the cutting board, and then using either a small (2-21/2 inch) ring mold or a narrow straight-sided glass (a highball would be really good here), carefully cut rounds of tofu and divide them among the serving places (2/plate or bowl); set aside for now.

For the tomatoes, slice in half or cut into wedges depending on their size, or leave them whole if desired. Mix together the oils, vinegar, and usukuchi and toss well with the tomatoes to coat. Spoon tomatoes over the tofu rounds, sprinkle with the basil chiffonade and season with just a pinch of salt and some ground black pepper and serve immediately.

 

 

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4 comments
  1. Brianne said:

    Shiso is my favorite. And you have trouble finding it where you are?! Yikes, it’s hopeless for me! Oh, the slow-poached egg! Kevin was obsessed with those for a while. They are amazing! He uses a steamer basket overturned in the bottom of a stockpot and gets super hovery watching the temperature, but it is so worth it. We just started watching Mind of a Chef Season 1, and it’s totally reigniting my David Chang-craze. How cool that the food you had at the restaurant was so similar to what you made at home. I would love, love to eat at all the Momofuku places in New York! I hope things turn around for you soon 🙂

    • The slow-poached eggs really are amazing–we did the ginger-scallion noodles tonight for dinner and while the traditional poached egg was fine, it didn’t melt into the noodles the way the slow-poached one did, so I’m looking forward to trying that method.

      S1 of Mind of a Chef is amah-zing–I think there’s only one episode I don’t love, and I always want to go crazy in the kitchen after watching any of the other episodes. If you can’t get to the real place, definitely consider the Momofuku cookbook because you will not be disappointed!

      • Brianne said:

        We have the cookbook! Kevin got into it when it came out, but it’s been a long time since we’ve cooked from it. He made the regular and white kimchi, the pork buns, those eggs!…and maybe some other stuff, but I don’t remember. Then we subscribed to Lucky Peach and Kevin got sick of all the hype around Chang, so now he doesn’t like him anymore. But he’s sitting through Mind of a Chef with me and laughing at me as I lose it over how awesome the show is. It’s so good!

  2. shannon said:

    I just need to get this cookbook. I’ve borrowed it many, many times from the library, flipped through its pages, felt myself become apprehensive, and then it goes back without me trying things. Rinse, repeat. It’s even been in my cart on Amazon a time or too, but then gets removed because i’m a total chicken.

    Chicken no more: I know i can do it, i just need to begin with the smaller recipes and work my way up.

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