What is Momofuku? In Japanese, it means “lucky peach.” In music, it’s an Elvis Costello concept album. In history, it’s the name of the inventor of instant noodles. In New York City, it’s a culinary sensation.
Most people writing an article on the Momofuku franchise choose to do a profile of the brilliant and charismatic 32-year-old founder, David Chang. The New Yorker, the New York Times, the Washington Post: they’ve all done it. But this reporter decided to go with a different approach. Fuck Chang, I’m going for an extended cookbook analogy.
Here’s the recipe:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Take one Korean American chef with a gift for Asian cuisine and a taste for American barbecue
Add a $200,000 loan from his father to create a new kind of noodle bar in downtown Manhattan
Let it sit for a few years, allowing for critical acclaim, national awards and two more downtown restaurants
Voila! A Momofuku cookbook, ready to be read.
Serve thousands of devoted followers.
You can turn off the oven now.
The book, entitled “Momofuku,” was co-written by founder David Chang and New York Times food writer Peter Meehan. It’s a 300-page work of art, filled with personal stories, tasteful and tantalizing photographs and recipes from Chang’s three different restaurants (Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar and Ko).
The dishes are published exactly as they are served in the restaurants, which may prove difficult to replicate in any kitchen, let alone on campus. I’m not sure how Master K might react if I ask to roast a whole 10 pound pork butt for six hours in the Sillikitchen. (If anyone wants to provide the pig and the garnish of 12 shucked oysters, let me know).
That being said, I highly recommend stopping by one of the three locations the next time you’re in the city, or even making a special trip. It’s worth it. Good luck getting a spot at the ultra-exclusive 12-seat Ko, where lunch will set you back $175. But just last week I enjoyed the $25 lunch prix fixe at the Ssam Bar, on the corner of 2nd Avenue and 13th Street. I started off with the much talked about pork buns, followed by the spicy rice cakes with pork sausage and finished with a slice of PB&J Pie (concord grape sorbet in a Ritz cracker crust over a layer of peanut butter cream). It was delightful.
Go eat the food. Become obsessed. Pick up the book. Turn the oven back on.
(NB: Momofuku is not for the faint of heart, the small-stomached, vegetarians or Kosher Jews).