I read a lot of cookbooks. I love them.
But it’s not often I get excited about restaurant cookbooks written by chefs. Sure there are the exceptions, like the Moro series and Sean Moran’s wonderful Let it Simmer, but mostly I’m happy to pass on fancy chef-type books. Even if they are beautifully presented.
So when I found myself in a bookshop in New York, I was a little surprised that the Momofuku book was the one that followed me home.
I absolutely loved all the Momofuku restaurants. I made it to all 4 and both milk bars! And if you’re wondering Ssam bar was my favourite. I actually went back on a few occasions.
And the thing is, I loved the book just as much, if not more. Because it gave a little insight into the brilliance behind the restaurants. There were so many innovative yet simple ideas that any home cook could benefit from. So today I wanted to share with you a few tricks that Momofuku can teach you.
And then we have the sprouts. Seriously, the sprouts are a revelation.
what is momofuku?
Momofuku is a group of restaurants based in New York owned by David Chang, a Korean American. The name is Japanese and means lucky peach. If you are ever even thinking of being anywhere remotely near NYC, do yourself a favour and plan a visit.
According to the book, the restaurants aren’t easy to classify. They all have heavy Asian influences but it’s more than that. I love that they are casual, approachable places that are all about the food. And nothing to do with the elitism associated with fine dining.
And I love the idea that they are really just in pursuit of ‘deliciousness’. What more do you need.
18 tricks momofuku can teach you about simple cooking
1. Sometimes you discover the best things by accident.
Like the method now used to roast pork belly at Momofuku. David Chang accidentally left the oven on really high (250C) for an hour and came back to find his pork belly had roasted down so he reduced the heat to 110C and left it for another hour or so to finish cooking in the fat that had rendered out. And that’s now the standard method.
2. Slow poaching eggs is not alchemy.
But it is a great trick to crack an apparently, raw looking egg and have a poached egg come out. Just put your eggs in a large pot of water at 60-62C for 40-45minutes. Too easy.
3. Pickling is underrated.
Chang considers pickling to be the 6th cooking technique. Apparently it’s not as difficult as it sounds. Just pour a brine over chopped veg and wait for the right amount of time before eating them.
4. Instant dashi is a great thing to have on hand.
It’s cheap, has some flavour and is really instant. Perfect for broth in a hurry.
5. Fish sauce vinaigrette is the Vietnamese answer to ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise.
See my simplified version below.
6. Octo vinaigrette makes a wonderful sauce for meat.
Love the idea of reversing the ratio of oil to vinegar in a traditional vinaigrette or salad dressing and using it as a quick sauce.
7. It’s OK to use commercial mayonnaise.
Inspired by Momofuku, I picked up a bottle of Kewpie mayonnaise from an Asian grocery store. Really loving the super-soft packaging and have been having heaps of fun experimenting with it.
8. Coffee and mayonnaise are a thing of beauty.
I hadn’t heard of red-eye gravy which is apparently big in the South. Basically it’s using coffee to deglaze a pan that has had country ham fried in it. At Momofuku they serve it as a coffee mayonnaise with platters of country ham (America’s answer to prosciutto). One of the best things I ate in NYC.
9. Kimchi isn’t that difficult to make at home.
And it can be made from many different vegetables like cabbage, radish & cucumber.
10. Sometimes creativity is just taking a common formula and doing it really well.
Like steamed bread + tasty meat = good eating – the secret formula behind the Pork Belly buns which are amazing and understandably one of their signature dishes.
12. The secret to fried chicken…
is to brine the chicken and steam it then finish it off in the deep fryer.
13. Miso and butter is a happily-ever-after food marriage.
Just combine 2 parts white miso (shiro) with about 1 part unsalted butter. Serve with asparagus, sweet corn or anywhere you’d think about serving hollondaise sauce or even mayo.
14. Fatty things, frozen and shaved with a microplane can be magic.
While the frozen, shaved foie gras was one of the highlights of my meal at Momofuku Ko, it was the simplicity of the idea that really inspired. Cooks on a more modest budget could try freezing flavoured butters (like the miso butter above) and shaving it over cooked veg.
15. Silken tofu can work in a caprese-style salad.
Replace the mozzarella with silken tofu, and the basil with shiso leaves and you’ll have a great vegan version of the classic Italian tomato salad.
16. Wasabi peas can be inspirational.
For a fresh veg dish, steam some sugar snap peas or snowpeas (mangetout) and serve with a little soy sauce, butter and shaved horseradish.
17. Brussels sprouts don’t make the best kimchi.
Just in case you were wondering…
18. The best way to cook brussels sprouts is to roast them
See the Momofuku recipe below… if you haven’t come around to the brussels-sprouts-are-addictive way of thinking, roasting is the trick.
addictive roast brussels sprouts recipe
serves 2-3 as a side or 1 if your name is jules
When I was growing up I used to hate brussels sprouts. I always thought my mum was punishing us when she cooked them. If you had have told me I would one day write a recipe that had the words ‘addictive’ and ‘brussels sprouts’ in the title, I would never have believed you.
But I’m serious. These sprouts are the best. I could eat them every day.
For vegetarians / vegans / fish sauce detesters, feel free to skip the dressing and serve your sprouts with a generous squeeze of lemon instead.
300g (10oz) brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes
small handful pinenuts, optional
1. Preheat oven to 200C (400F). And get an oven-proof skillet or frying pan on a high heat.
2. Trim the bases of your sprouts and halve lengthwise.
3. Add a few tablespoons oil to the pan and add the sprouts. Cook for a few minutes or until they start to smell good.
4. Transfer to the oven and continue cooking for 10-15 minutes or until sprouts are tender and well caramelised on the side facing down.
5. Meanwhile, mix fish sauce, vinegar, chilli and 1 tablespoon water. Season to taste with a few pinches of sugar.
6. Toss hot brussels sprouts in the dressing and serve with pinenuts, if using.
video version of the recipe