And then Ssäm
Inside the Momofuku book, plus a bonus recipe
Given the hype, David Chang and Peter Meehan's Momofuku is slimmer than you'd expect it to be. It's not one of those cookbooks that should pay rent for the space it takes up on your shelf, but it has an off-kilter smartness that sets it apart from the rest of the season's crowded lineup.
And it's surely not a stocking stuffer for the aspiring 12-year-old chef: There are 40-plus F-Bombs dropped between its covers (counting them started to feel perverse at a certain point). Tipper Gore would have slapped a black-and-white sticker on the cover if it had come out in the 1980s.
But for all the book's blue language, it tells a good story--a self-effacing, honest and plausible one. It's organized into three chronological sections: The near-failure and redemption of Momofuku Noodle Bar; the near-failure and stratospheric ascent of Momofuku Ssäm Bar; and the high-wire tightrope walk of opening Ko, Chang's fanciest (and most elusive) restaurant.
The book's recipes are engrossing, but many are armchair adventures for all but the most ambitious cooks. One gets the sense that Chang wanted it so: The way he describes pushing his restaurants to change and improve is mirrored in the uncompromising re-creations of his dishes in the recipes.
One thing we're surprised not to see: a recipe for the original ssäm, the hybrid Korean-Mexican Mission-style burrito that presaged the Kogi phenomenon and gave Ssäm Bar its name before it was clear that Chang's burrito-bar concept wouldn't fly.
We got it from the chef and offer it here, a hack for a great party dish assembled from a number of simple preparations found throughout the book (click here to download the recipe).