For the past few years, I have been going to a restaurant in New York City, Momofuku Noodle Bar (http://www.momofuku.com/restaurants/noodle-bar/). It’s my favorite place. I lived in NYC in 2003 for 1 year, and I’ve been fortunate to visit at least once a year ever since I moved. However, when I’ve returned it’s usually for a long weekend. For someone like me, I have a lot of food and museums to fit into a very small period of time. Usually the last day photos of me are outrageous – I’ve had very little sleep, way too much fat and salt, and a few too many cocktails. You understand. Even though I look like a balloon about to explode, I always leave very happy. Usually I grab some cheesecake and a knish from Carnegie Deli for the plane ride back to San Diego (not that either makes it past take off).
At Momofuku Noodle Bar, my favorite dish is Kimchi Stew (Steamed Pork Buns and Ramen are up there, too!). Kimchi is an amazing dish because it seems like something that should be wrong or possibly thrown away. When I buy or make kimchi, I have to double bag the container or else my entire refrigerator will smell like kimchi. If you haven’t had it, it’s a Korean dish made of fermented cabbage typically. That doesn’t really tell you what it tastes like. I’ve had a lot of flavors, but nothing really compares to this stuff. It’s garlicky, spicy, and can even make your eyes a little watery. I realize I’m not painting the best picture, but this stuff is awesome! At the restaurant, David Chang (chef and owner) takes it and makes a stew out of it. There’s ramen broth, shredded pork, rice cakes, onions, scallions, carrots, and a side of white rice. It makes me want to cry every time I eat it because I can honestly say it’s the best thing I’ve ever had in my life.
In 2009, Chang published his cookbook, Momofuku (David Chang and Peter Meehan). I ordered a signed copy & picked it up at Strand Book Store (http://www.strandbooks.com/) in the pouring rain. I was so happy and excited!! However, it was a daunting feeling knowing I was about to take on what I feel is one of the top meals of all time. I kept saying I was going to do it, and I kept reading and rereading the cookbook. Finally I committed to a date of completion, told a couple of friends (who have been to the restaurant with us and have experienced this dish) to mark the date, and I began my kimchi stew journey.
The first step was making the kimchi. Chef Chang recommends that the kimchi sit in the refrigerator for 2 weeks. He explains that any longer than that and the fermentation process goes too far and can leave a “prickly mouthfeel” sensation. You want the kimchi funky, but not too funky. It’s a fine balance. (**Side note, when the process is over, and the kimchi has been removed from the containers, do an initial wash of your Tupperware containers and then fill them with white vinegar. Let them sit overnight or for however long, and then wash them again. Trust me. Otherwise your containers and the cabinet you keep them in will smell like kimchi. I learned the hard way.) The recipe calls for 2 kinds of kimchi: Radish and Napa Cabbage. He recommends using a Korean mu radish for the radish kimchi or Japanese daikon. I opted for daikon because I couldn’t find mu radish at either 99 Ranch Market (http://www.99ranch.com/) or Zion Marketplace (http://www.zionmarket.com/).
After I had the kimchi in Tupperware, doubled bagged, and in the outside refrigerator, I began making the Ramen Broth. I used 5 pounds of beef necks (Chang notes that the necks are the best, but if you can’t find them, a good substitute is shoulder or leg bones.), a pound of bacon, and 4 pounds of chicken legs. That took just under 10 hours. It isn’t difficult, just a lot of skimming going on. While that pot was creating a magical broth, I began making the pork shoulder for the dish. I placed a 3 pound pork shoulder (also known as pork butt) coated with a sugar and salt rub into the refrigerator to sit overnight. I bought the pork from Seisel’s Meat on Ashton Street (http://www.iowameatfarms.com/). I love a place that has true butchers. That is rare! The next day, I placed the pork into my dutch oven and cooked it for 6 hours, occasionally basting the meat throughout day. Once it was done, I shredded the meat and set it aside (after I had a few bites – amazing taste and smell!!! How could I resist??).
Another item in this wonderful dish is roasted onions. Super simple: put some grapeseed oil into a skillet, wait until the skillet is very hot, but not smoking, add a ton of onions (about 8 cups), and let them sit for a few minutes. After a few minutes, turn the onions over on itself every 3 to 4 minutes. The onions will begin to caramelize and reduce in size. Once they’ve reduced in size, you turn the heat down and stir every 10 minutes. Basically you wait for the onions to soften and become sweet. The whole process takes about an hour, but it’s worth it! You don’t want to rush the process and end up with burnt onions.
As a pre-dinner nibbler, I made Pickled Shiitakes, and I grilled some eggplant and asparagus. I thought the Shiitakes were great. To make the shiitake appetizer, steep about 1/3 ounce dried shiitake mushrooms in boiling water for 15 minutes or until they are soft. Remove the shiitakes and slice them into thin strips (whatever size you prefer is fine). Strain the steeping liquid a couple of times through a fine strainer. Take 2 cups of the strained steeping liquid, 1 cup sugar, 1 cup light soy sauce, 1 cup sherry vinegar (Whole Foods is a good place to buy this – my regular grocery store didn’t carry it for some reason.), 2 three-inch knobs of fresh ginger, peeled, and sliced mushrooms and place into a saucepan. Bring to a simmer, stir occasionally, and cook for 30 minutes. Once it has cooled, remove the ginger, and place the mushrooms into a container and cover them with the liquid. You can eat these right away or they can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 month.
A couple of months ago, I was reading the April 2012 Cooking Light magazine and saw a recipe for Rhubarb Liqueur. Later in the week I bought some rhubarb and started the recipe. It takes about 3 weeks for the infusion to take place, so plan accordingly. Here’s the recipe: http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/rhubarb-liqueur-50400000120172/ I diced some sweet strawberries and put them into martini glasses that I attempted to rim in vanilla sugar. I thought that would be easy – it wasn’t! But it was super tasty!
The big night where I revealed my efforts finally arrived. I got out my 2 biggest pots, equally divided the ramen broth and onions into each pot, and unwrapped the two kimchi vats and distributed them into the pots. I place the shredded pork shoulder meat into each pot, and I waited for the pots of kimchi stew to be heated. The entire house had the most wonderful smells. I was wondering if the entire neighborhood could smell it. There was a strong smell of Korean chile powder, cabbage, radish, and ginger wafting over us. Once it was heated and we finished our appetizer and cocktails, I added the rice cakes and some mirin to each pot . Each bowl of stew had a scoop of white, short-grain rice and was topped with slices of scallions and carrots. The stew had an extreme level of heat. I believe the Korean chile powder (also known as kochukaru) was the culprit. I like heat, but I think most people would want a little less “intensity”. Chang’s recipe for the kimchi calls for 1/2 cup of chile powder. Chile powder heat varies, but I think I’d cut the amount in half. You can always add more heat at the time of consumption! I will say that everyone agreed that this was very similar to what we had experienced in New York City. I was very happy! Below, my Kimchi Stew is on the right and Momofuku’s is on the left.
For dessert, I made Momofuku Milk Bar’s recipe for Chocolate-Chocolate Cookies (http://www.bonappetit.com/blogsandforums/blogs/badaily/2011/11/chocolate-chocolate-cookies.html). Milk (http://momofukustore.com/) is one of my favorite dessert places in NYC. The pastry chef, Christina Tosi, is a genius. Seriously. My next cookbook to buy is Tosi’s Momofuku Milk Bar (Clarkson Potter 2011). The first thing I ever had at her shop was a Cake Truffle. Everyone has had a cake pop, but she was the one who, I think, invented it. And her truffles are amazing! The next thing I tried was Crack Pie. Oh my. The only appropriate description is that it is a buttery, melt in your mouth, sweet pie. Getting back to my dinner party menu, I made Nutella Banana Ice Cream and Cinnamon Dulce Banana Ice Cream from theKitchn (http://www.thekitchn.com/magic-one-ingredient-ice-cream-5-ways-peanut-butter-nutella-and-more-171618) to go with the cookies. I wasn’t sure how the ice cream would turn out because the recipe seemed so simple: freeze banana slices, add some yummy stuff like Nutella, puree in a food processor, and re-freeze. It was so good! It tasted like high-end ice cream or gelato that people pay a lot of money to eat. I’m telling you, if you make one thing from this post, make this ice cream!!! Keep in mind, if you make the cookies, DO NOT OVERCOOK! They will be like frisbees. Nobody wants to eat a frisbee. There is a chocolate crumb that is made and mixed into the batter. Also, you have to chill the dough for at least 1 hour. Plan accordingly, but the effort is well worth it. The cookies are so unusual because of the cookie crumbs throughout the cookie, and they are super chocolate-y! A glass of cold milk or a side of ice cream would be a great pairing!
If you are interested in making the stew, I would recommend going to the library & checking out Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan or going on Amazon and purchasing it. The recipes are lengthy, so I couldn’t include everything here. If you visit NYC, make sure to check this place out. Reservations are not taken for this location, but I’ve never had to wait more than 30-40 minutes. Momofuku Milk Bar has 3 locations throughout Manhattan, so check that out, too! And if you have a recipe you’ve been wanting to make, do it & invite some friends over as guinea pigs. I had so much fun trying out these recipes & getting people’s reactions!!
Take Care and Happy Eating (A New Recipe!!)!