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Gifts for Cooks: 'Momofuku'

November 30, 2009 |  2:22 pm
Momofuku The cult of Momofuku may be based in New York, but it is wide-reaching; fans of chef-personality David Chang's fried chicken, ssäm (Korean-style "burritos") and ramen are legion. And now there's the closest thing to a bible for those who worship at the altar of his pork buns: the "Momofuku" cookbook by Chang and Peter Meehan, published in October.

The book features recipes from Chang's restaurants, Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ssäm Bar and Ko, and tells the story of his rise to culinary stardom, from the depths of a Tokyo ramenya whose proprietor wore "not-so-tighty not-so-whities" (and that's about all) in the kitchen to his days working the garde manger station under Andrew Carmellini at Café Boulud to opening his own first restaurant, Noodle Bar, where part of his initial marketing strategy was to lure hot girls from a Japanese strip club in Midtown as patrons. Chang, Japanese strippers or no, has since built an empire; Momofuku Milk Bar opened last year and Ma Pêche debuted this month.    

The recipes and photos in "Momofuku" are pork-heavy (bacon dashi!) and hunger-inducing: the steamed pork buns filled with succulent pork belly; big bowls of fiery-red kimchi stew with rice cakes and shredded pork; pan-roasted asparagus with slow-poached egg and miso butter. Most of them are complicated, multi-component recipes. A pan-roasted, dry-aged rib eye is one of the recipes that actually looks easy to make. "But it's not easy," writes Chang, who doesn't abstain from using profanity in the book, "because cooking a piece of meat that costs maybe $40 or $50 takes [...]. If you [...] it up, you [...] up a piece of meat that costs a lot of money."

For anyone who has tried to get a reservation at 12-seat, tasting-menu-only Ko through its irritatingly bossy online reservation system and failed, the Ko chapter in the book -- with recipes for shaved foie gras with lychee and pine nut brittle, for example -- might be the closest you'll come to eating there. 

-- Betty Hallock

Photo: Gabriele Stabile / "Momofuku" by David Chang and Peter Meehan