Friday, August 27, 2010

Momofuku Ginger Scallion Goodness


My favorite cookbook as of late is David Chang’s Momofuku – in this lovely volume Chang shares stories and recipes from his Momofuku restaurant family in NYC – namely Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, and Ko (the higher-end dining option).  I’m going to be spending a bit of time in the city this fall, so I’m really hoping to check these places out in person, as well as Milk Bar, the surreal and magical bakery tied to this delicious family.

I dabble in Asian cooking a lot, but I still have much to learn (hence why you don’t see it on here very often).  It’s not that the techniques are particularly difficult – it’s more so building the pantry, truly learning what flavor combinations make sense, acknowledging the differences between the different cuisines (Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc) and experimenting.  When I first started years ago, I was stepping way outside the box, since I was brought up on mainly Italian comfort food.  Now I have a much better handle on the flavors, but as I said I don’t claim to be an expert by any stretch.  Most of what I’m making is still rather Americanized, but it’s what my palate knows, and I’m very happy with it.

The first recipe I tried from Momofuku is really simple and ridiculously delicious.  It’s really two recipes, one for a ginger scallion sauce and one for quick cucumber pickles, and then a suggestion on how they throw these two things together with some noodles and other goodness at the Noodle Bar.  The thing I really like about this cookbook is that there’s lots of room to do whatever you want as you’re creating the dishes.  There’s no pressure from the author to go out and purchase exactly this kind of nori, and if you don’t then don’t try the recipe because it will be trash.  There’s room for you to fill in what’s local and fresh, or just what you happen to have, and still come out with something awesome by following the basic idea of the dish.  To quote Chang on this particular noodle dish, “Improvise to your needs, but know that you need ginger scallion sauce on your noodles, in your fridge, and in your life. For real.”

Momofuku Ginger Scallion Noodles
from David Chang and Peter Meehan's Momofuku

*These are the sauce and pickle recipes straight from the book - just a note that I halved both of them, because I was only cooking for two!  As they appear here they would be great for a dinner for four, or two with a lot of leftovers.

Ginger Scallion Sauce:

2 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites, from 1 to 2 large bunches)
1/2 cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 1/2 teaspoons usukuchi (it's okay, that's just light soy sauce!)
3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar (just a note, I used champagne vinegar and it worked fine)
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste

Mix together scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar and salt in a bowl.  Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed.  Best after 15-20 minutes in the fridge according to Chang, or up to a couple of days in the fridge.

Quick-pickled Cucumbers

2 meaty cucumbers, cut into 1/8-inch-think slices (Chang recommends Kirby, I just used whatever was in my garden and it was great)
1 tablespoon sugar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon salt, or more to taste

Combine cucumbers with sugar and salt in a small mixing bowl and toss to coat.  Let sit 5 to 10 minutes.  Chang notes: if pickles are too sweet or salty at that point, rinse off the seasoning and dry in a kitchen towel.  Taste again then sugar or salt as needed.  Serve after 5 to 10 minutes, or refrigerate up to 4 hours.

Ginger Scallion Noodles (for 2)

*This is my version, based on what I had fresh and handy.  Chang's calls for adding toasted nori and bamboo shoots, and subtracting the peas.

4 ounces plain ramen noodles
1 cup Ginger Scallion Sauce (above)
1 cup Quick Pickled Cucumbers (above)
1/2 cup sliced scallions (yes more!)
1 tablespoon grapeseed or neutral oil
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 cup green peas (frozen or fresh)
Salt to taste.

Add oil to a large skillet and heat over medium-high.  Add cauliflower and cook for about 8 minutes, until tender and dotted with brown.  Add peas to skillet for the final 2 minutes of pan-roasting.  Season with salt to taste, set aside. 

Meanwhile, cook ramen noodles per package instructions, then drain.  To assemble dish, toss ramen noodles with scallion ginger sauce, then top with more sliced scallions, quick pickles and cauliflower/pea mixture.  Don't feel like you need to use the noodle bowl proportions above - adding the components to taste will likely make you happiest!  Enjoy.

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