A new way to look at Ramen

November 6, 2009 5:21:49 PM PST
A new way to look at Ramen! Add a versatile and easy ginger sauce that you can use for any type of noodle.

Ginger Scallion Noodles

Momofuku's ginger scallion noodles are an homage to/out-and-out rip-off of one of the greatest dishes in New York City: the $4.95 plate of ginger scallion noodles at Great New York Noodletown down on the Bowery in Chinatown. Ginger scallion sauce is one of the greatest sauces or condiments ever. Ever.

It's definitely a mother sauce at Momofuku, something that we use over and over and over again. If you have ginger scallion sauce in the fridge, you will never go hungry: stir 6 tablespoons into a bowl of hot noodles-lo mein, rice noodles, Shanghai thick noodles-and you're in business. Or serve over a bowl of rice topped with a fried egg, or with grilled meat or any kind of seafood or almost anything.

At Noodle Bar, we add a few vegetables to the Noodletown dish to appease the vegetarians, add a little sherry vinegar to the sauce to cut the fat, and leave off the squirt of hoisin sauce that Noodletown finishes the noodles with. (Not because it's a bad idea or anything, just that we've got hoisin in our pork buns, and too much hoisin in a meal can be too much of a good thing. Feel free to add it back.)

Directions:

  1. Boil 6 ounces of ramen noodles, drain

  2. Toss with 6 tablespoons Ginger Scallion Sauce (below)

  3. Top the bowl with 1?4 cup each of Bamboo Shoots (far below)

  4. Quick-Pickled Cucumbers (second below); pan-roasted cauliflower (a little oil in a hot wide pan, 8 or so minutes over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the florets are dotted with brown and tender all the way through; season with salt); a pile of sliced scallions; and a sheet of toasted nori.

  5. But that's because we've always got all that stuff on hand. Improvise to your needs, but know that you need ginger scallion sauce on your noodles, in your fridge, and in your life. For real.
Ginger Scallion Sauce
Makes about 3 cups
  • 2 ? cups thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 to
  • 2 large bunches)
  • ? cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons usukuchi (light soy sauce)
  • 3/4 teaspoon sherry vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
Preparation:
  1. Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed.

  2. Though it's best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion sauce is good from the minute it's stirred together up to a day or two in the fridge.

  3. Use as directed, or apply as needed.
Quick Pickled Cucumbers
  • 2 meaty Kirby Cucumbers, cut into 1/8-inch thick disks
  • 1 tbsp. sugar or more to taste
  • 1 tsp. kosher salt, or more to taste
Preparation:
  1. Combine the cucumbers with the sugar and salt in a small mixing bowl and toss to coat with the sugar and salt. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes.

  2. Taste. If the pickles are too salty, put them into a colander, rinse off the seasoning and dry in a kitchen towel. Taste again and add more sugar or slat as needed. Serve after 5 to 10 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 4 hours.
Bamboo Shoots (aka menma)
Makes enough for 6 bowls of ramen
  • One 12-ounce can sliced bamboo shoots
  • Splashes of grapeseed and Asian sesame oils
  • Splash of usukuchi (light soy sauce)
  • 1 Pickled Chile, seeded and chopped
  • Salt to taste
Preparation:
  1. Drain the bamboo shoots in a colander and rinse them well under running water. Put them in a small saucepan with the oils, soy and chile, if you have it, and stew them over low heat for 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally until tender.

  2. Taste them, and season with salt if needed. Set aside until ready to use, or refrigerate for 3 to 4 days; reheat them before adding to soup.
Kimchi: Fermented Pickles

Kimchi is a fermented pickle, like sauerkraut, and the fermentation process is key to its flavor. It's elemental in Korean food and in Momofuku food, and you can make it with almost anything.

In northern Virginia, where I grew up, my mom and my grandmother made it with blue crabs (which was totally gross, in case you're wondering).

But some kind of seafood is often added to kimchi to help kick-start the fermentation process. Raw oysters are common as are squid, shrimp, or yellow croaker.

We use the jarred salted shrimp that look like krill and have a strong but still appealing and sweet shrimp aroma. A little goes a long way, and a 500-gram jar will last even an avid kimchi maker a while, so take the time and hunt one down.

The amount of salt in kimchi stops almost every kind of food-borne nastiness from working except for lactic acid bacteria, and once that bacteria starts to produce lactic acid, the pH of the whole thing drops, and nothing grows that's going to cause spoilage.

My friend Dave Arnold, The Smartest Person Alive and a food-science genius, explained that to me, and he also says that using sea salt or any naturally evaporated salt will help the pickles keep and stay firmer longer because of the trace amounts of impurities you can't taste, like magnesium and calcium.

At Momofuku, we make three types of kimchi: Napa cabbage (paechu), radish (from long white Korean mu radishes or, failing that, Japanese daikon), and Kirby cucumber (oi). Our recipe has changed some since I learned it from my mom, who learned it from her mom. I add more sugar than they would.

We let the fermentation happen in the refrigerator instead of starting the kimchi at room temperature and then moving it into the fridge when it starts to get funky.

At the restaurant, we let the kimchi ferment for only a couple of weeks, instead of allowing it to get really stinky and soft. There's a point, after about two weeks, where the bacteria that are fermenting the kimchi start producing CO2 and the kimchi takes on a prickly mouthfeel, like the feeling of letting the bubbles in a soft drink pop on your tongue. It's right around then that I like it best.

Napa Cabbage Kimchi (aka Paechu Kimchi)
Makes 1 to 1 1/2 quarts

Ingredients:

  • 1 small to medium head Napa cabbage, discolored or loose outer leaves discarded
  • 2 tablespoons kosher or coarse sea salt
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 20 garlic cloves, minced
  • 20 slices peeled fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/2 cup kochukaru (Korean chile powder)
  • 1/4 cup fish sauce
  • 1/4 cup usukuchi (light soy sauce)
  • 2 teaspoons jarred salted shrimp
  • 1/2 cup 1-inch pieces scallions (greens and whites)
  • 1/2 cup julienned carrots
Preparation:
  1. Cut the cabbage lengthwise in half, then cut the halves crosswise into 1-inch-wide pieces. Toss the cabbage with the salt and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.

  2. Combine the garlic, ginger, kochukaru, fish sauce, soy sauce, shrimp, and remaining 1?2 cup sugar in a large bowl. If it is very thick, add water 1?3 cup at a time until the brine is just thicker than a creamy salad dressing but no longer a sludge. Stir in the scallions and carrots.

  3. Drain the cabbage and add it to the brine. Cover and refrigerate. Though the kimchi will be tasty after 24 hours, it will be better in a week and at its prime in 2 weeks. It will still be good for another couple weeks after that, though it will grow incrementally stronger and funkier.
Fuji Apple Salad
Serves 4
  • 4 Fuji apples, peeled
  • 1/2 cup Napa Cabbage Kimchi (above), pureed
  • 1/2 cup labne, or more to taste
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup, or more to taste
  • 1 pound sliced thick-cut smoky bacon
  • 1 loosely packed cup arugula
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In the winter, there's practically nothing in the Greenmarkets around New York other than apples, cabbage, potatoes, and more apples. So we don't really have much choice about whether or not we're going to cook with them, and since we tend to take a minimal approach to our dessert offerings, we have always tried to incorporate them into our savory menus.

We're really into the Fuji apple: it's tart and sweet and crisp. We messed around with making apple kimchi, but even the crispest apple gets too soft for my taste after a day or so in a salty kimchi marinade.

Still, the flavors work together perfectly, so we started tossing apples in kimchi puree so they could take on some of the flavor but not lose their texture. The combination might sound counterintuitive, but the heat and funk of the kimchi really bring out the sweetness of the fruit.

We needed pork with it, and we knew exactly what we wanted to use: smoked country jowls from Burgers' Smokehouse in California, Missouri.

Dan Phillips, who runs the online bacon emporium that is the Grateful Palate, had sent us a box of just about every bacon on the planet (I think the final count was forty-three different bacons) for a bacon tasting.

Benton's bacon shone bright and proud, but Burgers' smoked jowls-sweet and smoky and with a crisp texture just a little bit different from belly bacon-was the star of the new crop. (Okay, the fact that it was face bacon was also a major point in its favor.)

We needed an element to bring it all together, and the maple syrup-labne mixture bubbled up to fill the gap: the labne (a Middle Eastern yogurt) serves as a counterpoint to the heat of the kimchi (much in the way Indian cooks use yogurt); the maple syrup rounds out the dish and complements the smoked jowls. Because what's better than bacon and maple syrup?

Preparation:

  1. Cut the apples into wedges or very large cubes: The size of the apples will dictate what works best-what you want are pieces that are one big bite or two small bites. If they're too thin or small, they'll be limp and won't assert their appleness; if they're too big, they won't take on enough kimchi flavor and the salad will be hard to eat.

  2. Toss the apples in the kimchi puree. You can do this just before making the salad or up to 6 hours in advance-any longer, though, and the apples will be sublimated by the kimchi.

  3. Combine the labne and maple syrup in a small bowl and whisk together until they're married in a smooth and homogeneous mixture. It should be assertively sweet from the syrup and perceptibly tart from the labne. Adjust if necessary, but don't play down the sweetness too much. You can do this days in advance and keep the labne-syrup mixture in the fridge-it's good with granola or spread thickly on a piece of toast.

  4. Heat the oven to 350?F.

  5. Arrange the bacon on a rimmed baking sheet and pop it into the oven. Bake for 18 minutes, or until it is browned and crisped.

  6. Transfer the meat to a plate lined with paper towels to drain. It needn't be any more than lukewarm when you serve the salad, but it shouldn't be cold or greasy. (If you're preparing all the elements in advance, slightly undercook the bacon up to a couple hours ahead of time and then reheat and recrisp it in a 200? to 300?F oven.)

  7. Just before serving, toss the arugula with the olive oil, a large pinch of salt, and a few turns of black pepper.

  8. To serve, plop a dollop-1 to 2 tablespoons-of the sweetened labne in the middle of each plate and top with one-quarter of the kimchi apples. Stack 3 or 4 pieces of bacon over the apples and drop a handful of the dressed arugula over the bacon. Hit each plate with a couple turns of black pepper, and serve at once.
About David Chang

David Chang is the owner and chef of Momofuku Noodle Bar, Momofuku Ss?m Bar, Momofuku Ko, and Momofuku Bakery & Milk Bar, all located in New York City's East Village. He has been named a Food & Wine Best New Chef, a GQ Man of the Year, a Rolling Stone Agent of Change, and a Bon App?tit Chef of the Year.

He has taken home three James Beard Awards: Rising Star Chef, Best Chef New York City, and Best New Restaurant (Momofuku Ko). This is his first book.

Please join David Chang at these Book Signings over the weekend:

Saturday, November 7th at 11 a.m. at the Sur la Table Ferry Building
One Ferry Building
Market Shop #37
San Francisco, CA 94111
(415) 262-9970

Saturday, November 7th at 4 p.m. at Kepler's Books in Menlo Park
1010 El Camino Real
Menlo Park, CA 94025
(650) 324-4321

Sunday November 8th at 12 p.m. at Omnivore Books in San Francisco
3885a Cesar Chavez Street
San Francisco, CA 94131
(415) 282.4712

website: momofuku.com


Load Comments