A Love Affair with Ramen (and a book and Momofuku and David Chang’s story)

It’s neat how cooking a recipe from a cookbook makes the book feel almost like a blanket you grew up with.  Or a well-worn and loved teddy bear. The splashes of oil on the pages are light the worn patch on the stuffed animal where the hair is all gone from so much cuddling. The little crinkly parts of the page that were wet and now dry make the book seem owned and used, and the book becomes a trophy. I made that dish! You can say. And also like a scrapbook, only instead of photos and words there might be stains and tares.


I feel differently about my Momofuku cookbook tonight. It feels earned.

I had a love affair with ramen, and we spent the last two days together. It took me two days to create the dish, $140 dollars, and a drive pretty much all over this island, as well as phone calls and texts to as many farms as I had phone numbers for. It was worth it, not just because I will have food for a week, plus plenty more to freeze (I can’t possibly eat pork belly every day for a week. Think also, pulled pork. And rich broth. And pickled chanterelles and carrots. And slow cooked eggs can be breakfast). It was worth it because it feels damn good to do something from start to finish. This includes sourcing (and boy did I need to source, for this called for whole chicken, pork belly, chicken bones, pork bones, pork shoulder, and bacon, along with two kinds of seaweed and various Japanese cooking condiments), cooking (the broth alone took at least seven hours, so I had to start it one day and finish the next, and I feared storing it outside over night but I took the risk that a bear might eat it rather than putting the hot pot in my little fridge), cleaning, doing dishes, doing more dishes, serving, eating, cleaning and doing more dishes. That is the start to finish of it.

Anyway, I have never made such an involved dish. These were the parts: broth, made from layers of flavors of konbu, mushrooms, chicken, pork bones, onion scallion and carrot; pork belly; pork shoulder, pulled; noodles (packaged, ode to Momofuku—the inventor of packaged noodles. And David Chang said it was OK. At least I like to pretend he did); dried konbu; pickled mushrooms; pickled carrots; slow cooked eggs; braised collard greens.

my humble bowl of ramen.

my humble bowl of ramen.

another angle on my humble bowl of ramen.

another angle on my humble bowl of ramen.

Ok, does this mean  it's not humble anymore? Oh well.

Ok, does this mean it’s not humble anymore? Oh well.

I feel thoroughly filled and fulfilled from my love affair with ramen, and I hope to revisit it again soon, but not too soon. Not, like, tomorrow. So I feel I owe the co-contributor to the dish some homage, especially because his cookbook rocks, I love the style, the writing, the story, the photos…it’s all great. So here goes, from the  Momofuku cookbook and David Chang and Peter Meehan who wrote it with him:

I knew I’d call it Momofuku., which translates from Japanese as “lucky peach.” That’s where the logo came from. It’s also an indirect nod to Mr. Ando*: I owed him for a thousand meals-in-minutes and besides, it’s a fucking killer name. The restaurant was, for me, a fuck-you to so many things. Me—a Korean American—making Japanese ramen was ridiculous on its face. Me—a passable but not much better cook—opening up a restaurant while my peers, guys I worked with who were so much more talented than me, were still toiling under other regimes, paying their dues, learning. It is no accident that Momofuku sounds like motherfucker.

 *Mr. Ando invented the instant ramen noodles we know and love (?).

Keepin’ it real! Goodnight!




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