Archive for February, 2010

Napa Cabbage Kimchi (pg. 74)

Pauchu Kimchi

Napa cabbage kimchi appears quite frequently in the Momofuku Cookbook.  The kimchi is a key ingredient for the brussel sprouts, kimchi consomme, fuji applas salad, bo ssäm, and a few others.  It’s one of the recipes you have to get used to, referring to the amount of times you will make it, and either plan for two weeks ahead or have some on hand.  I’ll have come a long way if I can ever make this without having to refer to the recipe.

Kimchi is the result of a fermentation, microbes (Lactobacillus plantarum) converting sugars to lactic acid.  Anyone who has toured a brewery or distillery has seen the process.  The fermentation occurs over one to three weeks.  I’ve heard the stories of Koreans burying the kimchi underground for months or years at a time.  Would be an interesting taste at that point…

It’s a pretty simple process:

  1. Cure the cabbage
  2. Mix the other ingredients
  3. Wait for nature (or chemistry) to do it’s work.

Certain chefs have signature dishes or techniques.  David Chang’s appears to be start with salt and sugar, wait a day.  It works well for the pork belly and pork shoulder, why stop now?  Grab a head of napa cabbage, cut it up, and add the salt and sugar.

It takes a surprisingly little amount of salt and sugar to work it’s magic.  While not exactly a cure, it draws a lot of the moisture out.

This mixture gets covered up and placed in the fridge overnight.  The next time I do this, I’ll weigh the cabbage before and after to verify how much water is drawn out.  That’s no longer borderline over the top, it’s clearly over the line…

Day 2

The ingredients:

The prep work requires a lot of mincing.  There is an obnoxious amount of ginger and garlic.  I prefer a spoon to peel the ginger, cut it into disks, sticks and mince.

and the garlic, I’ll spare you those pictures.

The kimchi requires two ingredients from the Korean market: kochukaru and jarred salted shrimp.  I wrote about kochukaru, a Korean chili powder, in my last post.

A man can play the helpless card in very few circumstances, shopping in ethnic markets is one of them.  The kochukaru required a little help.

The jarred salted shrimp is a bit of a bizarre item.  I’ll have to find a few more uses for this.  At two teaspoons per recipe, this jar will last for years, even with the all the uses for kimchi.

I’ll let you make your own comments on what this looks like…  I will add that I am sure the jarred salted shrimp is the source of the funky smell kimchi is famous for, although a strong argument culd be made for the fish sauce.

Mise en place in the bowl:

The kochukaru and sugar take on a ying-yang appearance which is appropo of the sweet and spicy nature of the ingredients.

Mixing it all the kochukura pigment dominate the final product.  It takes on a beautiful bright red hue.

It comes out a little thick but can be thinned out with some water to achieve the appropriate consistency.

Once the paste is ready the carrots and scallions are stirred in.

and the cabbage, drained of water into the mix..

and into a jar.

Throw the kimchi in the back of the fridge for a couple weeks and it will be all set to go.  Two weeks later we tried it the night before ssäm night, it was fantastic.  The word most frequently used to describe kimchi is pungent.

There are a couple good lessons to be learned that one can change for the next attempt.  First, knife skills are very important, the amount of time spent mincing the garlic and ginger is time well spent, achieving a consistent fine mince.  I will also reduce the amount of garlic used next time as it was a bit overpowering.

David Change advises curing in the refrigerator the whole time while traditionally, kimchi is cured in a cool place, or underground.  Harold McGee, in On Food and Cooking, recommends the for fermentation temperature between 41-57º F/5-14º rather than fermenting in the refrigerator.

Final piece of advise:

Michale Pollan, author of Food Rules: An Eater’s Manual, advises Rule #33: Eat some foods that have been predigested by bacteria or fungi.  Foods such as kimchi yogurt, etc. have significant health benefits.  Lactobacillus plantarum provides particular beneficial properties.  A quick google search reveals more informations than I really cared to find…

Ssäm Night

Ssäm night’s are the reason I started this blog.   This evening was 2 weeks in the making.  A group of friends had the Bo Ssäm a few weeks ago and came back together to try the homemade version.  How did it turn out?  The short answer is better than the one we had at Ssäm Bar.

Bold statement and not any delusions of grandeur.  The recipe is not difficult at all.  Salt & sugar, cure overnight, throw in oven.  It’s not a testament to any skills as a cook or refined cooking technique.  It just happened to be a beautiful piece of meat and came out perfect.  But I’m already getting to far ahead.  That’s for another post.

Ssäm night for us was a tasting of the Bo, Marinated hanger steak, and pork belly.  It was just as easy to make all three since we had all the same accompaniments.  Throughout the night we nearly smoked our guests out of the apartment (from the oven), went through a bottle of soju, 7 bottles of wine, a fifth of Jack Daniels and ate a phenomenal meal.

One of the last things I’ve learned is the first thing you read in the title, typing ä into Word.  It’s actually quite easy, Option + U than hit the letter a.  The Facebook fan group seems to believe it is a diaeresis, not an umlaut., but there are differing opinions if anyone wants to weigh in on the debate.  One of the many interesting facts you learn cooking international foods.  I have not had many diaeresis vs umlaut discussions, in fact, that was the first, and most likely, the last.

I have to thank Jessica and J.  They graciously hosted the event, helped with the planning and cooking.  When your cooking for a large group, it’s always a good idea to get help, and since Jessica is a professional cook, (that sentence had a Burn Notice feel to it).  Actually, Jessica did most of the cooking while I took photos and tried to understand the rules of curling.

Ssäm night takes 2 weeks to prepare for and I’ll try and do some of these posts in order.  In one night, we covered almost 10% of the cookbook.  We made ten recipes, the cookbook contains about 115 recipes depending on what you’re counting, I’ll leave it to someone else to determine if the same pickle recipe applied to twenty different vegetables counts as one or twenty.  Nevertheless, it’s a significant portion of the cookbook with recipes requiring recipes.

I’ll start with a fun recipe.

Ssäm Sauce (pg 167)

This was a fairly straightforward condiment for the Bo Ssam, our ingredients, mix and it’s ready to go.  Why did I have to do it twice?

First, a quick Korean language lesson.  Many fans of Ssäm Bar are aware, by now, that Ssäm means “wrapped” in Korean.  The recipe for the Ssäm sauce calls for ssämjang, kochujang, grapeseed oil and sherry vinegar.

Jang means “paste”.  Ssämjang than translated to wrapping paste.  I found this particularly amusing.  One could imagine if the inventor of ketchup decided to call it French fry condiment, what other uses would be have for it?  Ssämjang itself is a soy bean paste.

The kochujang is a hot pepper sauce, kochu means pepper, so it’s literal translation is pepper paste.

Kochukaru is a Korean chile powder used in the napa cabbage kimchi recipe (coming soon).  I’m guessing that karu mean powder, but had trouble finding the translation on the internets.

Together the ssämjang and kochujang are a lovely kicked up spread for the Bo Ssäm.  The mixture gets thinned out with the neutral vinaigrette.

Following the recipe from page 167, the ssäm sauce comes out very liquid without the correct consistency and not at all what we had in the restaurant.  Here was the first attempt.

I tried to capture the consistency of the first by pouring it.

This was a good lesson in using common sense over blindly following a recipe.  I made another pass at it and eyeballed the amounts of oil and vinegar to make sure the ssäm sauce had the correct acidity and texture.  It came out fantastic.   you can see the two versions next to each other.

The bowl on the right is the second attempt, with the correct consistency and acidity.  I prefer mine a little spicier and would use more kochujang next time, or purchase a hotter version from the market.  Maybe I’ll run into the same attractive Korean girl who helped translate the labels for me.

One thing is for sure, this sauce has numerous application, and I’ll be finding creative ways to incorporate it.

pan-roasted asparagus poached egg & miso butter (pg. 90)

I was excited to put this dish together.  This was my first time cooking with miso.  My experience has been limited to miso soup and the eggplant with miso glaze appetizer often overlooked at Japanese restaurants.  I’ll probably get around to trying both of those with the extra miso sitting in the fridge.

Making the miso butter is fairly straightforward: measure and mix (first allow the butter to come to room temperature).

Mix the Miso and butter

Big butter streaks.. maybe it wasn’t quite at room temperature.  Switched to a different bowl so I could really get some good elbow magic.  As you can see, it gets better, but not quite there yet.

A few more turns and it was done.

With the miso butter set aside, it was time for the main dish.  These asparagus are probably a little thicker than those served in the restaurant.  I would say these were on the medium to thick side of things.

For those who are asparagus stalk snappers, I recommend an article by Harold McGee (The Curious Cook) in the NY Times.  If you choose to follow that, please leave a comment and let me know the results.

I moved ahead with snapping.  Notice the nice blister on the base of the thumb, a product of the pork belly roasting pan from six weeks prior!  It’s a dangerous hobby…

Peel the outer edges.

With all the prep completed, it’s fairly straightforward recipe.  Heat up so unsalted butter, not the miso butter.  It’s a little difficult to capture the first wisp of smoke.

It’s important not to shake the pan, just let the asparagus roast on one side and flip over to the other.  I’ve been told that David Chang doesn’t allow his cooks to use tongs, so i flipped it with a spatula.  Btw: if anyone can confirm this, I’d appreciate it.  The Bo Ssam is served with mini tongs…

While the asparagus is finishing up, take a few moments to heat up the miso butter with some sherry vinegar.  A couple tsp of sherry and the butter.

The miso butter loosens up a bit.  There’s time enough for this while the asparagus are draining on a paper towel.

And now it’s time to put it all together.  Plating it a similar to the photo on pg. 91.  Miso butter, roasted asparagus, slow-poached egg (from the prior post) and a few turns of pepper.

And the oozing of the slow poached egg.

For my palate, the miso butter was a little overpowering.  Miso has such a distinct flavor and powerful profile that it will be tasted differently by individuals.  It has a similar impact as chiles in a spice profile.  I could see friends discussing the amount of miso similar to other powerful spices or how much milk to put in coffee.  Next time I will adjust the ratio of butter to miso differently to tone done the strength.

Overall, this dish is simple and elegant.  Qualities alone that entice me to make it again.  The creaminess of the slow-poached egg could make any vegetable divine.  I wonder if the creamy yolk would improve on a Caesar salad or carbonara…

slow-poached eggs (pg, 52)

As i mentioned on the Facebook fan page, we took a class trip to Momofuku ssäm bar on Friday night.  There were 9 of us (one friend flaked) and we sat down for a Bo ssäm dinner.  We started with some bread with fantastic whipped lardo and sea salt butter first.

The plan was to enjoy the Bo ssäm and photo’s would be taken.  My dinner companions would be invited over in a few weeks for a reunion dinner to taste my attempt of the dish and we would have comparison shots.  So where did I go err? My camera was safely tucked inside my pocket, the entire night.  Not one photo taken. Really, it’s my own fault.  You shouldn’t invite fun friends to a research field trip.

But part of the fun does lead to: Momofuku Pet Peeve #1 No Jack Daniels…

Mr. Chang, please put some Jack Daniels behind the bar.  It’s local, same state as Allan Benton.  We did substitute some ESBs and bourbon/lemonades, with a good laugh when someone messed up the order and requested a bourbon and vodka.  Server didn’t blink.  One of those nights.

The reunion dinner will be held on the 3rd weekend in February.  It may be a complete ssäm party with Bo, hangar steak, and pork belly making an appearance…  We’ll see.

Onto the slow-poached egg.  I’ve been looking forward to the slow-poached eggs for a while.  Actually, it’s the fried slow-poached egg on the Momofuku pork buns I enjoy so much.  There really is not much to them.

The plate is used to raise the eggs off the bottom of the pan higher in the water where it’s more stable.

This is exactly like waiting the for the jacuzzi to warm up, not quite there yet, but I get to show off the Thermapen.  Xmas gift from John, thanks bro!

and once the jacuzzi is warm enough, it’s all the eggs in one basket.

My preference is to move the pot of water away from the heat to regulate the temperature, being sure never to let it rise about 145 degree.

The eggs were cooled and stored in the fridge.  When I needed them, it’s a simple rinse under a hot faucet.  My faucet is exceptionally hot, as you can see from the steam.


When cracked open it looks like, well, it looks like a poached egg.

The thin white gets discarded. Slides right off…

Here’s a quick shot to see what it looks like, the first one went on the top of the next post.

It’s difficult to see just how creamy this yolk really is.  The whole egg, even after split will slide around together on the bottom of the bowl.  Only video would do this justice.  Maybe next time.  The slow-poached egg are components in a number of the Momofuku dishes.

They would be best prepared sous vide, probably to 62 degrees C.

Coming Soon: pan-roasted asparagus with slow-poached egg & miso butter.


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