The Truth: what I didn’t like from Momofuku

Lots of people refer to Chang as a genius and while in a lot of respects he is, in others I find he’s more of the mad genius type. The kind that throws things together haphazardly hoping that they’ll work out and blow people out of the water. It might be my unrefined palate or my questionable cooking skills, but some dishes out of the book really fell flat.

Here’s a short list of what I didn’t like and probably will never make again:

Alkaline Noodles
I could chalk it up to my lack of noodle making skills, but my alkaline noodles were practically inedible. They were slimy, sticky and the texture was just all wrong. I totally understand why Chang outsourced his noodles when he started noodle bar.

Ginger Scallion Sauce
Ginger scallion sauce was one of those things that I hated as a kid and grew to love as an adult. I was really looking forward to Chang’s sauce recipe; it seemed like millions of people were extolling its virtues. I even remember the sauce being pretty tasty at the fried chicken feast at Noodle Bar. However, when I made the recipe I was disappointed. The sauce didn’t meld together in that perfect marriage of flavours. Instead it tasted exactly like what it was: raw green onions and ginger in oil and vinegar.

Shrimp and Grits
I’ve never had grits before this so I can pretty much chalk this one up to lack of experience. I loved the shrimp and the slow-poached egg, but the grits I found were dry, thick and not creamy or unctuous at all. On the other hand, Mike quite liked this dish.

Oyster Toppings
Aside from the kimchi puree, I didn’t like any of the oyster toppings. The melon gelée was too out there for me, and while I loved the kimchi consommé recipe from Ko, the quick kimchi consommé with gelatin was vinegary and overpowering.

Spicy Pork Rice Cakes
The meat sauce portion of of the spicy rice cakes was delicious and all that Sichuan food should be. The rice cakes however, were mushy, and felt gross in my mouth. After loving the roasted rice cakes, I thought this dish would be great, but the texture of non-crispy rice cakes was all wrong.

Red Eye Mayo
I’m so glad I didn’t go crazy and order a 12 pound country ham shipped from Virginia for this one. The red eye mayo sounded questionable when I first read about it in the book, but it was even more questionable when it hit my tastebuds. This is probably a local taste that I don’t understand.

Pork Shoulder Steak
I’m sure Bev Eggleton’s shoulder steaks are transcendental, but I found this method of cooking pork to be unsuited to Whole Food’s shoulder steaks, which ended up tough and not particularly well cooked. The ranch sauce, however, was surprisingly tasty.

Crack Pie
Everything I’ve just mentioned is probably pretty good when you eat it at Chang’s restaurants. I chalk these up to being bad because I made them at home. But this one points the other way.

After making crack pie at home and seriously loving it, I was excited to finally get my paws on a slice at Chang’s new dessert bar outpost in Midtown. The pie came in a cute box, but packaging can be deceiving. The filling was overly sweet and had a strange corn flour texture that I didn’t experience at home. Crack pie is something that I’ll be making again, but not something I’ll be buying!

Tomorrow, what comes after Momofukufor2.

17 Comments add yours

  1. Even though you wouldn’t make them again the pictures are GORGEOUS.

  2. I think you’re grits didn’t turn out because you didn’t soak them. I made this recipe I loved it and will make it again.

    You’re probably right, soaking them would have been a vast improvement. Soaking should have been a recommendation, its should have been a requirement!

    steph on August 21st, 2010 at 6:11 pm
  3. I’m not sure what brand of girts you used but those don’t look anything like the grits that we cook for breakfast in North Carolina. Dry, thick, non-creamy grits have either been over or under cooked. You can fix that with a little more liquid.

  4. Honestly, I like your blog. Stylistically it is beautiful. However you seem to lack an understanding of why these dishes didn’t turn out well. Of the dishes that I’ve made that didn’t turn out well, including the ginger-scallion sauce, I could blame my poor execution or my poor selection of ingredients. Just because whole-foods is better than loblaws doesn’t mean that it is better than some home grown scallions. This is very much a defeatist approach to Momofuku. Pick up a copy of Harold McGee’s On Food and Cooking (just like the Changster says to) and read through it. Then re-cook these recipes.

    Also, no oysters on the bo-ssam? Fail.

    Cheers, Rusty

    In life there are going to be lovers and haters. I understand perfectly well that some things aren’t for my palete; the dishes weren’t executed incorrectly (unless the recipes were written incorrectly), nor were the ingredients sub-par. It’s merely a difference of taste.

    I certainly don’t think it’s a defeatist attitude considering that the ginger scallion sauce is one of the first recipes I made. If I was a defeatist, I would have written off the entire book at that stage.

    Although you seem to think so, Chang is not perfect. Not liking 7 recipes out of 98 doesn’t mean I have lack of understanding.

    AMEN!!

    Agnes on February 24th, 2011 at 8:50 pm
    steph on August 22nd, 2010 at 9:19 am
    Rusty Shackleford on August 21, 2010 at 5:50 pm
  5. Shrimp and grits is classic low land cooking (the Carolinas and the north-eastern part of Georgia).
    The problem with cooking grains, especially when ground, is that they keep on absorbing water. Think of what cold congee is like compared to when it was fresh.

    Red-eye gravy is an acquired taste – coffee gravy with ham. But there are a lot more things to do with a good country ham.

  6. He’s right. Those don’t look the way grits should. You should try it again and soak them :)

  7. I feel the exact same way about the ginger scallion sauce. i’ve made crack pie twice. third and fourth time coming up soon….

  8. I entirely agree with your comments on the crack pie! I recently made two this weekend and was in love with the delicious marriage of textures and salty/sweet that the milk bar is known for… only to get my hands on a “real” crack pie and be very disappointed. Why is it so gelatinous?

  9. For the Ginger Scallion Sauce, I find it works better if I add the (optional) hoisin, and use just whites of the scallion plus about an inch of green. If it’s still harsh, I’ll heat it in a pan for 10 minutes before dumping on noodles or whatever else. Really mellows the flavor and ends up quite delicious.

    shtetl.reconstruction on January 31, 2011 at 1:07 am
  10. I really hope you will try grits again. Those did not look the way they are supposed to. Grits are creamy and delicious and taste amazing with shrimp and cheese. Try some when you’re in the South sometime :).

  11. I had a similar experience with the Ginger/Scallion sauce. Something so simple, yet it doesn’t seem right. As though a critical step has been left out or something.

  12. I know this post is a year old, but as has been said before, try the grits again. Making grits is not something you can read in a book, or even watch someone do, and understand. Two batches of grits, made at different times of the day, during the same day, will need different cooking times and different amounts of liquid to get right. The best way I’ve found to make them is to boil a little more water then you think you need, as soon as it is rolling take the water off of the heat, and add grits until it reaches a loose porrage consistency, then wisk for a good couple minutes until they become a thicker mixture, then add cream and butter until rich and velvety.

  13. I’m so glad you said what you said about the Crack Pie. I just made it for the first time and it was fantastic, but almost a tad too goopy (I think it was just a difference in the oven I was using and it needed to cook just a teensy bit longer – I don’t want to dry it out, but it was really liquidy). I read on the Milk Bar website that they use corn powder, so I was going to try that with my next pie, but now I think I will skip it and just increase the cooking time by a minute or three instead! Hopefully that will give me that great semi-solid gooey-butter texture I’m after. Thanks!

  14. Re Ginger Scallion Sauce
    the first time I made it I thought the same as you:”what is all the fuss about?” Then I got a Breville food processor and was able to thin slice the scallions at 0.5 mm and that made a great difference in taste and texture. Also next time I will add some lemon zest.
    I think that what you are doing here is great; I plan to read it and try many of your takes on Momfuku
    I ahve recently made several versions of Bo Ssam and the one I liked best involved injecting the pork the night before with Mojo made of OJ, Lime juice,, 3 Crab fish sauce, garlic and Zatar. Then followed directions. THe neat fell apart, was very moist and had a mysterious and , to my taste, dellicious flavor from the Zatar.
    Thanks for putting your efforts on the internet. It is a great place to visit when work is slow.
    Hank Mann

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