"What becomes fat more than more fat?" asks chef David Chang in his new cookbook, Momofuku, lasciviously pairing coffee-flavored mayonnaise with country ham—and that pretty much sums up his philosophy. Not that he's an overtly philosophical kind of guy: He's more like that dude at the party doing keg-stands, except that before you showed up he picked the hops, brewed the beer, welded the barrel and fashioned the tap.
Momofuku, named for Chang's East Village empire of Momofuku restaurants, is a mesmerizing read, far beyond a mere cookbook. Narrated by Chang with New York Times writer Peter Meehan, it reveals not only some of Chang's most famous recipes (steamed pork buns, shaved foie gras) but also the inside story of how a small, unknown ramen shop propelled the meteoric rise of a young chef.
In 2007, less than three years after opening his first restaurant, Chang won the James Beard Rising Star Chef award. In 2008, the James Beard Foundation crowned him Best Chef: New York City, and in 2009, the "finer-dining" (his words) Momofuku Ko won Best New Restaurant—lauded for, among other things, breaking the fourth wall. By cutting out the theater of middlemen like hostesses and servers, Ko's chefs prepare food on the spot, serve it, clear it and thus pocket the tips.
Studded with photographer Gabriele Stabile's yellow-tinged nightlife candids, Momofuku is quirky and cool and creepy and brilliant, all at once.
Learn: how to glue a chicken (p. 190); why you shouldn't demonize the foie (p. 263); how to pickle anything (p. 64); the trick to cooking "ghetto sous vide" (p. 170); the exact recipe for Chang's mother's kalbi marinade (p. 169).
When do you know your kimchi is ready? "[It] takes on a prickly mouthfeel, like the feeling of letting the bubbles in a soft drink pop on your tongue."
How do you prepare a pig's head? "If there are any hairy patches, dispense with them: A blowtorch works, as will a disposable razor."
How much is a pinch? "Like the amount of cocaine a movie cop would taste off the tip of his switchblade to confirm that the bust was going to stick."
Get serious about sourcing: "Pigs have heads. Every one of them does. Farmers do not raise walking pork chops. If you're serious about your meat, you've got to grasp that concept ... You've got to embrace the whole pig."
Must have: Kewpie Mayonnaise ("It's Japanese, and it's loaded with MSG!" Chang laughs.)
Sweet tooth? You've got to love recipes titled "Chocolate-Hazelnut Thing" and "Cereal Milk."