Lucky Peach

"Waiter, there's too much internet in my food". Catching line from a terrifically interesting and thought provoking GQ article written by my culinary Zeus, monarch of the Momofuko restaurant group and person I would most like to have at my dining table room table (and perhaps even cook for), the eminent David Chang. I could certainly write an entirely separate article on the gastronomic wizardry of this man. I could also speak to 'Fukusanity' a fever spread owing to his newest spot Fuku located in the East Village and it's main attraction, a fried chicken sandwich. Fuku's offering looks like that of a Chick-fil-A number but is certainly in a stratosphere of its own. Google it and I'm sure you'll agree, we all want to get our mouths around it. And quite frankly, immediately. According to New York Magazine this new gastronomic gem features "chicken thighs that have been marinated in habanero puree, coated in buttermilk, dredged in a spice blend and deep fried, then tucked inside a-what else?-Martin's potato roll with pickles and butter. Of course this being Momofuko, the chicken is sustainably sourced from a network of small farms, the rolls are steamed (not unlike the boa that earlier models were served on as an occasional Noodle Bar special) and the butter is laced with fermented-chickpea flavor from Chang's culinary lab". I am carefully wiping the gob off of my chin as I type. An imminent trip to New York, New York anyone? And I mean like, tomorrow.

David Chang's article speaks to the rapid generation of social media and his belief that it's having an unfavorable effect on the creativity of chefs and cooks. Many individuals running kitchens now have the option to follow the creme de la creme with their SmartPhones. According to the narrative, this is resulting in a recycling of the same old at a myriad of places. Kale whatever or avocado toast anyone? Nothing is new anymore. This article asserts that cooks no longer need to build their comprehension, skill and mastery the old fashioned way. Long gone are the days of working demanding, endless hour jobs in the very best kitchens so as to build street credibility, reading valuable literature to inspire as well as learn and spending quality time (usually late night) with chefs comparing notes and experiences. The bottom line: those manning the kitchens need employ some diversity and creativity of thought. As examples, he gave praise to innovation and originality demonstrated in three kitchens around the world and no, one of them was not Noma. Mr. Chang also briefly spoke to the upside of social media stating, "I'm not trying to bite the hand that feeds me." In closing, he challenged those creating meals in global kitchens to carve out their own niche and differentiate themselves. Novelty is King. Quite simply, put down the phone. (Matthew says this to me all the time.)

I found this article to be outstanding food for thought because I have a food blog. I cook, share recipes and my bubbling verve with anyone who visits my space. It's as simple as that. While a bevy of the recipes I share are my very own, at times I stray the course. I am influenced. I borrow. I adapt. I recreate. In emulating, I learn. I love nothing more than sitting at a restaurant and looking at Matthew while mouthing with conviction, I can make this better at home and then I am off. I read cook books, subscribe to five food magazines, follow fellow food bloggers and regularly check in on a myriad of communities like Food52 and New York Times Cooking (you really should sign up for the newsletter by the way, creative or not). A good chunk of my culinary inspiration comes from the prolific news feed I see every hour on my Twitter and Instagram accounts. In fact, this very morning I snapped a photograph of a vegan Thai salad that I plan to replicate for today's lunch. In making it my own I will substitute a few goodies (namely because I don't have coconut sugar or red capsicum). Dishes made in my home have influenced others and for that I am humbled. For me, I like to see this entanglement not as imitation but rather a delicious patronage. But alas, this article does not wholly apply to me because I am not a chef running a kitchen nor a professional cook and I agree with David in terms of dining out. I love to eat in restaurants. Love. We don't haphazardly go anywhere. I execute due diligence to ensure I know menus and offerings. I plan trips around meals. Always. New York, Charleston, Chicago, London, Paris, Miami, Frankfurt, the beaches of South Carolina and the mountains to the north. You name it. When dining out, I am paying not only for inspiring plates but also an experience. My father says we are forever together with our memories. So if you are feeding me, imagination and uniqueness get me hook, line and sinker every time.

I am certainly not cool by any stretch but have eaten at exactly three of David Chang's Momofuko haunts. The ambiance is always stimulating and the food is consistently sublime. I take these opportunities to stuff myself, applauding each and every bite. I took Matthew to Momofuko Noodle Bar on 1st Avenue this past December. An inaugural albeit fitting visit as he is crazy for noodles and broths of all sorts and varieties. We waited on line for eons and were finally seated around 10.45 PM. The two of us squeezed into a pair of cozy spots at the bar, watched the cooks at work and went to town on steaming bowls of spicy miso ramen. We also split a bun. If you haven't yet, do head here or Momofuko Ssäm Bar for the world famous pork buns. One bite is a an earth shattering experience. We washed everything down with a few Tiger beers. Leave room in your suitcase to pick up some of the Ssäm Sauce too. Or you can order it online. After an early start at Russ & Daughters, an afternoon spent watching football at my sisters crib and bar hopping on the east side, the noodles were just what the doctor ordered. On my last visit to NYC, after a long walk through Central Park with my folks we aimlessly headed south to Chelsea and quite fortuitously, stopped in at Ma Peche for small, delectable plates. Country fried chicken? Yes please. If you need to sweeten your tongue, look no further than one of the many Milk Bar locations. Let your imagination set you free as you are transplanted back to childhood. While I have not yet eaten at Momofuko Ko, my brother speaks about it with great praise. Two Michelin stars. As such, I think I will wait on his next visit to the Big Apple and the two of us should dine there together. Keith, send me some dates and Ill orchestrate reservations. ASAP. We also made a clandestine trip to Crif Dogs for an afternoon of hotdog debauchery after seeing (on TV) David dining next door at Please Don't Tell (PDT) with Anthony Bourdain. I knew PDT from my days living in the City but the grub next door was new to me. Hands down one of the most memorable gargantuan snacks of my life. Five words: tater tots with cheese whiz. As well as five incredible hot dogs between the two of us. We had to Uber it home.

The below recipe is better than spectacular. This sh&t is kryptonite. We devoured it for dinner two nights ago. We actually competed for who would enjoy the leftovers. The next day I saw a certain someone lurking suspiciously near to the fridge. A few bites down. I finished up the last of it for lunch yesterday. If you do not have a spiralizer, fear not. This recipe originally calls for eight ounces of rice noodles. Do pick up the chili, peanut and sesame oil. Most grocers sell their own brand of the oils and they are excellent. Also grab a bottle of soy sauce and rice wine vinegar. I promise you will manipulate these little bottles again in due time. 

Spicy Ginger Pork, Bok Choy and Zucchini Noodles
Adapted from NYTimes Cooking

1 large head of bok choy
3 inch knob of ginger - peeled, chop the one half and julienne the other
2 large zucchini - for your zoodles 
2 TBS peanut oil
1 TBS chili oil - or you can use peanut oil again (this is for the zucchini noodles)
1 lb lean ground pork - it's crazy how cheap this is
1/4 cup plus 1 TBS low sodium soy sauce
2 TBS rice wine vinegar
4 scallions - finely chopped
3 garlic cloves - finely chopped
1 Thai or serrano chili - finely chopped
2 TBS toasted white sesame seeds
Sesame oil - for drizzling
Basil - leaves torn
Black vinegar - For serving. You can buy this on Amazon for 10 bucks. Do it. You need a beer can opener to reveal the black stuff. J'adore. Balsamic will work if you are in a pinch.

Shall I Repeat Myself

1. Wash and separate your bok choy. Cut the dark green tops off and set aside. Thinly slice the white stems. Set aside. Finely chop half the ginger and the other half you want to finely slice into matchsticks. Set the chopped ginger aside. For your matchsticks, put them in a small bowl and cover with black vinegar. You will use these to garnish your dish. Finely chop your garlic too. Set aside. Chop your chili. Set aside. I am getting tired of setting things aside!

2. Prepare your zucchini noodles. This is Matthew's new kitchen challenge and he loves it. Gently heat the noodles in 1 TBS chili oil and set aside.

3. In a large pan, heat 1 TBS peanut oil over medium heat. Add your pork and cook until brown. This will take around 10 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt, 1 TBS soy sauce and 1 TBS rice wine vinegar. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the meat to a separate bowl.

4. In the same pan, add 1 TBS peanut oil to the skillet. Stir in half of the green onions, the ginger, garlic and chili. Cook until a gorgeous aroma dances throughout your kitchen. Add the white parts of the bok choy and a pinch of salt. Cook for around two minutes. Now add the greens as well as the pork. Give everything a nice big stir.

5. Add the noodles to the pan along with 1 TBS rice wine vinegar and 1/4 cup of soy sauce. With tongs, gently move everything around to heat throughout.

6. Transfer this stunning medley to a large bowl and toss with the remaining green onions, toasted sesame seeds, a drizzle of sesame oil and your torn basil. Serve the ginger in black vinegar along with your main event. Go to town.

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