David Chang and Peter Meehan
A book review by Franz Scheurer
A few days ago I was privileged to attend the David Chang dinner at Lotus in Sydney and it proved just how good Chang’s food is. It may be deceptively simple, letting each and every ingredient speak, but it’s the cerebral combination of ingredients that lifts Chang’s food from great to culinary heaven. When you read Chang’s book first accolades must go to Peter Meehan who managed to preserve Chang’s voice in the writing. You can hear him speak and I know how difficult this is. When Chang was here he stated that ‘living up to people’s expectations sucks’, however he did just that. He excels in combining and featuring textures and he is a thinking man’s cook, best demonstrated by his combination of edamame and horseradish to mimic wasabi in his Melbourne dinner.
The book is divided into noodle bar, ssäm bar and ko, and deals with the evolution of David Chang and his restaurants, and his maturing as a chef and restaurateur. There is no doubt that Chang is a gifted chef but there is also no doubt that he has a business brain and manages to give people what they don’t even know yet they want. His book is also a fabulous collection of his recipes and some stand out to me.
At first glance it looks like the recipes I like most happen to be some of the items he served at the Lotus dinner, but in reality I had already dog-eared them in my copy of MOMOFUKU beforehand. The momofuku pork buns are legendary and although they’re based on a common Asian food formula: steamed bread + tasty meat = good eating, it’s Chang’s mastery of choosing the right ingredient combination to make this dish rock. To combine coffee with sriacha and a basic mayonnaise, to make red-eye mayonnaise seems an unlikely combination, yet it absolutely knocks your socks off. One of my hero items is the fuji apple salad, a clever combination of apples, Kimchi and pig jowls. For the offal lover he has pig’s head torchon a sublime combination of flavours and textures. To quote Chang: “A farm turns out a head on each beautiful, well-raised pig but nobody’s rushing to eat it. That’s where the cook steps in: you take it, cook it, make it delicious. That’s the most badass way you can connect with what you cook: elevate it, honor it, lavish it with care and attention.” This really says it all. Dan Hong, chef at Lotus and his team did a fabulous job cooking Chang’s food and Dan Hong also cooked a bánh mì at the TOYS dinner. Chang might have been the inspiration, as he too talks at length about this dish and gives a recipe. My favourite at the dinner and one of the easier dishes to make is fluke buttermilk, soy & poppy seeds on page 241. In Sydney Chang used Hiramasa kingfish and sea scallops and it works a treat. The momofuku crack pie with cereal milk ice cream unfortunately is not in the book but it will stay with my taste memory forever.
If you don’t have MOMOFUKU as yet, all I can say is: go out and buy it! Not only is it a sensational read it also provides achievable recipes, food that should make you the hero of your dinner parties. There are plenty of signed copies available from Books for Cooks in Melbourne. Ring Tim or Amanda on 03 8415 1415 or email them on firstname.lastname@example.org They deliver anywhere in Australia.
By David Chang and Peter Meehan