Thursday, February 23, 2012

Bo Knows

Speaking of wraps, I still remember our first experience of Momofuku, way back in 2006, vividly.

decor, Momofuku fig. a: Momofuku!

Like virtually everyone else, the dish that first won our hearts was David Chang's now legendary, oft-imitated steamed pork buns, with its supremely succulent braised Berkshire pork. But the dish that left a lasting impression was the ssäm.

At the time, I had the following to say about the experience:

The true revelation of our luncheon, however, was my Ssäm. I have to confess, at the time that I ordered it, I really had little idea what exactly I was ordering. The ingredients--"Berkshire pork, rice, edamame, onions, pickled shiitake, kimchi"--all sounded great to me, but I was expecting some kind of a fried rice dish, or possibly even a rice-based soup.

ssäm, Momofuku fig. b: Momofuku ssäm

What we got, instead, was a burrito--a clever Korean-American take on the Mexican-American classic. In general, we're a little skeptical when it comes to "fusion cuisine," but here was another instance of Chang taking chances and finding (not forcing) culinary affinities. The results were brilliant--but, then again, as huge fans of Mission-style burritos and Korean food, we were pretty much an ideal audience for Momofuku's ssäm burrito.

Chang writes about his ssäm burritos with humor and a healthy dose of self-deprecation in Lucky Peach #2. In fact, his opening line baldly states, "In 2005, I thought I had the greatest idea in the world: I was going to serve Korean burritos." And he goes on to explain the logic behind his brainchild:

It wasn't that much of a stretch of the imagination: Koreans wrap up everything. Go to a summer barbecue with enough Koreans and one of them will eat his burger wrapped in a lettuce leaf just because that's how we do it. Bossäm is a traditional dish where you sit around a big plate of pork belly (and sometimes oysters) and wrap up mouthful after mouthful in napa cabbage.

ssäm burrito fig. c: ssäm burrito spread

But, overall, Chang's piece reads more like an attempt to restore the reputation of his poor Korean burrito (and poke fun at himself) in the aftermath of the Korean taco phenomenon: "I was such a dumbass... (A year or two later, my good friend Roy Choi started doing Korean Tacos in L.A. Now he's so successful I want to be him instead of me.)"

Now, it's easy to make your own ssäm burritos at home. Chang's Bo ssäm recipe has appeared in Momofuku (the cookbook), in Lucky Peach #1, and elsewhere (such as Sam Sifton's New York Times article on Chang's version, "The Bo Ssam Miracle"). And in Lucky Peach #2, Chang provides a complete recipe for his original ssäm burritos.

But when I finally got around to preparing Chang's Bo Ssäm at home a few weeks ago, it struck me that he had missed out on a golden opportunity. As much as I love tacos, including Korean tacos, I still love burritos enormously. And while tacos might offer more opportunities for variation and innovation, there's one category where burritos have tacos beat hands down: breakfast.

Unless you're feeding a pack of coyotes, you're probably going to have some bo ssäm and some bo ssäm fixings leftover after your next bo ssäm-athon. And you're probably going  to find yourself so ravenous for the taste of bo ssäm again, and, in all likelihood, so incredibly hungover, that you're going to want to dig in to those leftovers sooner rather than later (like, for breakfast, the very next day). Just make sure you have some nice, big flour tortillas on hand, as well as some eggs, when you do. Then you can make yourself some bo ssäm breakfast burritos, or as we like to call them...

Ssäm Bburritos

1 extra-large flour tortilla, steamed or microwaved until warm
roast pork shoulder, Bo ssäm-style, reheated
refried short-grain rice
1 egg, fried, poached, or scrambled (depending on how you like it)
quick-pickled cucumbers
quick-pickled radishes
ginger-scallion sauce
ssäm sauce

Pile the ingredients high, but not so high that you can't actually close the burrito.

ssäm bburito 1 fig. d: ssäm bburrito 1

Roll and fold the burrito up tightly, and wrap with aluminum foil.

ssäm bburito 2 fig. e: ssäm bburrito 2


Repeat as needed.

[we'd like to think this recipe is a Momofuku/AEB co-production, but mostly it relies on recipes from Momofuku by David Chang and Peter Meehan]

How did they turn out? Well, they tasted like "the greatest idea in the world."  The very greatest.


Saturday, February 18, 2012

Post-Strudel Wrap-Up*

Ever wondered what a strudel-making workshop actually looks like? Well, it's quite a bit more theoretical than you might think.

strudel 1 fig. a: this is Michelle's brain on strudel

At least, it is the way Michelle teaches it. You have to wrap your mind around that magical strudel dough,** before you can set about making it, let alone wrapping anything else with it.

The theory paid off. It was followed up by some intensive strudel praxis, and the results were impressive. The 16 workshop participants learned a lot in just a short period of time, they ate well, and the feedback was glowing.

It's hard to compete with that legendary apple strudel, but Michelle's fresh cheese and herbs strudel gave it a run for its money.

Michelle couldn't have been happier with the entire experience, which she described as "next level."

Will there be more FoodLab workshops? Indubitably. Like I said before, this is just the beginning of the FoodLab's instructional series.

Stay tuned.


*No pun intended.

**Pun intended.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

The horror! The horror!

P1010724 fig. a: icon

Oh, that makes me feel a lot better.

Apparently, René Angelil and Céline Dion are only part of the investment group that has purportedly purchased Montreal's greatest culinary icon: Schwartz's. Bill Brownstein of The Gazette reports, "the kingpin of the operation, according to several sources, is Paul Nakis, who is involved with the Bâton Rouge chain and the Sir Winston Churchill Pub, among other interests."

Any way you slice it, this news makes a mockery of Schwartz's: The Musical (which was based on Brownstein's book Schwartz's Hebrew Delicatessen: The Story) and its "this is Montreal, not Toronto"*/"no sell out" moral.

Save the deli, indeed.

Stay tuned...


* i.e., culture vs. commmerce