by guest student blogger Donna Borooah
This past Wednesday, I had my second try at the role of Student Chef. My group and I prepared a Momofuku menu with dishes from two of David Chang’s New York locations, Ko and Ssam Bar. I felt lucky to have been assigned this menu because I am fascinated by David Chang and his growing empire of restaurants and food media.
Chang is important, especially in our current culture of food and chefs. His influence comes from the thought and intention at the foundation of the food he puts forward. He brought Ramen and his other tasty riffs on Japanese dishes to the mainstream in the past ten years. With his restaurants, especially Noodle Bar, he was not seeking to replace authentic Japanese Ramen Shops, but to bring additional Noodle shops with food made in his style.
What I admire most about Momofuku is their version of Asian-Fusion. This style of cooking often bothered me for the cherry-picking of ingredients and methods that left the context and history behind. Fusion like this is often the work of a European-focused chef who adds Asian ingredients into their dishes, with different plating, and is then celebrated for creating something new and ‘elevated’. While these dishes are often delicious, clever, and creative, I don’t think that they are always respectful of the culture by which they were inspired.
I feel that Chang incorporates the context of Japanese, Korean, and sometimes Chinese foods really nicely, without committing to authenticity and tradition. I like that his odd combinations of Korean Cooking, U.S.A.-made commodities, Japanese staples, and Chinese flavours are driven by his individual upbringing, ancestry, and personal tastes.
The menu we cooked this week wasn’t complicated. We worked with some new or unfamiliar techniques, and ingredients to make a meal of sweet, spicy, tangy, savoury, and smoky tastes inspired by David Chang. With items from both Ko and Ssam Bar, some of what we made was fancy, and other components were as casual as a McDonald’s apple pie. From course to course, you got a sense of what David Chang’s dishes are going for: playful presentations of approachable food using Asian flavours in an exciting way.