Lunch at Momofuku Ssäm Bar – NYC
Steam Buns @ Momofuku Ssäm Bar
A few months ago, my mom and I decided to have a spa day courtesy of my boyfriend David. After a relaxing and somewhat painful morning of pampering (extractions hurt like a mofo), we decided to continue the theme of indulgence with lunch at Momofuku Ssäm. As I wrote in a previous post, my mom and I absolutely love, love, love Momofuku Ssäm to death. When it comes to meat, David Chang, the owner of the Momofuku restaurants, is a genius. He seems to really appreciate the actual taste of meat, as he prepares all his dishes so the natural flavors of a particular meat is always showcased. Nothing is overwhelmed with a heavy, over-seasoned sauce.
We began the meal with Chang’s famous Steam Buns. The pork belly was perfectly braised; soft but still holding it’s shape. Hoisin sauce was modestly added so it gave just the right amount of sweetness and cucumbers provided a needed crunch in the soft steamed bun. I read online Chang added these buns at the last minute to the menu. It’s funny how those eleventh hour decisions are always the best. For you Project Runway fans, it’s like when the Season 2 designers had to create a 13th look just days before their runway show at New York Fashion Week. Daniel and Chloe’s dresses really rounded out their collections, and Daniel’s dress was even better than his other pieces. Sorry to go off on a tangent, but my point is those last-minute decisions usually work because they come from your gut and aren’t hindered by all your insecurities. In this case, the product of Chang’s gut were these delicious steamed pork buns that are now the stars, along with the Bo Ssäm (whole pork butt), of the menu.
We also got the Jonah Crab Claws. They came pre-cracked with a side of yuzu mayonnaise for dipping. I liked this but my mom said they were a jip since all they did was steam it and crack it. She did appreciate the yuzu mayonnaise though. I liked it because they were fresh. I just wished there were more of it.
Then came the Sam Gyup Sal (삼겹살). Now the Sam Gyup Sal, my mom had no complaints about whatsoever. She was practically swooning the whole time we were eating it. Sam Gyup Sal is a popular Korean meat dish. Basically, it is uncured bacon grilled and served simply with a side of dark sesame oil and salt and pepper. Some form of greens usually accompany it in order to make a “ssam (쌈)” or wrap. At home, we make ssams with red leaf lettuce and Perilla leaves. A small dollop of ssamjang (쌈장), a condiment made out of soybean paste and chili paste, is added, along with kimchi, before folding and stuffing it into one’s respective mouth. Among Koreans, a sign of love is usually displayed by making a ssam and shoving it into your loved one’s mouth. Do this sparingly, once is enough when dining in public. More than once and people will start retching all around you.
At Momofuku Ssäm Bar, the Sam Gyup Sal is accompanied by chopped marinated clams and a creamy tart sauce made with mustard seeds. The clams had an acidic edge from the marinade and were a nice touch since pork is often eaten with raw oysters in Korea. The mustard seed sauce was good but I wished it had more of a kick. I’m used to eating sam gyup sal with kimchi and ssamjang, so I wanted more spice. Strangely, I proved to be more old-school than my mom. She liked it as-is, and even bought some mustard seeds after lunch so she could make her own mustard seed sauce at home. The meat itself, being Berkshire pork, was really packed with pork flavor, and crispy when it came to the table. I wished it was a tad more hot since I’m used to eating it straight from a table grill, but again, my mom had no complaints. She said we should only buy Berkshire pork from now on.
My mom and I also ordered the Roasted Cauliflower, because I love roasted cauliflower. It’s amazing how sweet it gets as it caramelizes in the oven. I make roasted cauliflower a lot in the wintertime with tons of chopped garlic, olive oil, and salt and pepper. Chang’s is made with mint, scallion, and fish sauce. I liked these a lot as they were roasted perfectly, so they still had a bite, but you definitely have to eat them with rice. Eaten alone they are a bit salty, but I imagine they are meant to be eaten like banchan (반찬) or a side to a meal, so the saltiness is understandable.
I still haven’t had the Bo Ssäm at Momofuku Ssäm, which I’m dying to do. But I’m sure it won’t be long though before you’ll be seeing a post here, especially if my mom has anything to do with it.
Note: According to their website, Momofuku Ssäm Bar will be closed for renovations August 25th to Sept 2nd. Make sure you do not go during these days no matter how tantalized you are by my post! 😉