In early March, Anthony Bourdain tweeted a couple of blurry photos of the “wall of the super-secret Chang Project HQ at ZPZ.” ZPZ is Zero Point Zero, the production company that produces No Reservations, which led me to conclude that they would be making a television show with chef David Chang from Momofuku. I’d watch that show, I thought, and waited to see what would develop.
It was almost a TV show, then an iPad app, but now, in collaboration with McSweeney’s, Lucky Peach the quarterly magazine (the title is the english translation of the Japanese word momofuku) hit the stands last week. If you know anything about David Chang, it should come as no surprise that issue number one is devoted almost exclusively to ramen (with a bit of egg thrown in).
What do you get in the 175 pages? Peter Meehan recounts his trip to Tokyo with Chang and the insane amount of ramen they consumed in three days. Bourdain discusses the three films that he believes explains Chang’s obsession (Tampopo, House, and The Ramen Girl). There’s a feature about Ivan Orkin, a New York Jew who runs Ivan Ramen, one of the best ramenyas in Tokyo. There’s “a specifist’s guide to the regional ramen of Japan.” Bourdain, Chang, and Wylie Dufrense talk about mediocrity in the restaurant business. Ruth Reichl taste tests instant ramen (big surprise: throw away the flavor packets, cook the noodles). There is a wonderful series of woodcuts of the “Tokyo Ramen Gods”:
But the meat of the magazine is the recipes. Chang comes up with ramen-based versions of some European classics: cacio e pepe, fideos, and gnocchi Parisienne (now on my “must try” list). Harold McGee writes about alkalinity and alkaline noodles, then tackles the myth of “Chinese restaurant syndrome.” And then, finally, Chang offers up his reworked recipes for ramen noodles and ramen broth, both of which he had hinted at during his Harvard lecture.
The egg section leads off with a chart describing the structure and texture of whole eggs cooked sous vide at different temperatures. Do you like your poached eggs a bit more solid? Cook them at 64 °C instead of the standard 60 °C. Although it isn’t exactly a recipe, it wouldn’t be difficult to reverse-engineer Dufrene’s Eggs Benedict, WD-50 Style from the pictorial layout.
A day after I had consumed the Lucky Peach first issue in one sitting, my monthly subscription to Food and Wine (a “free gift” from American Express) arrived in the mail. F&W is unreadable; it screams about a lifestyle I’ll never have or want. Lucky Peach, on the other hand, is single-minded in its pursuit of what’s wonderful about cooking and eating food. If this first issue is any indication, it will become my favorite food magazine.
Hastily written while simultaneously attempting to purchase tickets at Next Restaurant.