Have you had a taste altering food moment?
Moments of eating so transformative you never think about a bite of food the same way again? Memories that induce drooling while you recollect that special dish or restaurant? Bites of a meal you wish you could eat everyday? I do, and I dream all the time about one dish in particular:
Momofuku Pork Buns
These soft pillows of porky goodness were life changing. The first time I ate at Momofuku was at the Momofuku Noodle Bar in Manhattan, the original location. I will never forget my first bites of those Steamed Pork Buns: the soft pork belly, the sweet hoisin sauce, and oh my, the melt in your mouth steamed buns that amalgamate the flavours of the dish to create the most delicious of experiences. My boss Dana and I thought they were so delicious we ordered another two each for dessert, I barely even remember the ramen I had for the main course. These buns are that good.
In the past few years chef David Chang has opened up several other Momofuku restaurants around the globe, including Toronto. So obviously when Adam and I were in Toronto over spring break last year, I had to eat at the newly opened Momofuku on University Avenue and introduce Adam to the Steamed Pork Buns.
Momofuku has four restaurants in one at the Toronto location. On the ground floor is the Noodle Bar, where we had lunch that frosty February day. Look at what a tourist I am being taking photos outside while Adam impatiently waits to go inside:
The Noodle Bar is modern, minimalist and really freaking cool. There are huge industrial windows, long oak communal tables, and light wooden blocks adorn the walls, stacked on top of each other in a Tetris-style pattern up to the vaulted ceilings. Nikai, the lounge, overlooks the noodle bar from the top of a giant concrete staircase, and the whole place is buzzing with people.
We decided to order the pork buns and share a bowl of ramen. More about the ramen later, let’s have a look at these delicious pork buns that I have been building up so much:
Seriously, look at them:
How white is that bun? How moist is that pork? THESE BUNS ARE JUST SO GOOD! The steamed bun is perfectly soft and fluffy, and the pork belly is so juicy and flavourful. The hoisin sauce has the perfect amount of tang, and the cucumbers and scallions add the exact amount of crunch to balance out these hand held delights. These buns are really what sky-rocketed David Chang and Momofuku into celebrity chef status, and I know why. They are tasty, simple, yet one would have a hard time duplicating their perfection. (I have a recipe at the bottom of this post if you want to try!)
The ramen was also awesome, but clearly the supporting actor in our meal. The noodles we ordered, the Dan Dan Mein, consisted of ramen noodles, spicy pork, dried scallops, and peanuts. It was simple, spicy, and pretty darn delicious.
Adam was delighted with the pork buns and the ramen, and clearly I really enjoyed the food at Momofuku, as did the man behind me digging into his ramen.
Overall, Momofuku, Toronto edition, was awesome. I was blown away when I looked at the ratings on Urbanspoon and saw it’s dismal scoring: it is definitely not representative of how great the service is and how amazing the dishes are. Go and try it the next time you are in Toronto!
If you aren’t going to be in Toronto, Manhattan, or Sydney, Australia anytime soon and you are ambitious enough to try and replicate these babies, then here is a great link to the recipe, given by David Chang himself. It also details how these beloved pork belly sandwiches were almost left off the menu (gasp!).
And if you are really brave, you can even try and make the buns yourself too!
Things Worth Mentioning…
Cost: For 2 beer and orders of pork buns and ramen to share, it was around 40$ before tip, totally reasonable for lunch. The Noodle Bar has a great price range, if you want high end Momofuku, you need to head to the third floor to Shoto for the 150$ ten course tasting menu (ah, someday).
Things I liked: The decor, the amazing art installation outside the front door (installation by Zhang Huan) and obviously the pork buns.
Things I didn’t: That I didn’t get to eat more pork buns.
Best Place to Sit: Anywhere along the long communal tables or at the bar on a busy day, seating everywhere is ideal.
What To Order Next Time: The namesake ramen, and dessert, preferably the rice pudding.