Pan-Roasted Dry-Aged Rib Eye

The Best.

I have a reputation for best-ing everything I instantly love, as in, “this is the best Turkish pide ever” or “Fratelli Fresh is just the best – where else do you get strawberries like this in Sydney?” My enthusiasm for something new, beautiful, different, propels me to annoint it with ‘the best’ tag.  The thing is I’m a bit boy who cried wolf – I’ll label something ‘the best’ after just one bite, one sip, one stroke at the farmers market, and it might turn out to be not so best. That Italian restaurant that starts off with the warm welcome and crispy grissini,  I’ve already declared “the best!” before the flat Prosecco arrives and the starters  come out cold.

So now, friends take my ‘bests’ with a grain of salt.

But just trust me, when I say this piece o’ meat, was the best, the very best, I’ve ever cooked. And I cook really good steak.

So if you trust me, I’ll let you in on a little secret.  If you live in Sydney, Vic’s Meatthe best butcher in Sydney (alongside Hudson Meats), who supplies all the top restaurants – sell their meats at factory prices every second Saturday at their Mascot factory. It’s a carnivore’s heaven, a cool room of meat all laid out, butchers ready to help, at amazing prices. If they don’t have it on display, chances are they’ll get it for you from the back. Case in point: stunning rib eye at $23.99 a kilo.

While I was looking forward to the meat, I was more excited about trying two methods of cooking steak I’d never tried before: searing on the pan then finishing it off in the oven, and the butter basting. You sear it to golden on both sides, then slam into a hot oven for just a few minutes. Back on the hob, you bathe it in butter, garlic, shallots and thyme, then let it rest. Mix the meat juices back in with the butter, and serve. Because my two steaks came in  at 450g/1 pound each, and the Momofuku recipe calls for one 2-2.5 pounder, I adjusted the cooking time to a little less and it came out perfectly medium-rare. I didn’t slice it off the bone as advised, but left the cut whole, undisturbed in all it’s glory. Instead of confit fingerlings we had mash, excellent for soaking up the buttery, garlic-and-thyme-infused juices.

The knife cut through the meat without any hesitation.

The meat tasted like meat should.

I can’t describe it any better than that. Meat tasting like meat should.

We licked our lips with satisfied lip-smacking sounds. And somehow made room for a slice of glorious pear tarte Tatin.

I emailed M to say I plan on cooking him this steak as soon as I see him, because it’s the best. This rib eye is an act of love, and I can’t wait.


Strawberry shortcake

I assume I’m going to make the cereal milk pudding to kick things off, being as besotted with the cereal milk as I am, but realise that I need kitchenware that is still unpacked in the garage. So it’s strawberry shortcakes, which look pretty as a picture. And just so summery.

These were a dream, albeit some slight alterations. I had to bake the shortbread at 180C/355F for 15 minutes as they just weren’t ready at 9-11 minutes at 160C/345F (confirmed when I tried again). I also substituted butter for the shortening. I grew up in Australia, a non-shortening nation. Shortening is something I choose not to understand, like evaporated milk.

Luckily I had a brain freeze and read ‘1 stick of butter’ as 1 stick of Australian butter, ie twice the amount of American butter, so had to double the recipe. And now the freezer is filled with individually-wrapped shortbreads ready to bake when friends come over/the craving hits/self-will caves.

I’d had strawberry shortcake earlier this week at Bronte Road Bistro, where the shortcake was whipped into the cream to make a light-as-air dessert, cushionned with strawberries. I also thought back to Maze Grill’s strawberry Eton mess of the summer, where jammy strawberry gelato towered over meringue and cream until we all hammered into it with our spoons like little kids – and a happy, tastier moment there could not be.

The extra pinch of salt in Christina Tosi’s version is definitely Momofuku – the batter a salty sweet bliss. It’s topped with macerated strawberries (or rhubarb, which I’ll definitely try) and the fluffiest whipped cream – beaten with sour cream and only a little sugar so it doesn’t stick to the roof of your mouth or cloy with sweetness. It’s an easy, delicious dessert that tastes like summer in a bowl.

Roasted sweet summer corn, miso butter, bacon and roasted onions

Fresh corn, dressed in it’s silky husks, is one of my favourite symbols of summer. And this dish is similar to something I threw together in London, when I went through a phase of eating fresh summer corn every day (and then couldn’t look at corn again). It sat well on the table with pork belly ssam, and is delicious hot or cold.

Fry some smokey bacon, then roast the jewel-like corn in a hot pan until it catches here and there, add a dollop of roasted onions, the bacon, miso butter and ramen broth (which I left out as I haven’t made yet). Top with sliced scallions/spring onions which sparkle against the yellow.

Miso butter is as good as Chang says, a big whack of umami goodness. Just beat miso into softened butter, about 1:1, taste as you go. Lick off fingers as you please.

The roasted onions is what I call ‘risotto cooking’ – slow, gentle cooking that’s good for the soul. A kind of meditation. Don’t rush it, let the magic happen. After an hour the earlier mountain of finely-chopped onions – with the tears to prove it – is reduced to a handful of dark golden, slippery shreds. Like the recipe suggests, I can’t wait to try it with eggs or on a roast beef sandwich. It’s a nice thing to make on a Sunday afternoon and keep a batch of in the fridge to inspire a meal during the week.

To start, pork belly ssam

To get the ball rolling I invited the family over for dinner to satiate their interest in my love for Momofuku. There had to be pork, and there had to be summer. To please two kids, a sister who thought I’d drown her in “cabbage”, and mum who has very definite tastes, I decide on:

Pork belly ssam
Mustard seed sauce
Ginger scallion sauce

Sushi rice
Roasted sweet summer corn with miso butter, bacon and roasted onion
Strawberry shortcake

I go to Hudson Meats for the pork belly because this is an awesome butcher – and lucky for me my local. It smells of clean meat when you walk in, and everyone’s super friendly. It’s not cheap, at 40 bucks for 1.5kg, but I know the creamy pink flesh is going to taste like pork should taste.

It’s a quick salt-and-sugar massage for the meat, and then in the fridge for almost a day. The next day the slab is roasted for an hour, then the heat lowered right down for a final half hour. What comes out is the most golden, unctuous pork, with a happy amount of meat jelly and clear fat to store away like treasure. It’s wrapped up and chilled until everyone comes over, when I quickly slice and sear in a hot hot pan.

To go with the pork belly, is a piquant mustard seed sauce of mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, quick salt pickles and pickled mustard seeds. The sugar-and-salt pickles are a breeze to make, and I keep snacking on them throughout the afternoon. I also make pickled radishes, the marinade toning down the incredible pepperiness of local radishes (so different to the gentle bullet-shaped French radishes I came to love in London. Ah, radishes, butter, salt and bread. What a snack). Sadly the mustard seeds, which I pickle in the morning, are too bitter, and I only use 1 Tablespoon out of the 6 in the recipe.

Sushi rice, which I still manage to make more gluggy than fluffy, despite following the instructions to the minute. I’ve never made great rice, so still covet a rice cooker.

I also make the ginger scallion sauce, using beautiful young ginger from Fratelli Fresh, because I love this stuff, and I’m hoping there will be enough left over the next day to slather over hot egg noodles. There isn’t. It’s perfect with the charred meat.

Ginger scallion sauce is the sort of thing to keep in the fridge at all times, especially as it takes five minutes to make. It peps up boiled rice, goes hand-in-hand on meat like pork, beef or duck, especially if the fat on the meat has caught a little and there’s some char action going on, and the aforementionned noodles. I plan on dolloping it over fried eggs.

It’s a hot summer night, we roll up huge lettuce leaves filled with slices of pork belly, rice and sauces. We ooh and aah over the corn. Fresh lychees in our Champagne. Happy days.


I’m a Sydney-sider back in town after two years in London (with a dash of Amsterdam thrown in). I work in the wide world of web. I travel whenever I possibly can. And I eat well, always.

In April 09 I spent a couple of weeks in NY before starting a new job. I’d heard of Momofuku and Chang because my brain is a sponge for all things food related – and my list of restaurants to hit was longer than museums and shops. So I ate at Ssam Bar one day, propped up at the bar with Saveur mag, devouring every last oily strand of the spicy pork sausage with rice cakes, knocking back a cold beer. It was one of those good moments you savour for a long time.

My heart beating with a little flutter, I went next door to Milk Bar and bought R (who I was staying with) and I some cookies – blueberry, corn and compost. Up to this point, and I’m still not, a cookie person. Or really a sweet person. Until these cookies. And only these cookies. It was an epiphany moment. I would get up in the middle of the night and pinch off a little nibble. Like four times a night.

I also got myself a cereal milk soft serve and strolled around the East Village in utter contentment.

When M came to visit me in London in June, he brought a giant box of cookies – a sweeter gift I couldn’t imagine!

Back in NY for a long weekend in September, I took M to Ssam Bar, raving about the spicy porky rice cakes as we walked up. To find it closed for a private function aaargh. (Had some unsatisfactory vareniki at Veselka to cure our hunger).

The cookbook comes out, and I’m back in NY in November after wrapping up London. David Chang and Peter Meehan are doing the book tour and they’re in conversation with Tony Bourdain at B&N. Of course I’m there, saving M a seat. I’m not original in hearting Tony Bourdain, but, cmon. It’s great fun, and of course we have to eat somewhere Momofuku afterwards, so we cab it to Noodle Bar. The iPhone tells us it’s at Ko, and Ko tell us it’s a few doors down. We have kingfish and the pork buns and a bowl of ramen each. The pork buns are rich and I wish I’d just had the ramen, because as is I can’t finish that giant bowl and I want to slurp up every last drop of broth.

Oh and we go to Ma Peche, which I wish they’d gotten right before opening, even if it was a soft launch. The hotel-lobby-on-the-first-floor vibe isn’t right, and my bowl of noodles with pork sausage is flat on flavour.

Why cook the book?

I thought the idea sucked because:

1. It’s too Julie and Julia (Julia and David?) and that makes me squeem.

2. I haven’t food blogged for years, but I knew I wanted to document it beyond my Moleskine. Could I get back into it?

But I decided no, I’m actually going to cook this book.

1. I love the cooking, plain and simple. I want to eat everything in there. This is cooking that excites me. I’m in Sydney. Momofuku is in NY. So I can’t eat it whenever I want. Unless I cook it myself.

2. This is cooking that’s out of my comfort zone. If I wanted a cooking project that was easier, I’d do pasta, since I’m obsessed with pasta.

3. Pork. There’s a lot of pork. It’s not a meat I cook at all, so this is going to teach me a lot about the piglets.

4. They wrote a cookbook. It’s meant to be cooked. They say people cook on average one recipe per cookbook. This resonates about right with me. So let me cook the whole book. Apparently critics say this is not a book for home cooks. I disagree.

5. I haven’t set myself a timeframe – I don’t want to just get through this cookbook, but I’m aiming for a recipe a week.

6. Lemme say again, I love this book. This isn’t my favourite cookbook of all time – The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater would have to take the title – but to me this is a modern day tale of bloody steak, sweat and tears. It’s great reading all round, from the tell-it-like-it-is stories to the method in the recipes, from which I’ve learnt a lot.

I came here for Momofuku recipes. Where are the recipes?

I won’t be posting the recipes. I’m a hypocrite, because I love hunting recipes on the internet, but I respect the work put into the cookbook and I believe if you’re interested in these recipes you should go and buy it. Immediately. From a local bookseller. You will love it beyond measure.

Instead I will describe the process of cooking the recipes, what I loved, what didn’t work. My new favourite thing is to stick post-it’s with notes on the recipe pages – less salt, increase the cooking time, etc.

Hope you enjoy I Heart Momofuku and please comment with reckless abandon.