New York: Momofuku vs Ippudo – pork buns and ramen galore!

Time truly flies. I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 months since I was in New York, and almost three weeks since I last blogged! Before it becomes five months since my trip, I figured that I should probably get a move on and post the remaining New York posts I had planned…

I’d heard a lot about the famous Momofuku pork buns, way before I’d even planned my trip to New York. It was just one of those things that many bloggers have attempted to make at home… which obviously meant it was something I absolutely HAD to try when I visited New York.

And you know what, I completely understand the hype. These little babies were totally worth the 45 minutes we waited to get a table at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Tender melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and cucumber slices, sandwiched in between a soft, fluffy steamed bun = utter deliciousness. We ordered two each, and the only thing stopping us from ordering any more of these were the fact that we had already ordered a bowl of ramen each…

And because we simply could not stop thinking about them, we made it a point to have some on our last day in New York. This time though, we had them at the Momofuku Milk Bar (no seats, just tables and standing areas), as I wasn’t really in the mood to queue to get seats at the Noodle Bar. For some reason, the pork belly slices served at the Milk Bar looked different from the ones in the Noodle Bar (I think the ones in the Noodle Bar had a thicker glaze) – they still tasted the same though. Fat-laden? = yes. Worth the calories? = Totally.

This was one of the specials, I forgot to take take a photo of the specials board so can’t exactly remember what this was. From memory, I think this was a duck ramen dish. Whilst the broth itself was a little too salty, the buckwheat noodles were just the right consistency – springy with a slight bite to it.

Momofuku ramen – pork belly, pork shoulder and poached egg. This was good (I’m a total pork fan, as you will probably guess by the end of this post), but again I felt the broth was too salty.

All in all – I wasn’t bowled over by the ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar. Nevertheless, I would still recommend trying it as their pork buns are simply amazing.

The next day, it was time to try Ippudo which was another place I had heard many good things about. We met Ken (Hungry Rabbit) there for an early lunch, as Ken had warned us that the queues would get manic later on in the day. Truth be told though, queuing is not all that bad if you’ve got good company.. As long as you’re not starving or hangry, that is.

It was great to finally meet Ken though, who even took the time to show us around East Village after we finished our lunch. He also brought me to Broadway Panhandler where I errr… let’s say I bought a few things there. 😉 Thanks, Ken!

We started off with Shishito (fried Japanese peppers, served with a yuzu salt). I’ve been a fan of these peppers since I tried them in Barcelona a couple of years ago, and order them everytime I see them on the menu. Fried peppers are what they are – but dipping them in the yuzu salt made them something a little more special. Definitely a good alternative to edamame.

Ippudo’s Hirata pork buns were next – at first glance, these looked slightly ‘mean’ as there appeared to be a lot less pork in them compared to their counterparts at Momofuku. Whilst these were good, they just weren’t as good as the Momofuku ones – although the buns are served with a spicy sauce, I felt that the sauce bordered on sweet rather than spicy. The fact there appeared to be more bun than pork was also a little disappointing.

Shiromaru Chasu – The original “Tonkotsu” noodle soup topped with pork loin chashu, kikurage, menma, red pickled ginger, sesame, and scallions. Whilst their pork buns were underwhelming, their ramen was excellent. The broth was very good indeed, and had just the perfect balance of flavours. Definitely a winner.

Akamaru Modern – The original “Tonkotsu” noodle soup topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, kikurage, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. I thought this tasted better than the Shiromaru Chasu, I suspect this was because there was a scattering of garlic oil in this.

Mentaiko (spicy cod roe) over rice – one of the small dishes that came with the ramen lunch set.

Spicy fried chicken over rice – another one of the dishes that was part of the lunch set. I preferred this to the mentaiko version, I suspect it’s something to do with the fact that the chicken is deep fried…

So… in the end, which did I think was better?

Momofuku Noodle Bar
The good: Amazing pork buns. Order two for yourself and don’t share.
The not-so-good: The ramen broth was too salty! And the queues – they have a no reservation policy.

Ipuddo
The good: Delicious ramen, with flavoursome broth. Great ambiance and more spacious compared to the Noodle Bar.
The not-so-good: Pork buns were slightly ‘meh’. And again, the queues. Definitely not a fan of these no reservation policies, sigh.

There were definitely good things about each – but if I could only visit one, I’d choose Momofuku, as the pork buns are just too good to miss out on.

Momofuku Noodle Bar
171 1st Avenue (between 10th and 11th Street)
New York, NY 10003
http://www.momofuku.com/restaurants/noodle-bar/

Ippudo
65 Fourth Avenue (Between 9th and 10th Street)
New York, NY 10003
Phone: 212-388-0088
http://www.ippudony.com/

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Beef and broccoli noodles

I was one of those children who hated vegetables. I still remember how I would only eat a very small group of vegetables: beans, beansprouts, carrots and cauliflower. No leafy greens ever made it onto my plate. Surprisingly, my mum would never force me to eat them – she would offer them to me, and if I said no, that was it. Turns out my mum hated vegetables when she was a child, but then grew up to love them… and she figured that I would be the same. And how right she was!

From being a terrible child who only ate a very limited amount of vegetables, I have turned into someone who loves them. I happily eat almost any vegetable now (with the exception of okra which I simply can’t like), which I sometimes find hard to believe. Funny how things pan out, really. Thinking back, I’m very glad I was never “forced” to eat my portion of veg when growing up, as I suspect it would have made me hate them forever. (Please note that this does not mean I advocate not eating your greens when you’re young though!)

But why am I telling you this seemingly unrelated story of my childhood? Well, because of this dish. Beef and broccoli noodles to be exact. Broccoli was one of the major “no no’s” in the younger me, but is now something I eat on a regular basis. When cooked well, broccoli tastes absolutely amazing. But overcook it and you end up with a pile of green mush that no vege lover in the world would want to eat.

I tend to cook my broccoli the “Heston” way – see this article for more details. The broccoli is cooked in minimal amounts of hot smoking oil, and then covered with a pot cover to allow steam to build up and cook it all the way through. I like his method because it not only tastes a lot nicer, but also means you retain the nutrients within the broccoli (which you lose via boiling).

This beef and broccoli noodle dish is inspired by this recipe from Steamy Kitchen. Sometimes you see a photo of a dish, and you immediately know you *must* try it because you know it will be amazingly delicious. The first time I saw the photo for this dish on Jaden’s blog: that was one of these moments. And I was right, because this is so so good.  On another note, I challenge you to look at Jaden’s photos of this dish and NOT want to lick your screen. I assure you it is quite impossible. My photos look so amateurish compared to hers! Oh well.

I didn’t follow the exact recipe because, well – that’s me. Instead of using stock in the sauce making process, I add extra oyster sauce/rice wine/soy sauce to make up for it. I also use lots of black pepper because I enjoy the extra kick it provides.

Beef and broccoli noodles
Adapted from this recipe on Steamy Kitchen (original recipe from Noodles Every Day)

  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 5 tablespoons oyster sauce
  • 5 tablespoons Shaoxing rice wine
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 500g frying steak/beef sirloin (cut into 3cm x 5cm pieces)*
  • 600g fresh noodles (I used 2 x 300g packets)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 400g tenderstem broccoli
  • Freshly ground black pepper

1. Combine 1 tablespoon each of soy sauce, oyster sauce and rice wine in a medium bowl. Add the sugar and mix until completely dissolved. Add the sesame oil and beef, and mix well. Marinate for 20 minutes. Drain and discard the excess marinade.

2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the noodles until 1 minute shy of being done, and drain.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon of the vegetable oil in a pan or wok over high heat, and stir-fry the garlic until fragrant, about 15 seconds.

4. Add the beef to the pan and stir-fry until tender, 3-4 minutes. Remove onto a plate and set aside.

5. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil, and stir fry the tenderstem broccoli for 2 minutes. (You’re aiming for half cooked broccoli at this point)

6. Add the remaining soy sauce, oyster sauce and rice wine to the pan.

7. Add the noodles, and stir to ensure the noodles are coated with the sauce. Cook for 1-2 minutes until most of liquid is absorbed.

8. Return the beef to the pan, mix with the noodles and broccoli.

9. Season with freshly ground black pepper (to taste), and serve.

* you can cut them into smaller pieces (1cm x 3cm), but remember to reduce the cooking time accordingly