7.15.11 Peach Buzz
Speaking of noodles, have you gotten your hands on David Chang's new magazine, published in collaboration with McSweeney's? The first issue is thick and jam-packed with everything you ever wanted to know (and more) about ramen—the dish with which Chang first took the food world by storm—and some other things, like Chang's travels in Japan, how to make his bacon-dashi broth, and a few interesting ways to cook eggs. This quarterly publication is available on newsstands, or you can subscribe here, and a companion app will also be available, although it's still in the works. If you're not already a fan of Chang, this might convert you, or it could send you running screaming in the opposite direction. There's definitely a macho-badass-hipster-cognoscenti vibe you can't escape, but if you can embrace that shit in all its fucking awesomeness (are you feeling it?), there's an assload of fascinating information in Lucky Peach. Which is, incidentally, what Momofuku means in Japanese.
Not surprisingly, the editors wrangled many greats of the food world to contribute to this magazine, including nerd-rockstar scientist Harold McGee who demystifies alkalinity in general and in relation to ramen noodles (it's all about baking soda), and debunks the myth that MSG in Chinese food causes weird symptoms; Juan Mari Arzak, the legend of Basque cuisine, whom Chang refers to as his "Spanish uncle, godfather, and drinking buddy all in one," of course, and whose recipe for an egg poached in a pouch of saran wrap actually seems doable; Ruth Reichl who investigates the world of instant ramen; and Anthony Bourdain and Wylie Dufresne who, along with Chang, engage in some predictably irreverent, over-the-top posturing on a wealth of interesting subjects. My favorite part of this last piece—essentially a transcript of a conversation the three chefs had over some beers—was Dufresne taking apart the latest craze for "ingredient-driven" and "farm-to-table" restaurant food. He exposes it for the meaningless tripe it truly is.
Other highlights include Peter Meehan's account of his ramen-eating odyssey with Chang that doesn't shy away from documenting Chang's gross overeating and subsequent bouts of vomiting. The word "fuck" is generously peppered throughout, as are many blowhard pronouncements and a fair amount of endearing self-deprecation on everyone's part.
In true McSweeney's style, the design shines. The issue is extremely visually engaging and full of great illustrations. There are some long-form pieces that require commitment. And more than a few irritating grammatical errors (disguised as hipster-speak): the fucking past tense of stink is stank, not stunk; and it's habanero, not habañero. In the end, I'm not sure I'm ever going to be making my own ramen—mostly because of the whole gluten thing in this house—but I will definitely be poaching some eggs Arzak-style, whipping up the 4-part carrot dashi, and heading over to WD-50 again to see what Wylie's up to.
In the contributors credits, Chang is listed as a "chef" (quotes are theirs). I suppose this means that he is so much more. Either that, or it's just not cool to call yourself a chef these days. Whatever. His genre-busting food, bursting with fat and bold flavors, is pretty fucking genius. And so is Lucky Peach.