Pork belly buns

3 Dishes, 3 Observations

Photo by Lou Stejskal. Used under Creative Commons license.

Oxtail Stew

The world is unfair. Mean people can be successful. Nice people get stricken with terminal diseases. Karma does not exist.

Except, perhaps, with cuts of meat. Most meats fall under a continuum with flavor on one side and price/ease of cooking on the other. Take, for example, the filet mignon, which is expensive and takes only a few minutes to sear. That steak is tender and tasty, but it is a little bland and forgettable.

On the other side of the spectrum, you have cuts like brisket, chuck, and oxtail. The other day I made oxtail stew. The dish took an entire day of cooking, but the end result was amazing, far better than anything I could have made with generic stew meat.

French cooking is impressive, but it will never have the warmth that southern cuisine does. The food culture of the southern US was created by the poor (and often enslaved). They could not afford the nicest cuts of food, but with a little effort and time, they were able to create dishes comparable to anything that can come out of the best French or Italian kitchen. When it comes to food, the world is fair.

Nashville Hot Chicken

I have been hearing about Nashville hot chicken for years now. Crunchy chicken is smothered in lard and cayenne pepper. I had to try it, but a trip to Nashville was not going to be possible any time soon. I grew dejected at missing out.

And then it occurred to me, why not just make it yourself? The chefs in Nashville who make fried chicken have way more experience and knowledge than me, but that does not mean I cannot make something close to hot chicken.

The most difficult part of learning to program for me was realizing that anything is possible. Once you have the basic syntax of the language down, you just need the confidence to go out and build your projects. The same concept is true in the kitchen as well.

So I fried some chicken and dunked it in cayenne-infused fat. The final product was great. Geographic location is important, and there are some ingredients that may only be available in a certain region. Most of the time though, you just need to get to work at the cutting board and stovetop to get the job done. Do not let people (including yourself) tell you what you can and cannot make.

Pork Belly Buns

I am going to New York City in the next few months. I am super excited about this vacation since I have never been to the Big Apple1)You can tell I am a NYC virgin because I still call it the Big Apple.. There are plenty of sites I want to visit (e.g. Times Square, the Statue of Liberty, the 9/11 Memorial), but the place I am most excited to visit is Momofuku Noodle Bar.

I have never gotten to eat at any David Chang restaurant, but I am a huge fan of his work. However for years now, I have been making what is arguably his signature dish: pork belly buns. They are a heavenly mixture of steamed bread, pork belly, and hoisin sauce. Making them at home takes a little bit of work especially when you have to make the dough yourself, but the result is worth it. I will spend days eating them until I run out of pork belly and dough.

It is a dish I am proud of that I love to serve to my friends. But I know in comparison to the actual product at Momofuku, mine are probably trash. And I am excited to have that confirmed.

Getting your ass handed to you sucks sometimes. But other times, it is a powerful reminder of how far you have to go. If you are not losing from time to time, you are not getting any better. And so I am excited to see how much better the authentic Momofuku pork belly buns are than my own. The most exciting part of my New York trip is going to be seeing how bad of a cook I am.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. You can tell I am a NYC virgin because I still call it the Big Apple.

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