Like everyone else, we’ve recently been enamored of David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook. It’s not that the book is ridiculously original, or incredibly imaginative. But for someone who has cooked almost no Korean food, the book has provided an opportunity to experiment with another kind of cooking (Kimchi, and Usukuchi haven’t exactly been regulars on the menu here on the houseboat, until recently). But to leave you with the impression that this just is a Korean or Japanese cookbook, would ignore the numerous facets of Chang’s multicultural cooking. This book is filled with reliable recipes as down-home as chicken wings, and shrimp and grits, and as exquisite as pig’s head torchon or shaved foie gras. In a word, the book is inspirational.
One thing that has been fun about the book is the undercurrent of flavors that tend to pop up in various recipes. The following recipe is really just a combination of some of the flavors that pop up more frequently in the book – namely: the kimchi, and the ginger scallion sauce . . . both of which were some of the recipes that were released early on in the promotion of the book and have propagated far and wide over the net. These sauces are wrapped up in Bibb lettuce with juicy, tender steak and served with rice. We’ve substituted flank steak for hanger steak here because that’s what we had in the freezer, but naturally, you could use either. Best of all, everything but the grilling of the steak can be done well in advance, leaving only 20 minutes of work between you and a delicious meal when you get home from work.
The kimchi needs a good week or two to ferment before using, so get started on that way ahead of time. The ginger scallion sauce can be made 1 or 2 days ahead of time, and is fantastic on it’s own mixed with some chinese noodles as a hot or cold lunch.
Flank Steak Ssäm with Kimchi Purée and Ginger Scallion Sauce
adapted from Momofuku
- 2 cups apple juice
- ½ cup usukuchi (light soy sauce)
- ½ yellow onion, thinly sliced
- 5 to 6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
- 1 tsp Asian sesame oil
- 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1½ -2 lbs flank steak (or hanger steak)
- 1 cup Napa cabbage kimchi, puréed
- 1 cup ginger scallion sauce
- 2 cups short-grain rice, cooked
- 2-3 heads Bibb lettuce, leaves separated, washed and spun dry
- good coarse sea salt or Maldon salt
Combine all the marinade ingredients except the steak in a large freezer bag or container and stir well. Add the steak and seal, or cover, and marinate in the refrigerator for about 24 hours.
If you have time, remove the steaks from the marinade about an hour before cooking and let them come to room temperature. If you don’t have time, don’t worry about it. Light a hot fire on your grill or preheat your broiler. Grill or broil the steak for a few minutes on either side, allowing the steak to brown but not overcook. I hesitate to give times here, but depending on the thickness of your steak, the heat of the grill, and the distance between the heat and your steak, it may take between 4 and 8 minutes. I have become fond of putting my steak right up about 1 inch from my electric broiling element. It’s the only way I can get nice charring on the outside without overcooking the inside. Most importantly, keep a close eye on the steak, prod it with your finger to check doneness, or use a thermometer and pull it out of the oven or the grill when it registers no more than 135˚F. Cover the steaks with foil and let them rest for at least 5 minutes. (If you’re someone who routinely ignores the “resting” part of recipes… don’t ignore it this time).
When the sauces are ready, the lettuces is washed and dried, and you are ready to serve, cut the steaks into ¼-inch-thick slices against the grain on a slight bias. Serve the steaks flanked by the accompaniments and rice.
Serves 4 or 5
This recipe is all over the internet at this point. There’s even a slightly humorous video of Chang hurriedly demonstrating his method to a typical morning news host and periodically failing to complete sentences.
makes 1 to 1½ quarts
- 1 small to medium head Napa cabbage, discolored or loose outer leaves discarded
- 2 tablespoons kosher or coarse sea salt
- ½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
- 20 garlic cloves, minced
- 20 slices peeled fresh ginger, minced
- ½ cup kochukaru (Korean chile powder)
- ¼ cup fish sauce
- ¼ cup usukuchi (light soy sauce)
- 2 teaspoons jarred salted shrimp
- ½ cup 1-inch pieces scallions (greens and whites)
- ½ cup julienned carrots
Cut the cabbage lengthwise in half, then cut the halves crosswise into 1 inch wide pieces. Toss the cabbage with the salt and 2 tablespoons of the sugar in a bowl. Let sit overnight in the refrigerator.
Combine the garlic, ginger, kochukaru, fish sauce, soy sauce, shrimp, and remaining ½ cup sugar in a large bowl. If it is very thick, add water ⅓ cup at a time until the brine is just thicker than a creamy salad dressing but no longer a sludge. Stir in the scallions and carrots.
Drain the cabbage and add it to the brine. Cover and refrigerate. Though the kimchi will be tasty after 24 hours, it will be better in a week and at its prime in 2 weeks. It will still be good for another couple weeks after that, though it will grow stronger and funkier.
makes about 3 cups
- 2½ cups thinly sliced scallions (greens and whites; from 1 to 2 large bunches)
- ½ cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
- ¼ cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 1½ teaspoons usukuchi (light soy sauce)
- ¾ teaspoon sherry vinegar
- ¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or more to taste
Mix together the scallions, ginger, oil, soy, vinegar, and salt in a bowl. Taste and check for salt, adding more if needed. Though it’s best after 15 or 20 minutes of sitting, ginger scallion sauce is good from the minute it’s stirred together up to a day or two in the fridge. Use as directed, or apply as needed.