MICHELE NORRIS, host:
The wonder chef David Chang is crazy for noodles. Ardent, obsessive, devoted, fanatical - all the adjectives apply. Noodles are the centerpiece at his signature restaurant, New York City's Momofuku Noodle Bar. And when it comes to noodles, Chang is more than a chef. He's part historian, part anthropologist and part evangelist. And that's the big part; he's developed a devoted following. It's not unusual for lines to form out the door at all hours of the day at Momofuku, his minimalist noodle shop.
"Momofuku" is the name of Chang's new cookbook also. It's written along with Peter Meehan. And it explains not just how to cook the food at his famous restaurants, but how he developed that obsession with noodles. And David Chang joins us now. Welcome to the program.
Mr. DAVID CHANG (Owner, Momofuku Noodle Bar; Author, "Momofuku"): Thank you for having me.
NORRIS: Now, your signature dish at Momofuku Noodle Bar is ramen. For people who think of ramen as the hard little packs that come four for a dollar with the little foil flavor pack, that's not what you're talking about necessarily. When you talk about ramen, help us understand what you're thinking about, what you're talking about, what you're serving up at Momofuku.
Mr. CHANG: Well, that was actually, you know, my first introduction to ramen is the same thing, an instant ramen, cup of noodles - or there's a brand in Japanese called Ichiban, and Korean, it's called Shin Ramyun, and these are all instant ramens.
Contemporary ramen is totally different than what most Americans think ramen should be, and there's a variety of types. And when I lived in Japan, in Izumi-Tottori, I was introduced to the cult of ramen. I was sort of floored because people would queue up for two to three hours. And contemporary ramen right now is like, called wahu ramen(ph). It has a lot of dried fish and pork and chicken. You know, ramen's not one thing. There's many, many different types.
NORRIS: You have an interesting equation: Ramen equals broth plus noodles plus meat plus toppings and garnishes.
Mr. CHANG: That's it. That's simply it. And I think that's why people love it so much. You know, when they created instant ramen, I think it was just a smash because it was so accessible, and who doesn't like hot broth and noodles?
NORRIS: Now, you have a recipe in the book for ramen broth, which is quite a bit removed from those little flavor packets that you often use to flavor ramen. This is a long and arduous process. It starts with kombu, which is the dried kelp. It also includes four pounds of chicken, either whole bird or legs, five pounds meaty pork bones, one pound smoky bacon - best quality you can get your hands on - scallions, onions, carrots, a little bit of - you could use kosher salt, I guess, or soy sauce, you say, or mirin.
This takes hours to do this. I mean, you have to let the pork bones, for instance, simmer for six to seven hours just, you know, at that step, which is step six. There are a few steps beyond that. Help us understand why it's worth it to put this much time and love into that special broth.
Mr. CHANG: It's worth it. But to me, it doesn't seem like it's that much. Granted, it seems like a lot of ingredients, but you're making a tasty soup with different layers of flavor. And all you need is a big pot and just throw a bunch of ingredients in, and just let it simmer. As you're cooking it, remove some of the ingredients as you go along.
NORRIS: And then strain it.
Mr. CHANG: And strain it.
NORRIS: I want to ask you about the ginger scallion sauce.
Mr. CHANG: Sure.
NORRIS: In part because it sounds like it's something that's - for someone who's busy, juggling a lot of things, looks like it's pretty easy to do. And there's a picture that accompanies the recipe that just looks so delicious.
(Soundbite of laughter)
NORRIS: And it looks like the way that one should eat ramen, bent over the bowl.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. CHANG: Well, it is an amazing sauce that we use at our restaurants. I would say it's almost omnipresent. You take ginger; you finely mince it. You take some scallions; you chop them up - probably a cup of scallions - a tablespoon of ginger, quarter cup of grapeseed oil or some type of neutral oil, salt, maybe some soy sauce. Mix it up, you're ready to go.
NORRIS: That's it.
Mr. CHANG: That's it. And what's great about it is that it's a cold sauce; it's not cooked. So when you add it to hot ingredients, the heat brings out the aroma of the ginger and the scallions, and it just smells great to me.
NORRIS: And just a squirt of this maybe on pork roast or...
Mr. CHANG: Yeah, it's not really squirtable. It's more like - it's more chunky, like a salsa or something.
NORRIS: Hmm, OK, all right. And again, that keeps for how long?
Mr. CHANG: Hopefully, it won't stay that long in your fridge because you'll be using it so much.
(Soundbite of laughter)
Mr. CHANG: But cover it tightly. And if it's in the - if it's covered in oil, it should - a couple weeks, tops.
NORRIS: That's New York chef David Chang, owner of the noodle restaurant Momofuku. The restaurant is named for the creator of instant ramen noodles, Momofuku Ando. David Chang will be back tomorrow to talk about his accidental specialty: pork buns. But before we leave the subject of noodles, we want to hear your ramen noodle stories.
Was there a period of time when that was all you ate? How do you dress up your ramen noodles? Do you skip the foil packet and use your own broth? Who among you uses ramen noodles in their hard, crunchy, uncooked state? Well, tell us all about it. Go to npr.org, click on Contact Us, and make sure to put ramen in the subject line.
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