We were going to go to one of the restaurants in David Chang’s Momofuku empire during our honeymoon in New York City. Unfortunately, our only open evening was the night of our arrival and I was too sick to eat at Momofuku. I have subsequently read through the first issue of Chang’s food magazine Lucky Peach and K purchased the Momofuku cookbook and maybe I’m not so sorry we missed the restaurant(s). If Chang’s writing style is anything like his personality, it’s safe to say he’s a manic-depressive, self-hating ego maniac. He obviously cares about food, culinary traditions and turning those traditions on their head. But when that focus turns into obsession, as a reader, it’s WAY over the top. Once we got through the five paragraph introduction to the recipe for Momofuku Noodle Bar’s Shrimp and Grits, it seemed delicious and do-able so this was our chance to do Momofuku in Minnesota.
The recipe calls for quick-cooking grits, we couldn’t find those. So we went with grits from Bob’s Red Mill. Seemed like a reasonable substitution. The recipe also called for some of the homemade Momofuku ramen broth or bacon dashi, we didn’t have an extra day to invest in making the broth before cooking this dish. K had a package of Japanese noodle instant dashi powder so we used that instead. The recipe also called for slow-poached eggs. K despises eggs so we just left those out. All our tinkering done, shrimp and grits weren’t far behind.
For as long-winded as his writing can be, Chang’s recipes can also be very entertaining. “Assuming you have the foresight to do so, combine the water and grits and let the grits soak overnight in the pot you’ll cook them in,” he begins. Many times I do not have the foresight to do stuff like this so calling me out was appreciated. We did soak the grits all day then drained the water.
We will, in fact, be doing this for all grits and polenta moving forward because it speeds up the cooking process and makes the end product rich and creamy. To the soggy grits I added the hot instant dashi broth and “whisked neurotically” for five minutes, as called for. I added a little soy sauce and let the grits bubble and steam until they were thick.
Meanwhile, K was cooking the bacon and de-veining the shrimp. After K broke the bacon into bits and quickly seared the shrimp in a hot pan, I added some butter to the grits and we assembled dinner. The grits were thick and had a nice, rich, salty and mineral taste from the dashi and the soy. They set up a bit too thick on the plate and I wish they’d been creamier, but the taste was delicious. The smoky, salty crunch of the bacon was freshly offset by the slight bite of the scallions and the sweet snap of the shrimp was a welcome pop with each bite. Southern food with Asian undertones. Delicious, familiar, but a little exotic and definitely comfortable. And, with a few shortcuts, pretty easy to make.
Alterations: We used “regular” grits instead of quick-cooking (I think, I don’t really know the difference). We used instant powdered dashi broth instead of making the Momofuku dashi or ramen broth. We ditched the poached eggs.
Soundtrack: Various artists including The Rakes, Crystal Castles and The Drums.
Would we make this again: Yes. Now that we’ve identified short cuts and don’t have to use a full two page recipe to tackle it, shrimp and grits Asian style is easy and yummy.