Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes
By Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach
Clarkson Potter, 272 pages, $45
When chef David Chang and writer Peter Meehan's seminal Momofuku cookbook was published in 2009, it quickly became a kimchi-splattered fixture in my kitchen. The highly original and intensely delicious food – an audacious lovechild of Pan Asian and new American cuisines – was like nothing I had experienced before.
Momofuku, however, is a collection of elaborate restaurant recipes that require weekends or a full brigade to pull off. Since becoming a father I haven't opened it once.
Meehan, now a dad himself, felt my pain. As he writes in the introduction to the terrific new Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes, parenthood has made him reconnect "with the beauty, and, more essentially, the necessity of good and easy ways to get dinner on the table."
The book covers China, Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia, and its table of contents reads like a greatest hits from those regions. If the dishes aren't simple to begin with, the editors have surgically stripped them down with a minimal sacrifice of flavour.
One such dish is miso eggplant, a ridiculously easy, five-ingredient masterpiece that roasts slender eggplants until silky soft under an umami-rich paste of miso and mirin. I've started making it weekly.
From dry-fried green beans to a Korean squash pancake, the book is strong on quick, interesting side dishes that, with the aid of a rotisserie chicken, have helped me put dinner on the table before my three-year-old gets bored of playing dollies.
One of my favourite recipes, which I've adapted below, is a Chinese-style pasta Bolognese with sweet onions, juicy pork, fiery chili bean paste and lip-tingling Sichuan peppercorns. Ready in less than an hour, it's Momofuku for dummies. (No, it's not kid-friendly, but you can put aside some plain "noo-noos" before you add the sauce.)
The book's irreverence – "100% inauthentic!" boasts the cover – Meehan's sense of humour and the seventies-inspired design further the book's appeal. To keep the intimidation factor to a minimum, the food is barely styled – so, yes, you can make it look as good as the photo (with an Instagram filter, you can probably do better).
101 Easy Asian Recipes is the first cookbook from Lucky Peach, the culinary quarterly founded by Meehan and Chang. While it won't have the pork-buns-on-every-menu impact of Momofuku, it's a helluva lot more useful.
SICHUAN NOODLES WITH SPICY PORK RAGU
Servings: 4 to 6
3 tbsp vegetable oil, divided
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 lb (500 g) ground pork
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp chili bean sauce (doubanjiang)
1 tbsp Sichuan peppercorns
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1/2 cup chicken stock or water
2 baby bok choy, sliced
Salt to taste
1 1/2 lbs. fresh Chinese wheat noodles
1 tbsp sesame oil
Thinly sliced green onions, to garnish
Heat 2 tablespoons of oil in a large fry pan over medium heat. Add the onions. Cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly golden – about 15 minutes. Transfer to your plate.
Return the pan to the burner. Add the remaining 1 tablspoon of oil. Raise the heat to medium-high. Add the pork. Cook, breaking up the meat with a wooden spoon until cooked through and the moisture has evaporated – 5 to 6 minutes.
Reduce the heat to medium. Push the meat to one side and add the garlic to the rendered pork fat. Cook for 1 minute. Stir in the chili sauce, peppercorns, chili flakes, soy sauce, sugar, stock or water and reserved onions. Cook for 1 minute. Add the bok choy. Cook, stirring until the bok choy is tender – 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt. Keep warm over low heat.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Drain and place in a large serving bowl. Toss with sesame oil. Top with sauce and green onions. Mix before serving.
Adapted from Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes by Peter Meehan and the editors of Lucky Peach