Momofuku cookbook – fresh oysters and pickled Asian pears

Gong hay fat choy! Happy Chinese New Year! And happy Valentine’s Day to you as well! I’ve got a special treat for you today as a present from me to you, with help from Valerie and Beavie over at A Canadian Foodie. When Valerie found out that I got a copy of the Momofuku cookbook by David Chang and Peter Meehan for Christmas, she had a great idea for us to pick out recipes and do them at the same time in order to compare our experiences.

Momofuku cookbook

Momofuku cookbook

A quick flip through the cookbook told me one thing – David Chang doesn’t do simple recipes. At first glance they may seem simple but this initial impression is deceptive as most of his main recipes comprise of 2+ recipes combined together. Some of them can take days.

I had first choice, and I wanted to start with something simple, so I picked fresh oysters with a pickled Asian pear and black pepper mignonette.

The book has a fairly detailed section on how to choose, clean and open fresh oysters (pages 131-133). I was already familiar with most of these rules, but I thought one rule was a great reminder for myself: smell the oyster before you serve it and see if it smells clean and fresh and sweet – of the sea but not fishy.

I chose some lovely (but small) Malpeque oysters from Prince Edward Island. I gave them a good scrub under cold water, and kept them in the fridge until I was ready to shuck them.

Freshly scrubbed oysters

Freshly scrubbed oysters

Next I pulled out two Asian pears (also known as Ya pears), and gave them a quick wash. I also pulled out my rice wine vinegar, as I’d be needing that soon.

Asian pear and rice wine vinegar

Asian pear and rice wine vinegar

For the pickling liquid (page 66), I mixed 1 cup of piping hot tap water, 1/2 cup rice vinegar, 6 tbsp sugar, and 2 1/4 tsp kosher salt. I stirred everything in a mixing bowl until the sugar and salt dissolved. Then, I peeled and cored the pears (thank goodness I bought a corer a while back). I sliced them up into pieces that were just under 1/4 inch thick and placed them in a container, and then filled the rest of the container with the pickling mixture.

peeled and cored Asian pears

peeled and cored Asian pears

The cookbook notes that the pears should be refridgerated, will be ready to eat after just an hour, and should be eaten the day you prepare them. My pear slices kept floating to the top of the container, so I placed a small plate on top of the pears to keep the fruit submerged, popped on the lid and put the whole thing in the fridge.

Next, I pulled out my tools for the oyster shucking. Yes, I own an oyster knife. Actually, I own two. One is a wooden one that I bought a long, long time ago from Catch in Calgary (one of the chefs made them himself), and the one in the photo below is one that I bought at the Le Gnome closing sale. It was labelled a clam knife but they’re basically the same thing. A thick towel is also a must for protecting your hands and preventing the oyster from moving around.

oyster knife and towel

oyster knife and towel

I scattered a bunch of kosher salt onto a plate in order to anchor my shucked oysters. Once I shucked the oysters (and managed to avoid injury to myself or the oysters in the process), I took out the pickled pears and diced some of them into teeny pieces. And… was left with many, many pieces of pickled Asian pears left over. The oysters I had only really required two, maybe three, slices of pear.

pickled Asian pears and shucked oysters

pickled Asian pears and shucked oysters

Next I spooned some pear onto each oyster, and also added a little bit of the pickling liquid. The cookbook recommends putting an equal amount of liquid and solid so that it looks like a mignonette. Then, you add lots and lots of freshly ground black pepper on top of each oyster, depending on your personal taste. The book says that you should keep adding pepper until you can taste the heat.

And voilà! The finished product.

Momofuku fresh oysters with a pickled Asian pear mignonette

Momofuku fresh oysters with a pickled Asian pear mignonette

So how’d it taste? The pickled Asian pears were relatively mild and gave the oysters a clean, slightly vinegary crunch. The black pepper, on the other hand, probably overwhelmed the oysters. The taste was actually a nice change from the traditional Tabasco and lemon topping, but I think next time I would either cut down on the amount of black pepper or use larger oysters as the ones I used may have been too delicate for this kind of garnish.

Valerie’s entry can be found over on this web page, so please do pop over to her blog and have a look at how her oysters turned out!

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5 thoughts on “Momofuku cookbook – fresh oysters and pickled Asian pears

  1. What a great idea! I am so glad to read what you wrote… as you included all of the important things that I didn’t include. You will see that there isn’t any pepper in my shots as Vanja really doesn’t like black pepper. I should have photographed the one I ate, but forgot to. They are so pretty, and simple with the black pepper… and I did enjoy the heat. But,as you saw – prefer them plain… yet, love going back and forth. 🙂
    The oysters you chose are also more delicate in flavour, I think… I preferred them! 🙂 Which are your favourite. It sounds like you have a lot more oyster eating experience than I do!
    And, Lastly, did you chop your pear after pickling it? I am sure it would last longer the way you did it.
    Thanks so much for this. I used the cookbook, will use it again, and Gong hay fat choy!
    XO
    Valerie

    • I like the big ones too – more meat. I think it depends on what you want to use them for. The big ones are definitely better if you’re using them to cook dishes, but I’ve eaten them raw as well. The Malpeques are definitely more delicate tasting and are best eaten raw in my opinion.

      I only sliced the pear in big slices, and diced them after the pickle. These pears are delicate too, and I can see how they may break apart from sitting in the pickle for too long.

      Can’t wait to try the next recipe!

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