The Girl Who Ate Everything

Blogging about food and whatever since 2004.

Death by Momofuku

"I don't know how much meat I can eat."

I said those words not actually being unaware of how much meat I could fit into my belly—the meat in question being the bo ssam at Momofuku Ssam Bar—but with the assumption that the amount I could comfortably digest would be pathetically meager. What ended up happening was that my stomach miraculously grew by about five times to accomodate more tender pork butt than any human my size should eat in one sitting. Of course, my stomach didn't physically grow, so what happened? Did the essence of swine seep into my veins and do some magical stomach-expanding juju on my belly? It certainly infused my viscera, the results of which probably aren't going to lengthen my life. Overall, I really don't know what happened. It was mildly frightening.

Humans! Oh dear god!

But before the eight of us—Connie, Don (the main organizer of the night that we must bow down to), Doug, Eunice, Gerald, Janet, Megan, and me—could dig into a mountain of pork bathing in fat, covered in fat and infused with a combination of sixteen spices fat, we had a few appetizer-esque plates to get through. And by "a few" I mean "eight". I'm not sure the idea of moderation ever came into play during our dinner.

uni with whipped tofu and tapioca
used to live in the sea, not in a bowl

Then again, maybe it wasn't that excessive considering that between eight people, each person would get a bite or two of the starting dishes. Uni with whipped tofu and tapioca was one of the first. I stopped after one spoonful. Uni doesn't hate me, but it doesn't care much for me either. Its opinion of me would be something like, "Rob-wuh? Whatevs." Which is probably the same opinion many humans also hold of me. Well...uni, you can suck it! I don't know what "it" is, but I'll say it's something sea urchins are not fond of. Like my fist.

Actually, I have nothing against uni; I'm just filling up this space with nonsensical crap because I have failed to recall what the hell this dish tasted like, which does not fare well in a food blog. The textural qualities were more memorable to me than the flavors. Like that whipped tofu? It had the texture of a light pudding but it tasted like...tofu. Kind of like a vegan-friendly tofu-based dessert pudding, except it was just tofu, which I don't think would be a popular pudding flavor. I really don't remember anything about the uni besides that it was soft. Let's move on before I embarrass myself any further.


Next up was an assortment of pickles. It's like winning the lottery of brined vegetables! Also known as "the lottery that no one enters"! But I've never had so many pickled foodstuffs before—brussels sprouts, cauliflower, Asian pear, cabbage, baby carrot thingers, what may have been turnip, and so much more, mainly in the form of "things that are crunchy". Not that I have other plates of assorted pickled matter to compare this one to, but this must be one of the best plates of assorted pickled matter you can get. And it might be one of the few vegetarian-friendly things on the menu. Not that a vegetarian would go to Momofuku...[tosses head back, chuckles]...oh, what a silly idea. Like the curvature of the earth!

roasted brussels sprouts
whoa, more vegetables!

I have no idea how brussels sprouts earned that mythical bad rep when they're just cute, spherical lil' cabbage-like buggers. If they had cheeks, I'd want to poke em. Are there people who truly hate these guys? They mean you no harm. They just want to live in peace among the human race. Like squirrels. LET THEM LIVE, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD (brussels sprouts, not squirrels so much). Especially in the form of Momofuku's roasted variety, which is flavored with mint, chili, and fish sauce, or something like that. (This is what happens when you don't take notes, kiddies. I'm relying on the massively minute power of my memory to pull this off.) Even after all the brussels sprouts are gone, you'll still want to lick the bowl clean and scoop up all the roasted detritus, which is kind of what Janet ended up doing because she was held up by this silly thing called "work" and arrived to dinner later than expected after most of the brussels spouts matter was consumed. Tasty, tasty detritus!

cured hamachi
this fish died for our sins

Here's some raw fish. It's name is hamachi. It tastes like...raw fish. You may have noticed that the raw fish action on my blog is very low, nearly negative. Like uni, raw fish doesn't think much of me. Welllll, two can play that game. Heck, more than two. TEN THOUSAND. But I will stop at two. I don't dislike raw fish; I just don't appreciate it enough to write anything about it that would be of any use to anyone. But at least I took a photo of it.

bahn mi
ooo, I love sandwiches

We split three orders of bahn mi between the eight of us. I exercised some kind of restraint by only eating half of a half of one plate. That was one awesome half-half of crusty Sullivan Street Bakery bread stuffed with ham, veal head cheese and chicken liver pate, along with all the other typical bahn mi fillings that don't fit into the meat category. It bursts with the juicy flavors of multiple kinds of meat matter at different levels of mushiness. It's really, really good.

mushroom salad

The mushroom salad was about the size of my fist, so I only tried a wee little bit. Like one mushroom. I forget what the sauce was. I'm not joking when I say my memory is on par with that of a fish. NEXT DISH.

ham n stuff
ham and stuff

Here's some ham with bread and mustard sauce. What kind of ham? The kind borne forth from pigs. I don't know the specifics, nor am I in possession of the knowledge that would make me a ham connoisseur. But I'm sure it was good ham because I ate it all without thinking, "I don't like ham." Instead, I thought, "Mm...tastes like ham." It was soft and required little chewing. Chewing is overrated.

chawanmushi of death

Momofuku's version of chawanmushi, a savoury Japanese egg custard dish, piles shaven black truffle on the light, smooth-as-a-baby's-butt custard devoid of any imperfections and throws in some chopped edamame and braised snails at the borrom for fun. Hell yeah, why not? I wouldn't want a lifetime supply of it, but I liked it.

bo ssam
chunk o meat

And then came what we had all been waiting for in slight fear of the impact it would make on our bellies and fat body percentages: CHUNK-O-BUTT, also known as the star of bo ssam, also known as "the thing you have to gather at least eight people for and warn Momofuku in advance that you want". This meat means business. We just stared at the black hole (or glistening, gold brown hole) for a while as a photographer from the New York Times snapped some photos for their upcoming article, "How eight youthful, somewhat healthy foodies nearly died last Thursday night of stomach explosion." (Actually, I have no idea what the photos are for, but hopefully we'll find out soon.)

meat time
the money shot

Don initiated the tearing of the meat by ripping out a chunk with one of the four pairs of tongs. The muscle effortlessly came apart from the mother chunk. Our eyes widened with a mixture of horror, delight and gluttony at the sight of fat dripping from the jello-like pig flab just underneath the top-most layer of skin. Oh dear lord.

like meat pasta
noodles of meat

Pulling apart the meat made me feel like I was eating the pork version of Polly-O String Cheese, except this was the real deal, not some bastardized, convenience food version of something better. (By the way, I used to love string cheese when I was little. IT MADE EATING CHEESE FUN!) Each tender muscle fiber stayed attached to its neighbor until poked with chopsticks, at which point it would quickly declare its independence from its meaty brothers and do whatever you wanted it to do. Which would probably involve being lightly masticated (it requires little chewing) and drowning in a pool of your stomach acids.

oysters dipping sauce rice
the whole shebang

Aside from the meat, the bo ssam package comes with eight raw oysters, as much (bibb?) lettuce as you can eat, three dipping sauces (kimchi, pureed kimchi and ginger scallion), a dish of maldon sea salt and rice. The idea is that the combination of all the above ingredients will result in the most deliciousness you will ever experience involving lettuce. Not being crazy for oysters (but not disliking them either), I only made one lettuce wrap that combined the tastes of succulent fatty pork bits with briny, flubby mollusk. (When I say "flubby" I don't mean the slang term that I didn't even know existed, but the word I made up because I couldn't think of right term to describe an oyster's soft, slippery texture. So. You get "flubby.")

I think most of us preferred it sans-mollusk. My favorite combination was pork, rice and ginger scallion sauce rolled up in lettuce, although as the night wore on I ended up just eating un-dipped pork with a chunk of short grained rice (that's the rice-hungry Chinese in me, isn't it?) and sometimes just pork. It's what my heart longs for, apparently. Aside from loving companionship. But for now, the pork will have to do.


We kept going. And going. Or was that just me? I ate a disturbing amount of the pork. When other people's chopsticks stopped moving, I was tearing into another meat chunk. "Hey you guys, why'd you stop?" I'd question in between muffled mouthfuls. Although I did get to the point where I couldn't sit up straight because some of my organs had been replaced by pork, my bo ssam-eating stamina was much stronger than I or anyone else could've predicted. The meat was just too easy to eat. Yes, too easy. Unadorned it didn't have an overpowering flavor (only the skin was salted), but since it was just so goddamn delicious and tender and full of pig-ness, you could (and would want to) keep eating and eating without feeling uncomfortably nauseous (not that there is a comfortable state of nausea...I think). The most flavorful bits were the ones at the bottom of the plate that had been soaking in their own fatty meat juices. Meat spong + meat juice = [stream of drool drips from mouth Homer Simpson style]

Like The Little Engine That Could, I told myself that I could climb over the mountain (of meat) if I just BELIEVED IN MYSELF and maybe took some mind altering substances (don't worry, I'm clean!). I got up most of the mountain without regretting it. After we decided that we could eat no more (the remains are now safely tucked away in Don's and Gerald's apartments, or in their bellies) the severity of the meal hit whatever part of my brain it is that isn't a moron, causing me to hug my meat-filled torso while thinking, "Oh my god, get it out of me GET IT OUT uguhg ughgh jesus what did I do?"

mochi ice cream

Of course, after waiting a while and letting the ol' digested matter settle, you miraculously have enough room for dessert. Then again, each of us only ate the equivalent of one piece of ice cream-filled mochi, which is like adding a grain of sand to a beach. Out of all the flavors—pistachio, guava, coconut-sweet potato and chocolate mint—my favorite was pistachio. I'm afraid I'm not very into the ice cream + mochi combination. Not that it's bad, just that I prefer mochi (filled with red bean paste) or ice cream/gelato on its own. ...In a bucket. With whipped cream. I can't be the only one.

where all the food went

Just to shake things up a bit with non-food photos (and that woosh you just heard was the sound of 50% of my readers leaving my website), here's our table of happy diners eating dessert and apparently flushing out their systems with lots and lots of H20.

nut butter!

Before we disbanded, Doug surprised us all with his secret stash of Trader Joe's Sunflower Seed Butter. This probably confused everyone but me since I keep close tabs on the low activity state of my forum's discussions. I slathered the surprisingly liquidy butter on some homemade bread today (which came out so-so, which I will talk about later); it is sooo good. Partially because of the added cane sugar and salt, but I'm sure the nuts had something to do with it as well. Thanks for making us into sunflower seed butter addicts, Doug!

The awesomness of dinner at Momofuku Ssam Bar naturally had a lot to do with the food, but also relied on hanging out with a bunch of awesome people. Even though I hadn't met half of them beforehand, I knew we'd all get along (yes, I can sense these things through the Internet, which might be why I haven't been murdered yet) and have a comfortable, enjoyable dinner. Or at least we'd all bond over out meat comas. Hell, we got both! The friendly, attentive service also played a part (the waiters would tell us the components of each dish as they brought them out after which I would immediately forget what was said because I was too distracted by the food) along with the mercy that was given to us when the bill came. And by "mercy" I mean not everything we ate was accounted for. Of course, all $180 of the bo ssam was there. We paid about $50 plus drinks per person, which in my case was the most expensive meal I've had in NYC since...possibly ever. (I've spent more money on a night of eating at least once, just not in one location.)

Of course, it was worth the splurge. I'm pretty sure I will never have the chance to eat the bo ssam again due to the cost and that thinking about it makes me a bit nauseous (I assume that the feeling will eventually pass), but I would love to attack another restaurant with the same group of people again. If you get the chance to eat it, you must take it. It doesn't even matter if you're a vegetarian; suck it up. (Just kidding! ...Kinda.) I'm pretty sure that Thursday night wins the prize for "most meat eaten in my lifetime", which isn't something I was exactly striving for. It just happened. I couldn't stop eating the meat, you know. My brain wouldn't let me.

I understand Alaina's "I'm momofukin full" t-shirt better now. It should come in XXXL.

Update (2/22/07): Check out Gerald's review, Megan's recap, and Bruni's 2 star review.

random notes

If you want an update on my previous post, I have so far gotten no responses from people in London! Crap. I must have overestimated the reach of this blog. On the other hand, I got two responses from people who live outside of London in semi-major cities. London: 0, outside London: 2!

Address! That's singular!

Momofuku Ssam Bar
207 2nd Ave


Tina / February 18, 2007 12:00 AM

OMG! That's a lot of pork! As much as I love pork and its fat (to a certain extent) this was a bit overkill but it still looks yummy. I also need to walk or run a good 4 miles at least to burn off some of that bo ssam.

It kind of sucks they don't serve the banh mi for lunch, only ssams. Arrgh!

Jeanne / February 18, 2007 2:35 AM

OMG. As soon as I saw that I began trying to count the people I know in New York in the hope that we could get a group together. Alas, I fear it is not meant to be. POOOOOOORRRRRRKKKKKKKKK. I had pancetta, bacon, sausage, & three kinds of cheese as components of my dinner tonight, so I was feeling full and coma-like. UNTIL I SAW THAT CHUNK O PORK. Now I filled with feverish ssam...

Kathy / February 18, 2007 2:48 AM

Whaaaa, Robyn, you are incredible! I've read up on various Bo Ssam's reviews, but you're the first person I've acutally known who's done it. You deserive, like a massive award for this! God, I love pork. I love it even more than braised beef! And that I love a lot! :) And the variety of dishes you had...those truffles! My mouth is still gaping in awe, hehe.

We were raised on mochi ice cream in hawaii! There's ice cream shop back home that specialize in a making like a million flavor combs of mochi ice cream...but they didn't look nearly as elegant as the ones you had! I'm glad you found a group of 8 foodies for the experience, must have been an incredible night! :)

Edyta / February 18, 2007 7:25 AM

That sounds like a great night. The meat, cool people, the meat..
Sorry to hear that you've got zero responses from Londoners, let me be the third outside London, outside Uk :D but still in EU haha.. if you (or your friends) ever be in the north of Poland (hmm, maybe by mistake?) let me know! :D

roboppy / February 18, 2007 7:51 PM

Tina: It's overkill, but you won't care when you're eating it. You'll just be the meat...

4 miles?! Uhoh. Well, I think I walked 3 miles the next day, but walking isn't really on par with running. I doubt I broke a sweat in the below-freezing weather. :\

Jeanne: Whoa whoa your dinner was really porked. :O Sounds like BO SSAM is just the thing you need! Hehe. There should be some kind of Momofuku message board so that random people can arrange to get together just for the bo ssam.

Kathy: If the massive award is liposuction, then GIMME!

Oo, I had no idea mochi ice cream was THE thing in Hawaii! Aw man I wanna go to Hawaii. :[ With its million different flavors of mochi ice cream, among other things.

Edyta: You forgot to mention the meat! ;)

Oo, I will let you know if Tristan ends up in northern Poland. Ye neeever knooow, he could have one too many drinks and get on the wrong train...or

Gerald: I'm not a big meat eater when it comes to plebeian meat. BWAHAHAHA! Bo ssam is what angels feast on. If they eat meat. Do they? Hm.

What's next? Something that isn't a giant pork butt. I'm open to suggestions!

Neo Tokyo Times: Don arranged the meat and reservation. I had nooo part in it. Except showing up and eating. But I suppose if you have to tell them ahead of time that you want the meat, that would also double as a reservation (but you can't make reservations if you don't get the bo ssam, I guess?). Hmm.

Connie / February 18, 2007 10:32 PM

I'm the only one listed without an internet presence! Sadness.

Awesome pics as always.

Despite the fact that I ate enough pork to feed a small army, I want more Bo Ssam.

Aesis / February 18, 2007 10:43 PM

Robyn - you're such an awesome writer! I feel like I just went back in time and consumed the entire gargantuan feast all over again (and my stomach has just declared that it's going on strike).

I'm totally in for whatever you guys come up with for our next fooding adventure. :)

jodie / February 19, 2007 2:57 AM

OH MY GOD that picture of the stringy meat and squidgy fat being torn apart just made me salivate like.. i don't know, a person who hasn't eaten for days and am looking at ...a tasty-looking chunk of meat? despite the fact that i'm super full from a huge dinner + some super dense chocolate dessert thing. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G

(i love brussels sprouts too.)

Nina / February 19, 2007 5:40 AM

oh my lord....MEAAAAAT......that looks awesomely..awesome. and sunflower seed butter?? funky!! i love sunflower seeds, so i guess the butter would be just as good ey? nyums. reading your blog always makes me hungry...baaaad. sighs.

Clare / February 19, 2007 12:55 PM

I want some pork!! That meat looks utterly and devestatingly delicious. You can't do this to me on a Monday morning when I have to be at work (our communist boss insists on not recognizing Pres Day but that's a whole other headache).

roboppy / February 19, 2007 5:20 PM

Kaitlin: Aw, the first shout out for brussels sprouts (and not pork)!

Connie: Haha, you need a home page! ;)

I want more pork too. I went back to Momofuku for lunch today and had their original ssam with pork in it and ughuggh it's so good. Damn.

Eunice: I hope you didn't feel the gurgling indigestion in your stomach when you went back in time. .__. Otherwise, yay! MUST GO FOODING AGAIN. Another place with small plates? Or huge plate of meat...

Jodie: Stringy meat and squidgy fat, oh yeaah! The stuff of dreams! Well. Some dreams. IT'S TOTALLY NORMAL OK.

Nina: I don't even like sunflower seeds that much, so the butter is kind of amazing for making me ADDICTED TO IT. It's like...really delicious sweet sunflower seed goo.

Clare: I wouldn't usually see Presidents Day as much of a holiday, but who cares, I GOT CLASS OFF, WOO. Sorry that you had to suffer at work and not celebrate...our presidents.

susannah / February 20, 2007 10:47 AM

WOW. The bo ssam is looking mighty legendary.

Mochi ice cream weirds me out . . like ice cream . . in a condom . . I've never tried it. Looks gorgeous though.

I want sunflower seed butter! Would it mix with things the way peanut butter does, or would you just eat it by itself on bread? I may have to run down to my local Trader Joe's.

dani / February 20, 2007 5:01 PM

Red bean mochi! YUMMMM. Nothing compares to the red bean mochi for me! Of course, I agree with you on the whipped cream part.

redrhino / February 20, 2007 6:01 PM

[quote] Then again, each of us only ate the equivalent of one piece of ice cream-filled mochi, which is like adding a grain of sand to a beach.[/quote]

Hi Diddley Ho Neighbour [Greets Robyn Ned Flanders style *wink].Since I know you wouldn't get an reference I made to Mr Creosote From Monty Pythons movie "The Meaning of Life" regarding you blog today, I present to you, O Glutinous one, a link.

Enjoy :O


roboppy / February 20, 2007 11:32 PM

Zach: I smell a man crush!

Susannah: Well if I wasn't crazy about mochi ice cream before, looking at it as ice cream in a condom certainly doesn't help. WEE!!!

Ahh I see you got the sunflower seed butter...and don't know what to do with it. I just ate it with bread!

Mike: Of your life? Whoaa. ...Yeah, it was really good. I love pooorrrrk.

Dani: I know people who don't like whipped cream. WHAT IS UP WITH THAT? I don't like ALL whipped cream, but when it's good I sure do.

redrhino: Wow, I shouldn't have watched that before I went out to dinner. [shudders] But thanks for showing it to me...I think...

Oh god I'm gonna have nightmares.

Tina: Oo, I seee, thanks for pointing it out! I hope he had a porktastic time as well.

janet / February 21, 2007 5:34 PM

I am still thinking about this meal. With fondness. Don't tell my Momz. Though I don't think she knows what brussel sprouts are.

Jason Perlow / February 21, 2007 6:51 PM

Oh man. I really actually need to eat at this place now. That small taste of berkshire pork that I had when I previewed the restaurant just isn't going to do it for me.

roboppy / February 22, 2007 9:38 PM

Janet: My momz asked me if I gained weight the last time I saw her. :[

Jason: OH MY GOD, the smell! Yes, it's a damn good smell. They should make their business cards scratch and sniff with porky aromas.

Reid / February 27, 2007 5:17 AM


OMG! I've been dreaming of this place and need to start saving up for a vacation to NYC! I'm just thinking of all the wonderful food there...just let me get past London first! :)

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