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The Momofuku Effect: How David Chang took over the city’s menus long before Momofuku even opened its Toronto doors

The Momofuku Effect

(Photographs courtesy Momofuku)

The New York mastermind behind Momofuku is one of the most copied chefs of the last decade. His brand of fusion—Asian street food elevated to fine dining—has been inspiring Toronto chefs for years. In fact, if you’ve eaten at the restaurants below, chances are you’ve already tasted Chang’s influence. Here, eight Momofuku signatures and their Toronto counterparts.

The Momofuku Effect


Chang studied the art of ramen in Japan and turned his obsession into Noodle Bar, his
first restaurant

On Toronto menus:

  • Lucien, 2007
    Ramen with roast duck breast, confit leg, pine mushrooms and a quail egg
  • Ame, 2009
    Ramen with eel and mixed mushrooms
  • Yours Truly, 2012
    Braised pork belly ramen

The Momofuku Effect


Chang got a kick out of serving glorified pork rinds as a fancy amuse at Ko in 2008

On Toronto menus:

  • Beast, 2010
    Endive salad with chicharrón
  • Niagara Street Café, 2012
    Chicharrón with roasted beets, goat cheese,
    sherry vinaigrette
  • Lucien, 2012
    Braised pork shoulder with sauerkraut purée and a side of chicharrón

The Momofuku Effect


Ssäm, Chang’s second N.Y. spot, popularized the DIY Korean meat-and-lettuce wraps

On Toronto menus:

  • Swish, 2009
    Beef, chicken or pork ssäm
  • The County General, 2012
    Buttermilk-brined sous-vide fried chicken ssäm
  • Yours Truly, 2012
    Pork belly ssäm
  • Chantecler, 2012
    Beef rib or pork shoulder ssäm

The Momofuku Effect

Pig’s-head torchon

At Ssäm, Chang boiled pig’s head, rolled it up, deep-fried it and sliced it

On Toronto menus:

  • Parts and Labour, 2010
    Fried pig’s face with gribiche sauce
  • Niagara Street Café, 2012
    Crispy pig cheek terrine with cucumber kimchee and lime mayo
  • Reds Bistro, 2012
    Deep-fried, smoked pork hock and pig’s-head terrine

The Momofuku Effect


Pork belly steamed buns, on Chang’s first menu at Noodle Bar in 2004, are his most
replicated dish

On Toronto menus:

  • 416 Snack Bar, 2011
    Pork belly buns with crispy salmon skin
  • The County General, 2011
    Pork belly buns with apple slaw and kimchee and avocado
  • Báhn Mì Boys, 2012
    Five-spice pork belly buns with pickled veggies

The Momofuku Effect

Brussels sprouts

Chang tossed them with fish sauce, mint and cilantro at Ssäm, and with kimchee at
Noodle Bar

On Toronto menus:

  • Nota Bene, 2011
    Thai-style brussels sprouts tossed with fish sauce, mint, cilantro and chilies
  • Fabarnak, 2012
    Kimchee brussels sprouts (as a side for big-eye tuna)
  • The Gladstone, 2012
    Kimchee made with fermented brussels sprouts

The Momofuku Effect

Haute bánh mì

When Chang put bánh mì on the menu at Ssäm Bar, he elevated the $5 street snack to a seat-worthy status

On Toronto menus:

  • Fuel House, 2011
    Pork belly confit báhn mì
  • The Gabardine, 2012
    Pulled pork, kimchee and Chinese barbecue sauce
    báhn mì
  • This End Up, 2012
    Hickory-smoked pork belly on a traditional Vietnamese rice flour baguette

The Momofuku Effect

Shaved foie gras

At Momofuku Ko, Chang froze the duck liver and grated it over pine nut brittle and
riesling gelée

On Toronto menus:

  • Yours Truly, 2012
    Sashimi with sour apple, white soy mustard and
    shaved foie
  • Weslodge, 2012
    Beef tartare with shaved foie gras
  • Quatrefoil, 2012
    Five-spice and honey-glazed duck breast with shaved
    foie gras
  • Richard Sharp

    Can we re-title your article “The Gushing Effect”? Because the swooning and butt smirching you’re doing over Chang is hyperbole at its finest.
    You do realize that Torontonians have traveled and eaten things like ramen in its country of origin – just like Chang did! – and maybe, just maybe, they were inspired by their travels or eating at friends’ houses and not by a New York chef.
    The only take-home message I got from your article? “You can save a fistful of cash AND support local chefs by eating their food, which may be similar to what you will find at Chang’s restaurant.” And I am totally cool with that.

  • Keith

    Crispy pig’s head torchon is much more likely the French Laundry Effect. The French Laundry Cookbook was published in 1999, and Ssam came around in 2008, I think. Crispy pig’s head torchon with sauce gribiche (Parts and Labour) is STRAIGHT from the FL cookbook, certainly not attributable to Chang. Red’s is way more French than Asian, so more likely the recipe came from FL. And it’s TORCHON, which is French, not Asian.

  • hop

    Jeez David Chang sure riles up people in this city

  • ah123abc

    I like David Chang. But his pork belly buns are not original. They are from Fuzhou and made popular by the Taiwanese. Lots of people are doing it now. And Momofuku’s isn’t even the best. I’ve had them in Momofuku NYC, Toronto and Sydney, and I found them bland. The fact that they serve it with Sriracha that you must add to get flavour says everything. The Taiwanese version, with the five-spiced braised belly, crushed peanuts, pickled cabbage, cilantro and even a sprinkle of sugar, is the best from the explosion of flavours and texture. My advice is to search a Taiwanese version out and skip the Momofuku. Or if you want to compare, try the Momofuku one first then the Taiwanese one. You’ll never go back.

    As for this article, how ridiculous! How did Momofuku create an effect in the city when these things already existed before Chang came here? And some of these things weren’t original to Chang anyway and he’d be the first to acknowledge that. Shame on TO Life for such a poor article!

  • keithjam

    I live in Miami and can count at least 5 restaurants that are heavily influenced by Chang. Mostly Sakaya Kitchen and Sugarcane. Chang is the man.

  • Sweetbread

    Well summarized .

  • Sweetbread

    In total agreement. We felt rather stupid n ripped off after eating at momofuku in NYC n the experience in Toronto was worst. Stick to local Japanese / Korean joint for original chewy ramen. The best pork belly buns described above can only be enjoyed in Asia. This is a delicacies dish served on special occasions in Singapore. The pork is not slimy but is soft n has a firm texture…takes skill to produce such effect.

  • My2Cents

    The author may want to read Kate Krader’s article “An Insider’s Guide to Toronto” in the December 2012 issue of Food & Wine. Based on the excerpts below, it seems that Toronto has been a source of inspiration for Chang.

    “The next day, Chang chooses dim sum for lunch. Toronto’s stellar Asian food has huge appeal for him, and in advance of the Momofuku openings, he’s been doing research everywhere, from hand-pulled noodle joints to tofu spots.”

    The article goes on to describe a visit to Dynasty in Yorkville where Chang is inspired by a “…high-rising, browned-sugar, buttered sponge cake that the waiter sets down next to the spare ribs in black bean sauce… When Daisho opens a few weeks later, the menu features an item called “bread & drippings…”.

    Note that Chang’s involvement in the events that the author describes makes the source of inspiration credible to the reader. It might be wise to follow suit and confirm the source of inspiration prior to publication.

  • Miguel Brown

    So.. before David Chang, Toronto was lost. David Chang is an amazing chef, but to say than the local chefs are only copycats. is terrible!

    Come on Toronto Life pull your head out of your ass and see how superficial, irrelevant and trendy follower are you.

    Now If I want a good review about a restaurant I’ll check other magazines or I’ll ask my friends. Because after this.. the only good use for a Toronto Life magazine is to feed the chimney.

  • disqus_pcAcItKvDx

    agreed! + in Chinatown or Flushing you get the real deal for $2 vs. 12

  • John

    A bit shortsighted. While I agree that it’s obvious these are mostly twists on popular ethnic dishes, you don’t give him enough credit for modernizing and improving upon them.

    I don’t know of any other chef that used bacon in their dashi, or deep fried brussels sprouts and dressed them, or shaved frozen foi gras before Chang was.

  • disqus_xZhgv9YDRi

    Tried the momofuku ramen yesterday in the Toronto location. I have to say it’s the worst I have eaten so far. It was really salty, the cabbage tasted like wasabi and the portion was really small.