Friday, May 22, 2009

At Chifa, Jose Garces Channels A Little David Chang For Some Momofuku-like Pork Belly Buns

chifa pork belly buns
Recommended: The Pork Belly Buns at Chifa

Pork Belly is delicious.

Jose Garces knows this.

And David Chang knows this.

Pork — not just pork belly, but pork — is so important to Amada's menu (which Garces opened in 2005), a wrought iron sculpture of a pig greets patrons when they enter.

Pork is so essential to the menu at Momofuku that Chang actually removed all vegetarian items but one from its menu shortly after it opened. (Which he awesomely did for spite, by the way.) And Chang has been quoted saying that pork fat is his keystone ingredient and that "There's pork fat in just about everything at Momofuku."

And then there's Momofuku's most famous menu-item: the pork belly buns. This was one of the dishes that began the fervant Chang/Momofuku buzz back in 2005 and 2006.

But they are so good, that more than three years later Frank Bruni, the food critic for the New York Times, felt obligated to heap even more praise on them, stating that Momofuku's pork belly buns "remain the city's most perfect finger food" in his December 2008 three-star review of Momofuku Ssam Bar.

momofuku pork belly buns
Also recommended: The Pork Belly Buns at Momofuku in New York | Photo via NY Times

Which brings us to Chifa. After Garces convincingly conquered Spanish tapas at Amada, then Basque pintxos at Tinto, and then Mexican street food at Distrito, he arrived at an original concept for his next effort: Peruvian-Cantonese cuisine, a unique type of Latin-Asian fusion that no one in Philadelphia had ever seen before. And it also provided him with an opportunity to get some Asian dim sum in his repertoire.

One dish from the dim sum section of the Chifa menu: the Pork Belly Buns.

And while surely inspired by Chang's original creation, Chifa's pork belly buns are not some thoughtless copy. The pork belly is grilled at Chifa — Momofuku's pork belly is roasted. The bun is steamed but there's a top and a bottom bun — Momofuku uses one larger bun folded into half. The garnish is pickled, but a different vegetable. And Garces has added togarashi mayo for added flavor and spice.

(Chifa's buns were originally going to be filled with roast duck but that gave way to the pork belly. It's not clear who was behind that decision: Garces or chef de cuisine Chad Williams.)

You get two buns for $8 at Chifa and we couldn't be happier about it.

Chifa Restaurant [ Official Site ]
Video: Chef David Chang Prepares Steamed on the Martha Stewart Show [ Martha Stewart Show ]
Momofuku Ssam Bar: Serious Strides, but Keeping Its Cool [ New York Times ]

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