Mo’ Brussels Sprouts

On my birthday, we went out to eat brussels sprouts. I’d been looking forward to them for weeks.

I’m serious—David Chang (the chef behind the Momofuku empire) has the whole city, the food media, and tourists from everywhere talking about brussels sprouts. Fans wait with bated breath for the sprouts to appear on the seasonal menu again. They’re like no brussels sprouts you’ve experienced before. The sprouts at Momofuku Ssam bar are a perfect combination of crispy and spicy, sweet and pungent. Familiar flavors—mint, cilantro, fish sauce—taste new when balanced against earthy brussels sprouts. In short, they’re a treat.

Ssam bar isn’t tooooo expensive, though it falls under “once in awhile” sort of expenditures for us. (And we didn’t order the eight dollar bread and butter. Which is probably awesome. But please.) But because it’s popular and small, sharing the Momofuku Sprout Experience with groups of friends necessitates making them at home. Luckily, a recipe was posted in Gourmet magazine last year. It would be an interesting addition to the Thanksgiving table, as long as your guests are a little open minded.

Notes: In the restaurant, the menu states that the sprouts are fried. They may be roasted and fried, but in any case, the texture is perfect, and somewhat difficult to reproduce at home. It’s important to get all the crispy bits and not let the sprouts go soggy. A single layer in the dish is probably essential so the vegetables don’t steam. If they’re a little soft, I might try throwing them under the broiler once the dressing’s on to crisp up the edges a bit. I used Bhel mix (an Indian crisped rice snack) and it looked like that’s what Chang uses as well. Rice Krispies probably work fine if that’s all you’ve got. I also added a squeeze of lime to the dressing, and added some cauliflower to the sprouts for a little variety.

Momofuku Ssam Bar Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Adapted from David Chang, Gourmet magazine

Makes 8 (first course or side dish) serving

For brussels sprouts
2 pounds Brussels sprouts, halved lengthwise. (You can also add chopped cauliflower)
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
For dressing
1/4 cup Asian fish sauce (preferably Tiparos brand)
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup sugar (I added about 1 teaspoon more)
3 tablespoons finely chopped mint (note: this is a lot, buy plenty!)
2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro stems
1 garlic clove, minced
1 (1 1/2-inch) fresh red Thai chile, thinly sliced crosswise, including seeds (or squeeze sriracha)
Squeeze of lime
For puffed rice
1/2 cup Bhel mix (or crisp rice cereal such as Rice Krispies)
1/4 teaspoon canola oil
1/4 teaspoon shichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice blend)

Garnish: cilantro sprigs; torn mint leaves; chopped scallions

Roast brussels sprouts:
Preheat oven to 450°F with rack in upper third. Toss Brussels sprouts with oil, then arrange, cut sides down, in a 17- by 12-inch shallow baking pan. Make sure sprouts are in one layer. Roast, without turning, (ok, I stirred them once) until outer leaves are tender and very dark brown, 40 to 45 minutes. Watch carefully toward the end, you want sprouts quite crispy, with burnt bits, but not completely incinerated. Add butter and toss to coat.

Make dressing:
Stir together all dressing ingredients until sugar has dissolved.

Make puffed rice while sprouts roast:
Cook cereal, oil, and shichimi togarashi in a small skillet over medium heat, shaking skillet and stirring, until rice is coated and begins to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Remove from burner and cool, stirring occasionally.

Finish dish:
Put Brussels sprouts in a serving bowl, then toss with just enough dressing to coat. Sprinkle with puffed rice and garnish, serve remaining dressing on the side.