On a Mission for street food
Punchy full on flavours in a San Franciso conceived, Mexican inspired tostada, and a “best-yet” brownie, writes DOMINI KEMP
A NEW WAVE OF restaurants such as David Chang’s Momofuku in New York, or MSF in San Francisco have transcended the idea of “fusion”. The globalized foods of the noughties seemed to focus on that Australian vibe crossed with Asian influences. I can’t help but think about that decade without thinking of Donna Hay, Bill Granger, Neil Perry and Peter Gordon.
However, certain new restaurants seem to be focusing on tastes that despite being truly global, feel more local perhaps because the influences feel more focused. It’s no longer enough to say South American, better to say Guatemalan, for example. Not just Asian, but from Tokyo.
Dishes that are part-Mexican, part-Asian, part-Guatemalan, part-French, but full-on flavour with fine dining techniques and laid back approaches are what’s hot right now. And what they seem to espouse is an unbelievable reverence for umami-based favours that are oozing with that holy trinity of sweet, salt and fat. A cardiologist’s nightmare, but a gourmand’s perfect dream-date.
I’ve been working my way through the MSF cookbook, Mission Street Food, which is about the San Francisco culinary project which started when Anthony Myint and Karen Leibowitz began selling pork-belly-filled flatbreads from a taco truck. MSF morphed into a proper restaurant, along with other enterprises including a Chinese food version of the original, which is no longer open.
In the book, they come across as a keen bunch who have pushed flavour boundaries to the max.I started with their rare beef tostada which calls for tomatillos which are related to Chinese lantern fruits. Needless to say, I couldn’t find them here, so I ended up using some tomatoes instead with a good douse of lime juice and sugar to push their flavour out.
This is one of those feisty dishes that’s bursting with so much flavour, and when you read about all their processes, including their eulogy about rib-eye steaks, it’s safe to assume these guys were a bit nerdy about their grub in the best possibly way.
They suggest that by salting beef and leaving it to dry in a fridge for up to three days, you can mimic the dry ageing process that premium butchers or steak houses endorse. I haven’t tried this out yet, but in fairness it makes sense. Salt the meat generously, leave it uncovered on a rack in the fridge for a couple of days and inevitably, the water will be drawn out and therefore, the meat will darken and the flavour will become more concentrated.
The other recipe here is for their brownies. We’ve been selling pretty good brownies for more than 12 years now, but this is one of the better recipes I’ve tried in a long time. One of the things that I really loved was the sprinkling of some granulated sugar on top of the cake mix, just before it goes into the oven. What happens is that you end up with a wonderful sheen on top that takes away from the pale brown flakiness that you sometimes get with brownies. It also gave each one a pleasing bite that didn’t take away from the fudgey softness within.
I ended up overcooking these by about five minutes. But they were still great, just a little less gooey than I would have liked. They freeze incredibly well, so I packed them into zip-lock freezer bags and felt incredibly “Martha” by whipping them out and serving at every opportunity.