I love Brussels sprouts! Now, that’s not a statement I would have made the first time I ever tried them, also the first time my mother tried them, and she cooked them the only way she knew how – boiled, as depicted in so many western cookbooks and television shows. While not terrible, they weren’t very swoon-worthy either, being very often waterlogged and grey. But then during university, sprouts started to grow on me – and these were the boiled ones from halls! I suppose it was inevitable since I loved regular cabbage. Anyway, it was when I moved out from halls and discovered sauteed sprouts and roasted sprouts that my love affair for them began. I now love to buy whole stalks of sprouts from the farmers’ markets; I was once told that they keep better this way but I have no idea if there’s any truth in that. Now is the season for them, when bags and bags will appear in the supermarkets and stalks at the markets.
Now with my love for them, when I heard that Momofuku Ssam Bar had a dish of Brussels sprouts on their menu, I knew I had to try them. Unfortunately, when I did get a chance to stop by that fantastic restaurant, the menu had already changed – it seems to only appear in the winter. Instead of roasting, they fry their sprouts (wow!) and top them with chilies and mint and fish sauce and puffed rice. They also make another sprout dish with kimchee puree and bacon but it was that original dish that had me intrigued. Luckily, the recipe was published in Gourmet magazine and I’ve adapted it here, not bothering with the rice krispies topping for everyday and with only coriander since I had no mint in the flat. But for a dinner party … perhaps the puffed rice can make an appearance then!
The sprouts were tender and delicious – the addition of butter after roasting is a stroke of genius. The dressing is salty and sweet and quite moreish but I can very much understand if it’s not to your taste – there’s a lot of fish sauce in there.
Momofuku Brussels Sprouts
adapted from Gourmet, October 2007
serves 8 as a side dish or 2 as a main course!
2 lbs Brussels sprouts (I used all the sprouts from a stem about 2 feet long)
2-3 tbsps sunflower oil
2 tbsps butter
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/4 cup water
1 clove garlic
1 Thai red chili, finely chopped, or 2 large pinches dried chili flakes
3 tbsps finely chopped coriander leaves and stems
Preheat your oven to 190 Celsius.
Toss all your cleaned and trimmed Brussels sprouts (cut larger ones in half) into a roasting tray and toss with the sunflower oil. Roast for about 40 minutes, stirring once or twice during the roasting period. The Brussels sprouts should be tender (if you still want a bite, reduce the roasting time) and brown on the surfaces. A few leaves will fall off but they go dark brown and extra tasty!
While the sprouts are roasting, in a small bowl, mix together the fish sauce, water and sugar, stirring until all the sugar has dissolved. The original recipe asked for the clove of garlic to be minced and added to the dressing but I was worried there’d be too much raw garlic flavour and so instead, I smashed a clove and let it infuse in the liquid. Toss it the chili and coriander and stir.
When the sprouts have finished roasting, toss in the butter, let it melt and then stir through. Toss the dressing through as well and serve.