Anatomy of a Dish: Momofuku’s Sugar Snap Peas


It’s difficult to improve upon a sugar snap pea. It’s nature’s candy: green, crunchy, juicy. It’s interactive: you peel away the thread and then throw it in your mouth. This spring, I became a sugar snap pea junkie–buying moundfuls at the farmer’s market and snacking on them all afternoon. The few times I cooked them, I sauteed them in olive oil or butter, sprinkled them with salt, a few grindings of pepper and called it a day. Sugar snap peas, like Lauren Ambrose, say, don’t need much enhancement. They’re beautiful as they are.

What’s a genius chef to do, then, to improve on something that needs little improvement? Enter David Chang. At Momofuku (the original) he’s serving a sugar snap pea appetizer that works beautifully. The peas are sauteed in miso butter (note the tan-colored pool at the bottom of the plate); topped with fresh grated horseradish and then thin slivers of radish. All of these components serve to enhance the sugar snap peas in ways, like good drama, that are both surprising and inevitable. In fact, I’d argue that this simple dish, a dish that doesn’t call too much attention to itself, showcases Chang’s talent in ways that his more elaborate dishes might not. It’s simple, it’s smart, and it’s seasonal. And it makes sugar snap peas taste better than they normally do which, at least according to this sugar snap pea enthusiast, is a feat worth celebrating.

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