Buy, Sell, Hold is a new column from Eater New York’s chief critic Ryan Sutton where he looks at a single dish or item and decides — should you buy it, sell it (or just don’t try it at all), or hold (give it some time before trying)?
Momofuku’s David Chang is credited with introducing #uglydelicious, a hashtag assigned to dishes that aren’t stereotypically photogenic. “The whole idea of ugly-delicious was, ‘How do I make food that I'm comfortable making again?’” Chang said on the Eater Upsell podcast. His implication was that “ugly delicious” isn’t just a hashtag, but a larger ethos for chefs hesitant to cook in styles that are more rustic than refined.
I bring this up because a colleague recently mentioned how ugly and messy the chicken dip sandwich at Fuku Wall Street is.
At first glance, the dip is neat and orderly. The preparation is simple: pulled white meat ginger chicken marinated in thai chiles, kimchi slaw, and sliced cucumbers on potato bread. On the side are ramekins of chicken gravy and sambal chile sauce. It comes in a cute cardboard box.
The kitchen cuts the sandwich in half; the cross section is almost as organized as an Italian hero. If you’re looking for societal approbation of your lunch, this is the time to Instagram.
Then you pick up the dip and feel sauce dripping down your thumb. The thigh meat has already been marinated in chicken gravy. This causes the white paper that coats the sandwich to become soggy near the ends; it peels off like wet tissue paper.
The meat is soft and lean at first, with just a hint of heat. Then you dip the sandwich in that ramekin of gravy, whose speckled hue evokes a pair of old, unwashed khakis. It softens the bread, imparting a rich, MSG-style roundness. This chicken starts to fall out — not something that often happens with a traditional roast beef dip, or with many modern sandwiches, where structural integrity and the ability to eat with one hand is key.
At this point you’re licking your fingers. You dip into the sambal and then into the gravy, which means the latter now looks like khakis with a blood stain. A fruity, intense heat fills the mouth; this is by far the hottest sauce Chang puts out, anywhere. But the gravy cools the sting. Wayward shards of chicken and cucumber are scattered across the cardboard box. If this were a restaurant you’d ask for a fresh plate and more napkins. Your sandwich has been transformed from something neat into something messy, saucy, spongy, and yes, ugly. But indisputably delicious.
The chicken dip sandwich costs $10 and I’m rating it a BUY.