Adapted from a Just One Cookbook recipe
Friday night my family had dinner at a new Japanese Ramen restaurant. While the atmosphere was fairly authentic, the ramen was more than disappointing. The soup was tepid, the noodles under done, and the egg was icy in the middle. Although I have never made anything but instant ramen before, I knew I could do better.
I looked at many recipes for ramen and most of them seemed either too complex or too culturally muddled or both. I have just discovered Harumi, but while she wrote a book on the subject of ramen, her recipes are not available online. My fallback for Japanese home cooking ideas is Just One Cookbook. There I found something I could adapt to my ideas.
Ramen is simply a Japanese twist on a soup with noodles and broth. The noodles are different from other noodles in that they are made with type of alkaline mineral water, containing sodium carbonate and usually potassium carbonate that give them a distinct taste and a yellow color. But the star of the dish is always the broth, which should have a lot of collagen for richness, a deep umami flavor, and one of five distinct tastes— Tonkotsu (豚骨, “pork bone”), Shōyu (醤油, “soy sauce”), Shio (“salt”), Miso, and Curry.
In additional to the broth and noodles are any number of toppings. Chāshū (sliced braised pork), tofu (for vegetarians), green onions, soft boiled eggs, and kamaboko (fish cake) are frequent additions, but from there you may go in any number of directions. In the Japanese aesthetic, food should feed the soul as well as the body, so these toppings are not just dumped on top of the noodles, but arranged in a visually appealing manner.
Ramen eggs—the egg that is in almost all bowls of ramen—is not simply a boiled egg. It has its own recipe. It is soft boiled, marinated for hours, and then sliced just before serving. The biggest disappointment at the ramen shop was that their eggs had gone straight from the refrigerator into the tepid soup—which was why it was icy in the center. Re-warming the eggs would be necessary to avoid this ramen no-no.
Traditional ramen bowls are fairly large—32-45 oz.—which provide plenty of room for hot soup. When the ramen and toppings are added, there is plenty of residual heat to finish cooking the noodles and to par cook the rest of the ingredients. The bowls I have are much smaller—and therefore have much less heat remaining—so I had to figure out a way to precook some of the toppings, so that the soup did not cool down too much trying to warm them up.
Note: Since this was my first time trying to make ramen, I decided to take what shortcuts I could. The store at which I bought some of my ingredients sold precooked Japanese chashu. I also decided that trying to make fresh ramen noodles on my own would be a bit over the top, so I bought fresh store bought noodles.
Karl’s Shoyu Ramen
Toppings (per individual serving bowl)
1 soft-boiled ramen egg (see instructions step 1)
¼ cup light Japanese soy sauce
¼ cup mirin
½ cup water
2 slices chashu, braised pork
5 slices narutomaki (pink spiraled fish cake)
3 baby bok choi leaves and stems, whole
2 green onion
1 Tbs. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1½ inch ginger, minced
2 tsp. Chili Bean Sauce
3 cups chicken broth
1 lb. Chicken scraps (necks, backs, wing tips, etc) OR 1 packet of flavorless gelatin
3 cups dashi (1 bag of DashiNoMoto simmered in 3 cups of water)
4 Tbs. light Japanese soy sauce
1 Tbs. sake
1 tsp. Kosher salt
½ tsp. granulated sugar
Fresh ramen noodles (these usually are sold in packages of 1-3 individual servings)
la-yu (Japanese chili oil)
1. Bring the water in a small pot to a boil.
Tip: Prepare your ramen eggs at least 4 hours before dinner, the night before is better.
Note: You may boil your eggs is a full pot of water, but I prefer to steam my eggs. Half an inch of water comes to a boil much more quickly than a full pot of water. You then put a wire rack in the pot to keep the eggs out of the water. Putting a lid on the pot, surrounds the eggs with an even heat (212º F, the temperature of steam), regardless of how hot the stove is. To soft boil a large egg takes exactly 7 minutes.
2. Place the cold eggs into the pot, cover the pot, and reduce the heat.
Tip: Adding the cold eggs to the hot pot will make them easier to peel.
3. After 7 minutes, place the eggs in a bowl of water with a full tray of ice cubes.
4. Chill the eggs for at least 15 minutes.
Tip: As the egg chills the structure of the whites firms up and makes it less likely that you will break the egg bits off as you peel the egg.
5. Peel the eggs under running water and place them in a plastic bag.
6. Add the soy sauce, mirin, and water to the bag, press the air out and seal the bag.
7. Marinate the eggs in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
Tip: Overnight is better.
8. Heat the sesame oil in a large soup pot and sauté the garlic until fragrant, about one minute.
9. Add the ginger, Chili Bean Sauce, chicken parts and chicken broth to the pot.
Tip: I did not brown the chicken first, because I am less concerned with enhancing the “chicken” flavor, but I want to extract the galatin to make the broth richer. If you wish take a shortcut you may skip the chicken parts and add a packet of unflavored gelatin to get a similar richness.
Note: If you use the gelatin you may skip the long simmer and go strait to adding the dashi.
10. Bring the pot to a boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer for at least 4 hours.
11. Towards the end of the simmering time for the chicken broth, slice the chashu and narutomaki, separate and trim the baby bok choi, and cut the green onions in to 2 inch pieces and lay them all out on a plate or lipped baking sheet.
Tip: leave the bok choi leaves and stems as whole pieces and separate the white and green parts of the green onion.
12. Strain the solids out of the chicken broth.
Tip: You want a fairly clear broth. Once you have removed the big pieces—bones, skin and fat—strain the broth again through cheesecloth. I found this still left a scum floating on top of the broth. I removed this by laying a sheet of paper towel over the surface of the broth and blotting it up.
Note: The chicken broth is only half of your stock. You will be adding dashi to this broth.
13. Make three cups of dashi by your preferred method.
Tip: My preference is to simmer a teabag of Dashi-no-moto in three cups of water for ten minutes.
14. Add the dashi to the chicken broth and bring it to a high simmer.
Tip: But not a full boil.
15. Add the soy sauce, sake, salt, and sugar to the soup.
Note: Check the flavor, it should be a little salty.
16. Bring a second large pot ¾ filled with water to a boil and set is aside.
Tip: Fresh ramen noodles cook in less than 3 minutes. You should have all of your other ingredients prepared before you start cooking the ramen noodle.
17. Dip the slices of pork into the simmering broth for one minute.
Tip: After par cooking them set them back on the plate.
Note: Since I only had small bowls I decided to par-cook some of my toppings. A spider—a large wide meshed sieve—is very useful for getting the ingredients in and out of the broth.
18. Dip the white parts of the onions in the broth for one minute.
19. Stack the bok choi and—holding them by the leaves—dip the stalks into the broth for one minute.
20. Press the leaves under the broth and simmer the bok choi for 30 seconds more.
21. Return the boiled pot of water back to the heat.
22. Remove the ramen noodles from their packaging and fluff them to break apart any that are sticking together.
23. Stir the noodles into the water to simmer for slightly under 3 minutes.
Tip: Do not overcook the noodles, they should be no more than al dente, But when you pour the hot soup over them they will cook a bit more.
24. Drop the eggs into the simmering broth and heat them for exactly one minute.
Tip: One minute is long enough to heat the eggs through, but without cooking the yoke any further.
25. Remove the eggs from the broth and slice them in half along the long axis.
26. Drain the noodles completely and divide them between the individual bowls.
Tip: Do not rinse the noodles in cold water. You want all of your ingredients to be as warm as possible, so that they do not cool off the broth too much.
Note: According to the cowboy/trucker ramen master in Tanpopo, the broth should be too hot to sip when you first receive your bowl of ramen.
27. Arrange the chashu, narutomaki, bok choi, green onions—both white and green parts—over the noodles.
28. Pour the soup in the toppings and nestle the eggs into the broth.
29. Serve immediately—while it is still hot—with la-yu on the side for people who want more spice.