December 22, 2012

Home Cooking: Ramen

I, like perhaps many Americans who like to cook at home, am intimidated by homemade ramen. I don't know why that is. Perhaps it's due to the fact that a good bowl of ramen is a time-consuming thing to prepare. Therein lies its magic. Recently, I decided to spend some time on a rainy Saturday making ramen. I followed the step-by-step instructions for David Chang's ramen in his Momofuku book. Certainly there are more traditional recipes, but I like Chang's book, so I went with his recipe.


I started by making the tare, an enriched grilling/basting sauce produced from roasting chicken necks and backs and then adding them to a soy sauce, mirin, and sake reduction. The end product is basically an amped-up and insanely salty sauce of which a couple of tablespoons is used to flavor the ramen broth right before serving. The sauce is also great used as one would use a traditional bbq sauce; however, not sure it's really worth effort. I might just reduce some soy sauce and mirin next time.
The ramen broth begins with the roasting of five pounds of meaty pork bones. You could also throw in some trotters, but I went with five pounds of assorted bones that I sourced from YDFM.
While the bones are roasting, konbu steeps in six quarts of water. After the konbu steeps for ten minutes it is removed and dried shitake mushrooms are added for thirty minutes. After the shitakes steep for 30 minutes, they are removed an entire chicken is added to the pot. The chicken cooks and flavors the broth for about one hour (or until the meat pulls from the bone). You now also have a very flavorful whole poached chicken that can be used in multiple other applications.
By this time the pork bones have finished roasting in the oven and they get added to the stock once the cooked chicken is removed. At this point, it gets a little easier as the pork bones simple simmer in the pot for as many hours as you can spare, but at least six or seven according to Chang. While the pork bones and stock reduced I prepped the toppings, which can very according to what you have around.
I used some of the traditional accoutrements: scallions, a slow-poached egg, some of the leftover mushrooms, a little piece of nori, pulled pork, and some of the pork belly pictured above which was leftover from this project. I also followed Chang's advice and cheated a bit by using store bought low mein noodles. Ramen noodles can be a controversial topic, let's just say, I was happy with the noodles I used. Not perfect, but I retained my sanity and the bowl was pretty damn good for my first attempt.

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