Holy crap, its been awhile, huh? The holidays always do that, make it harder to get posts and ramen experiments done. Between Thanksgiving, preparing for Christmas, the entire family being sick at one point or another, and trying to get 16 spots completed for Q1 before going on winter holiday, I’ve barely had time to focus on anything ramen related. However, a few weeks back, I did manage to finally make what I consider to be the best ramen I’ve ever made. It was absolutely phenomenal. I didn’t get many pictures of the process, but I do have the recipe.
- 2 lbs Chicken Backs
- 1 lb Chicken Necks
- 2 lbs Pig Trotters
- Bonito flakes
- 1 large onion
- 3 inches ginger
- 12 cloves garlic
- Bunch of scallions (green onion)
- 1 inch ginger
- 1 garlic clove
- Dark shoyu (soy sauce)
- Vegetable Oil
- Light-color shoyu
- Wheat gluten
I realize that’s a hell of a list, but it was completely worth it going the whole nine yards with this one. The results were a restaurant quality ramen I’d be happy to serve anyone. This is also a somewhat basic recipe as far as ramen is concerned – it is infinitely adjustable to taste, so have fun experimenting with flavors!
Let’s start off with the stock, as that takes the longest and everything else can be prepared as the stock is doing its thing. Given that there is a lack of visuals for this particular cook, I’ll list the steps out in numerical order this time.
- Put 4 six inch strips of kombu into a 4 quart pitcher and fill up all 4 quarts with cold water. Cover it and let it sit at room temperature for 6-8 hours.
- Place all your bones and pig trotters in an 8 gallon pot. Fill it with water, completely covering the bones. Bring it to a boil, then turn it off and let it sit in the water for about 20 minutes. Discard all the water and begin the long process of cleaning flesh from the bones. The necks and backs I got from my local Asian market didn’t need to be messed with at all, but the pig trotters had to have the blood vessels and dark marrow removed, somewhat like a tonkotsu. If you have any blood vessels on your chicken backs and necks, remove those as well. Dark matter and blood vessels tend to lead to a darker, somewhat unappetizing stock.
- While you’re cleaning the bones, add 4 cups water and 2 cups bonito flakes to a medium sized pot. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer for 10 minutes.
- Smash 12 cloves of garlic and roughly chop 3 inches of ginger and 1 large onion, skin on.
- Clean your 8 gallon pot (it’ll have a lot of scum from the initial bone cleaning), then add everything in: first the bones, then the kombu water, then strain the bonito water into the pot and discard the now soggy flakes, then the aromatics (garlic, ginger, onion). If your full 8 gallons isn’t filled, add some water – the whole thing should reduce to a total of 4 quarts worth of stock. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. You can cook covered or uncovered. I go covered so I can control the reduction a bit more. It takes longer to reduce, but the flavor is better. Mine took about 4 hours to reduce to 4 quarts (1 gallon), with 30 minutes of uncovered reduction at the end.
- Scrape the scum off as it comes to the surface – the first 20 minutes of the cook is when most of it will rise. After that, just check every so often to make sure you’re getting the gross stuff off. You don’t want it mixing with your flavors.
- Use a fine mesh sieve and strain your stock back in to a clean 1 gallon pitcher. Put it in the fridge and let it chill overnight. It will probably gel, and that’s fine, chicken based stocks tend to gel. Scrape off the layer of fat that has risen to the top and discard.
That’s it! You now have a stock ready for freezing. A full bowl of ramen will use 1 1/2 to 2 cups stock per bowl, so at the least, you’ve got 8 bowls of ramen available to make with 1 gallon of stock.
Truth be told, I took this recipe from the Bon Appétit shoyu ramen recipe and have yet to experiment with my own tare recipe yet. However, a tare is necessary for a real bowl of ramen. It include all the flavor that brings the bowl to life, including the shoyu itself. The only thing I changed was the type of shoyu I used, because I was going for a lighter color broth, which is what I’ve found during my ramen travels. The recipe itself is quite easy, so here it is:
- Mix 1/2 cup light-colored shoyu, 2 tbsp dry sake, and 1 tbsp mirin. Put in a container and chill.
That’s it. Now, when you’re putting together your bowls, you’ll have the flavor pack ready to go!
I didn’t change much from the previous braised pork center loin recipe, so feel free to use that recipe for this cook. I actually subtracted a good portion of ingredients, simplifying for this bowl. I also used pork belly rather than center loin, which was a MUCH better direction. The only thing I would change would be that I’d probably cut off the top layer of skin on the pork belly for the next cook. I wasn’t super happy with how chewy that ended up being. Chashu should be light, succulent, and near falling apart. Anyway, here’s the short version of the recipe:
2. Put 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a medium sized pot, and heat to medium-high. Sear the pork belly for about 2 minutes per side, until you get a golden-brown all around.
3. Add all your pork belly to the same pot and deglaze with 1/2 cup sake. Then add 1 cup dark shoyu and 2 cups water. If your pork belly isn’t fully covered, add more water until it is.
4. Throw in 1 inch ginger and 1 clove garlic, along with a bunch of scallions (white part).
6. Remove from the braise and let rest for 10 minutes, then put it in a container in the fridge and let it chill overnight.
This isn’t a recipe so much as it is an introduction to a new series of experiments I’ll be trying: noodles from scratch. I got myself a Philips Noodle Maker, imported from Japan. There are domestic versions of this noodle maker available, but this one came with attachments for ramen, udon, and soba noodles, which were created for the Japanese market only. I did have to buy a voltage switching device so it wouldn’t burn out when plugged in, but it was totally worth it. You simply add your ingredients to the thing, it mixes them up, and spits out noodles, ready for cooking. It’s amazing.
For my initial batch, I tried a basic recipe I found on the internet: 2 cups flour, 2 tbsp wheat gluten, 1/2 cup warm water, 1 tsp kansui. I put those in the machine and out came some noodles, which ended up being pretty all right. I’ll have to mess around with the recipe some more before I’m happy with it, but they did taste good.
For those who don’t know, kansui water is a otassium carbonate and sodium bi-carbonate blend, also known as alkaline water, or well water. It differs in its chemical makeup from alkaline water you can find at the store here in the US, so make sure you get kansui. I also found it extremely hard to find, only one store in Charlotte has it. There are other recipes out there that use baking soda as the active ingredient as well – I’m told the flavor is the same, but kansui gives the noodles that slight yellowish tint that is indicative of a good bowl of ramen, so I chose to hunt for the stuff.
Putting It Together
Once all your ingredients are prepared, you can put them back together for your bowl of ramen! I put together the above test-bowl to make sure I had my measurements right. That’s 2 cups stock and 2 tbsp tare. Just heat up your stock, put the 2 tbsp tare into the bowl, then add your stock on top. Mix that together, throw in some noodles and sliced pork, and you’ve got a test bowl! I didn’t heat up the pork before adding it, letting the stock heat it, though I wish I had. You can heat up your pork in with the stock as you’re re-heating it, that’s what I’ll do next time.
Add whatever toppings you’d like, and you’re done! A good starting-off point for some restaurant quality ramen. I know my family was quite happy with the results!