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eG Cook-Off #72: Ramen


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How many noodles does it take to make soup?  Instant Ramen Noodles that is.  As we’re about to find out, Ramen is much more than a “Cup O’Noodles.”  Today, we launch a new adventure in our revered eG Cook-Off Series with eG Cook-Off #72: Ramen. 

 

The history of Ramen is somewhat sketchy, but it appears as though it was a creation of the Chinese—a bowl of fresh wheat noodles in a hot broth garnished with a few pieces of leftover meat and a sprinkling of chopped vegetables.  The dish crossed the sea and Ramen stalls began to show up in Japan by 1900, often serving as a cheap, quick lunch for the working class.

 

Ramen grew in popularity in Japan and eventually made its way to the United States, joining other quick and convenient culinary inventions gaining popularity in America like frozen TV dinners, frozen pizza, Chef Boyardee canned spaghetti and ravioli and Lipton’s dried noodle soup mixes. 

 

Today, America sates its appetite for instant ramen noodles to the tune of nearly 5 billion of the disposable cups every year.  Yet, we like to play with our food these days and manipulate it into something mass-produced in a factory to the point where it has no resemblance to its namesake.  When it comes to ramen, we’ve allowed convenience and 39 cent cups of noodles to satisfy our salty, contemporary tastes. And how.

 

Americans have been slurping through instant noodles for decades without stopping to uncover the real story of ramen.  I count myself, (not too proudly), as one of millions of college students who stashed cups of instant ramen noodles in dorm rooms--a quick snack after a late-night round of studying, (or partying).

 

As I scanned the shelves of a local Asian market this morning, I counted over 200 different varieties and brands of what most of us (in other words me), associate as Ramen.  There were packets and bowls of Shin Black Ramen, Japanese Shio, Bean and Jin Ramen, Shrimp, Clam and Spicy Seafood Flavor and “Fun and Yum” Ramen.  But I also discovered that not all instant noodles are labeled ramen.  There were Kimchi, Pad Thai and Tom Yum noodle cups.  There was Japanese Curry flavor, Spicy Miso and “Sobai” dried noodles in single packs, 5 packs and the popular case size—literally a packing box full of instant noodles for just a few bucks.

 

True Ramen is much more than dried noodles and powdered flavorings.  Rooted in Japanese cuisine, Ramen embraces a deeply satisfying, herbal, mysterious, earthly-scented, steaming broth paired with silky, soft noodles, hearty meats and seafood and fresh, crisp vegetables.  It is, as they say, a perfect bowl.

 

Ramen is all the rage in restaurants and home kitchens alike right now, and while staying true to the classic foundations of the dish, all manner of delicious variations of Ramen are being crafted with beef tongue, lamb hocks, bottarga and salted broccoli.  Ramen has even made its way into motion pictures, (The Ramen Girl, 2008), showcasing how this common dish in its truest form bonds people together. 

 

Please join me in exposing the delicious depths of ramen.  We’ll debate the similarities and differences between “Ramen” and “Soba,” and we’ll present our own personal Ramen creations.  Slurping is encouraged.

 

See our complete Cook-Off Index here:

https://forums.egullet.org/topic/143994-egullet-recipe-cook-off-index/

 

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I found this article in Serious Eats to be very informative about the different styles of ramens and classification by seasoning (shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso (fermented bean paste), as well as broth type (tonkotsu, i.e., pork bone broth), discussion of toppings, etc.

 

Here is an example of shio ramen I had just a couple of days ago at Yakyudori, a restaurant in San Diego. The pork belly topping was good and the egg had a nice texture. I am not a fan of the (canned?) corn but it seems very common. The noddle themselves were nothing special. Fermented bamboo shoots in the upper right corner, and plenty of scallions in the middle.

 

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2 hours ago, David Ross said:

That looks delicious.  Tell me about the broth.  I'd like a hot bowl of that for lunch today!

 

Standard chicken broth, made from scratch. Or from chicken bones and tidbits.

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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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I have duck fat and stock in the freezer and ramen noodles in the pantry. I thought I needed to pick up scallions, but I noticed the other day that the ones growing in the deck flower box from last summer have somehow survived our ice and sleet storms. I'm in.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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Currently I'm reading "Ivan Ramen

 

This is a Shiro Ramen recipe.  But  according to many ramen shop owners you take your ramen recipe to your grave.  My goal over the next month would try to present this ramen.  to the topic thread.

 

Cheers   Paully

Edited by Smithy
Adjusted Amazon Link format (log)
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Its good to have Morels

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This is an "Italian Ramen" dish I made a few months ago. Parmesan dashi broth, lardo Iberico de bellota, smoked pork belly, peas, carrot, 63C yolk. The noodles were fresh from Sun Noodle.

 

56d70a3c4ac3a_italianramen.thumb.JPG.ee3

 

The idea was that with the parmesan broth, egg yolk, pork belly, and black pepper, it would eat somewhere between a bowl of ramen and something like carbonara. It was good. I wanted to use guanciale instead of the pork bacon, but the only stuff I could find on short order (from Niman Ranch) was simply too salty to eat. But you get the concept.

 

The broth was:
Water - 200%
Parm rinds - 100%
Kombu - 1%
Dried Porcini - .5%
Seasoned with salt and a bit of Red Boat. I wanted to use garum / colatura but didn't have any on hand.

 

I cooked the water and parm rinds in a circulator at 80C for four hours, strained, and chilled it. You get a small amount of parm fat from this procedure, but I couldn't really find a good application for it. It sort of has a grainy buttery texture at room temperature. I just mixed it with salt and ate it on bread. The chilled broth was then brought to a simmer with kombu and porcini, taken off the heat, and left to steep for an hour. Good flavor, but too much mushroom. I'm going to cut it in half next time, but still have another 2 servings in the freezer.

Edited by btbyrd (log)
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I also make the Momofuku cookbook's ramen broth with some frequency. You can tell it's ramen day at my house because I have pork bones coming out of my ears.

 

ramen_bones.jpg.c21895a9e5c414593b42d12b

 

And, of course, there's a whole chicken and a pound of Benton's bacon involved in the broth too (along with kombu and shiitake). Their recipe has apparently changed significantly, but the classic was a classic for a reason.

 

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To shorten the process, I usually pressure cook everything instead of doing the long stovetop simmer (and add carrots and green onions at the very end after the pressure has been released). It takes on a lot more gelatin that way, but it saves me six to ten hours. I usually garnish with pork shoulder and some seared slices of SV pork belly, but I also really like pork cheek as well:

 

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The Italian Ramen looks delicious and the recipe is intriguing.  I'm curious about the combination of salty parmesan against the sea flavors of Kombu.  It seems they would compete against each other?

 

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@btbyrd

 

 

I take it from the pic of the finished bowl that the

Benton's bacon

is saved and eaten, not tossed out after making the stockk ?

 

that might be considered a crime.  great stuff the BB is.

 

 

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Did anyone tried making Kenji Alt's vegan ramen? Link

I wanted to make it for a while, but it's a bit involved and I never got to it. 

I would probably streamline it a bit. And add a soft egg. 

 

Edited by shain (log)
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~ Shai N.

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1 hour ago, Chris Hennes said:

Wow, you're not kidding. I definitely think this is worth a try, if only for the challenge!

 

It does sound good, and when Kenji say that this is his best recipe, now that means something. 

 

I'd start by doing the following modifications:

- Peel the roasted garlic cloves before simmering them. 

- Add all of the tare ingredients to the stock for the last 30 minutes of cooking, instead of simmering it separately. 

- Use imerssion blender. 

- Slice open the charred eggplant and return to the oven for a while to let moisture boil of, instead of spinning it dry. 

~ Shai N.

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I've always thought the addition of a little corn is sort of out of character, but I suppose it supplies some sweetness and texture.  It just sometimes looks like it's a way of rubbing in another vegetable.

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I was very wary of ramen when living in Japan and only ate it a couple of times - not that I am an unadventurous eater, far from it, but there was so much other delicious food to fill up on! Even the language school students I studied Japanese with were happy to try all sorts of lunch setto, and I'm not mad on ramen noodles, so it kind of passed me by.

 

That said, some of these photos look absolutely yummy :)

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For research purposes, and to give me a low bar to compare the commercial ramen to what I hope will be my own delicious creation, I started with a cup of Japanese Ramen "Shio Taste" made by Hikare Miso of Nagano Japan.  It cost the pricey sum of $3.29, decidedly higher than the instant ramen noodles sans the bowl. 

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Along with numerous additives too many to list, the list of ingredients included dried wheat noodles, sesame seeds, fried garlic, red pickled ginger, green onion, corn, and seasoning oil. The directions were mis-leading.  1). Open the lid to the black line.  There was no lid, just a flimsy film covering and there was no black line inside the Styrofoam bowl-

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2). Remove "all" two packets, sprinkle powdered soup garnish over noodles.  I couldn't read the labels on the packets, but I figured the larger packet contained the vegetables-

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3). Fill cup with boiling water to inside line and close lid for three minutes.  Well there were 3 lines inside the bowl so I filled with water up to line one.  I didn't have a lid to close the bowl, and the flimsy film covering wouldn't work too well, so I put the bowl in the microwave for 3 minutes.

IMG_0047.thumb.JPG.eba17542aa04cdad3ffb4

 

I didn't taste the sesame seeds, fried garlic or red pickled ginger, and it appeared that there was a few shards of spinach or cabbage.  The seasoning oil, broth and noodles tasted like--nothing.  Now this could have been a tasty bowl had I added some soy sauce, red peppercorn chile oil and a spoon of Korean chile paste.  I'm pretty sure I can do better.

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6 hours ago, David Ross said:

The Italian Ramen looks delicious and the recipe is intriguing.  I'm curious about the combination of salty parmesan against the sea flavors of Kombu.  It seems they would compete against each other?

 

 

They work together well. The Parmesan is a high source of glutamate, so it makes for good dashi. Kombu is more of a background note. If anything, the mushrooms were too assertive, making the stock earthier and browner than the clean, parmy broth it was before.

 

6 hours ago, rotuts said:

@btbyrd

 

I take it from the pic of the finished bowl that the Benton's bacon is saved and eaten, not tossed out after making the stockk ?

 

that might be considered a crime.  great stuff the BB is.

 

No, you sacrifice a pound of Benton's to the broth. I've tried to salvage it in several, but all the smoke and flavor has been given up to the pot. Which is a good thing. The idea is to use bacon (a smokey, salty, cured protein packed with umami) as a substitute for katsuobushi (a smokey, salty, cured protein packed with umami) in the traditional dashi recipe. Bacon dashi is pretty genius. So you build up the broth with kombu, Benton's, and dried shitake mushrooms, strain, poach a whole chicken in the broth for an hour, remove (and pick for another purpose), add five pounds of roasted pork bones (and aromatics) and simmer for a long time.

So the broth requires roughly 10 pounds of meat altogether, and you lose almost all of it (except for the chicken) to the broth. You actually need more, because the tare seasoning that Chang uses for this recipe is made by roasting a chicken carcass with some sake, mirin, and soy sauce (so you get a chicken-infused soy sauce).

The good news is that the yield is pretty high (8 servings) and it freezes well. So I make it in batches, have a ramen night, and then freeze the rest so I always have broth on hand. The fresh Sun Noodle ramen actually freezes quite well too.

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I need some help with determining what the appropriate noodle is for ramen.  Some of you have mentioned fresh ramen noodles.  Are those really the only, or best, noodles to use?  What about dried noodles specifically made for ramen?  Do all ramen noodles have that characteristic squiggly shape? I bought two types of dried noodles at the Asian store and I think they would be delicious in a bowl of ramen, but I'm not sure they are "authentic?" 

 

These are "Inaka Soba Itsuki" noodles made with both wheat and buckwheat flour.  I've read that soba noodles are always made with buckwheat flour and should be eaten cold with a dipping sauce.  Would these noodles work in ramen, albeit not totally true to the classic dish?

IMG_0048.thumb.JPG.495bdaac3540ccff0c36a

IMG_0053.JPG.d0cf7e439908302b8be6c05f700

 

These are "Inaka Udon Itsuki" noodles made with only wheat flour.  I know udon is a hot soup with a thick noodle, so I assume these would not fit within the definition of true ramen?  I tend to like the thickness and texture of udon noodles.

IMG_0051.thumb.JPG.ffb88ee7125a4abad3a6f

IMG_0052.JPG.61ea43cb6dfca80102f0f9ca6dc

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Ramen are specific type of noodle that's characteristically made with wheat flour and an additional alkaline ingredient. This alkalinity gives ramen its characteristic yellow color (which is also often added) as well as a toothsome, firmer texture. There are fresh and instant varieties available. The former are hard to find unless you live near a major Asian market, but they freeze well so I always stock up. Instant ramen are fresh noodles that have been precooked and dehydrated via deep frying. Because of the frying, these noodles also contain a lot of fat.

Edited by btbyrd (log)
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3 minutes ago, David Ross said:

Thanks.  I'll get back to the Asian store and hopefully find the right noodles.

I have spent considerable time in Asian stores here looking for Ramen noodles that are not in a package with seasoning and have had little luck.   I have taken to buying the packages of instant Ramen noodles and ditching the seasoning packages.   You may have better luck.  

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Anna Nielsen aka "Anna N"

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