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eG Cook-Off #72: Ramen


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1 minute ago, jmolinari said:

Noodles were homemade with 1.3% gluten and 1.3% alkali salts, and 2% shrimp powder

Could you post a recipe and some details about making your own ramen noodles? Sourcing good ones is a problem here in Oklahoma, I'd love to have a go at making my own. The only noodles I've ever made before are the Italian variety, though. 

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Chris Hennes
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I followed the lead from a guy on Reddit, Ramen_lord. Without him, i'd still be scratching my head about ramen in general. Making the noodles is actually not that hard, if you have an electric pasta machine.

First, make some baked soda ala Harold McGee by baking baking soda for 1 hours at 250 degrees.

 

For the rest, i recommend you read this guy on reddit. Rather than me re-type it all.

 

https://www.reddit.com/r/ramen/comments/3i3afd/next_up_on_my_tour_of_ramen_styles_chicken_paitan/

 

 

 

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Great.  I'm going right after the person that makes their own ramen. :P

 

The more I read about ramen the more I realize that I usually do a mash-up of pho and ramen together.  My husband doesn't care much for rice noodles so I make ramen noodles for him when I make pho (blasphemy?)  The broth that I usually use is a pho type....So I decided to change what I was going to make and be more traditional using a chicken broth.  But, then I read this and decided that ramen can kind of be what you like.....(ramen purists can burn me at the stake now).  Anyway, here's what we had last night.

 

This shall be named Kansas ramen...the make-do with what you have in the fridge and freezer kind.

 

Early in the day I made some 6 minute eggs and marinated them in some soy sauce, water and sherry (I don't have any mirin).  Ignore the deformed egg on the left.  That was a cooks treat lol.

 

P3061184.JPG.ffa9fcc6974ec95ad68d792db3f

 

 

 

I had a tiny bit of char siu pork belly that I made a while ago in the freezer.

 

P3061180.JPG.f8db13cd95d1b4a8b7c36aa7757 

 

I also had a little piece of pork belly.  I SV'd that at 170F for about 10 hours (delicious).  I heated the piece of char siu up in the water bath towards the end of the pork belly being done, by the way.

 

Now on to the noodles.  My husband really wants me to try to make some next time so thank you @jmolinari

for the links and pointers.  

 

I have these two different kinds of noodles:

 

P3061178.JPG.c97526f424aeb7c5df1971d1467

 

The one on the left are dried, not fried.  I have had the one on the left (I think I found a favorable review on The Ramen Rater and ordered these from Amazon) and they are good.  They come with two seasoning packets-a powder and an oil based one.  

 

P3061179.JPG.fe34ed909d1b9dcc8d457b2590f

 

I decided to do a little taste test of the noodles on the right.  They were ok--more like spaghetti, though.  I prefer the ones on the left so that's what we used.    

 

I thawed out some homemade chicken stock and threw the seasoning packets in.  Also used a couple splashes of soy sauce. I have no idea if this is traditional, but it tasted good so I went with it lol.

 

For toppings I snipped some garlic chive from the garden (I don't have any green onions).  Also, cilantro, limes, sautéed shiitake mushrooms, bean sprouts, char siu and SV pork belly.

 

P3061182.JPG.187b4943c58bb0e2fe7d963bb6e

 

P3061186.JPG.32523a2606d48b38b26490f792c

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A question of the OP, if I could.

 

Did you intend this cook-off to be about this, or about this?  Your initial post seemed to go in the direction of (or at least encompass) the second one, but so far most of the responses have pivoted to the first one, especially when talking about home-made ones. What is your intention for what this thread discusses?

 

Even if it is to be the first one, is it to be ONLY about Japanese renditions or facsimiles thereof?

Edited by huiray (log)
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On 3/4/2016 at 3:44 PM, kbjesq said:

Oh boy, you've just lifted a huge load of guilt off my shoulders. I also thought they were all dried-fried and that's why they taste so good (well,  that plus high sodium + MSG).  I'm going to eat even more now! I love ramen, usually I'll drop a soft boiled egg & some sliced scallions into the bowl before slurping. :)

 

Have a look at this. It's a recitation of one person's taste preferences, true, but it also offers up a not-unuseful compendium of non-fried "ramen"/instant noodles that are (or have been) out there.

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A wheat noodle that has been treated with an alkaline salt such as kansui. If you can't find kansui, Harold McGee discovered that if you cook baking soda in the oven for an hour, it becomes much more alkaline and can be used as a substitute for kansui. This is the basis of, for example, the noodle recipe in David Chang's Momofuku cookbook. But even Momo don't make their own; they get it from Sun Noodle.

 

I also think that the pre-fried instant nramen oodles are perfectly acceptable substitutes. By and large, however, their seasoning packets are terrible. (There are notable exceptions, however.) There's no shame in using them with quality broth and high quality toppings.

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If one is adhering strictly to JAPANESE ramen and no other, then the Myojo Chukazanmai packs that Shelby used above (and their line of products) is one example of NON-FRIED noodles sold as "ramen".

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29 minutes ago, btbyrd said:

A wheat noodle that has been treated with an alkaline salt such as kansui. If you can't find kansui, Harold McGee discovered that if you cook baking soda in the oven for an hour, it becomes much more alkaline and can be used as a substitute for kansui. This is the basis of, for example, the noodle recipe in David Chang's Momofuku cookbook. But even Momo don't make their own; they get it from Sun Noodle.

 

I also think that the pre-fried instant nramen oodles are perfectly acceptable substitutes. By and large, however, their seasoning packets are terrible. (There are notable exceptions, however.) There's no shame in using them with quality broth and high quality toppings.

 

Kansui is found in almost any "Asian" (I hate that word) market or Chinese/Vietnamese/SE Asian/Japanese market, I would think. In any case, the process (and difference) is between sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sodium carbonate (and a mixture thereof) which that miraculous cooking process (the McGee heat treatment; something known to chemists for a while) produces. pH ~8 vs pH ~10. But that is not the final/true pH of the actual dough mixture, as one is using small amounts of kansui as one develops the dough mixture.

 

p.s. I am glad that you recognize that using some "instant noodles"/"ramen" blocks is fine. Also, as you say, various "packages" of seasonings are quite good. And they don't even have to be Japanese.

Edited by huiray (log)
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13 minutes ago, btbyrd said:

A wheat noodle that has been treated with an alkaline salt such as kansui.

 

That covers a lot of noodles from all over Asia. I don't disagree with your definition, but will point out that it will encompass Cantonese wonton noodles for sure. Amongst many others.

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The success of our Cook-Off's is due in large part to the fact that we don't lay down defined boundaries .  While we specify the dish or ingredient that is the main theme of a Cook-Off, we like to encourage discussion of different tastes and opinions, which inevitably opens the door to discussion on traditional versions of a dish yet inspiring individual creativity. 

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2 hours ago, David Ross said:

traditional versions of a dish

 

What, then, is the "traditional version of a dish" that you have in mind for this cook-off? Is it this, as I asked above? Can one talk about this as ramen here?

Edited by huiray (log)
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Huiray, yes, that's *a* traditional ramen, but even in Japan, there are a lot of very well-known variations in both noodles and soup, let alone garnishes.

I decided to make a tsuke-men (noodles and concentrated soup for a dip) version as it's a very popular way to eat ramen recently.

I bought a somewhat upmarket pack of fresh noodles: fat, straight ramen intended for dipping, with individual sachets of dip concentrate. Since spring cabbage is just coming in, we had some blanched shredded cabbage with the noodles. That worked well.

 

Garnishes: "yaki-nibuta" cooked in the pressure cooker. One chunk of pork belly, and another of pork loin. If you tie the meat neatly, you get a neat little tube of pork. If you are a bit slap-dash, you get something that looks like a Victorian medical illustration of the dangers of tight-lacing. Pork was browned well, then fat drained off, and one star anise and a generous amount of green onion tops and sliced ginger added, along with half a cup each of mirin and soy sauce, plus a cup of water. Then pressure cooked for 20 minutes, allowed to cool, turned, and cooked for another 5-10 minutes and allowed to cool again, to ensure even flavoring. Sliced and put aside.

Hard-boiled eggs, peeled and halved. No special seasoning - this was a quick family dinner.

Menma (slices of preserved bamboo shoot, seasoned with soy sauce), finely chopped white long onion, and torn nori were added to the bowls of dipping sauce.

I quite like tsuke-men (dipped ramen) but none of us really enjoyed this. The super-thick ramen would surely have been better in a hot soup, and the dip (miso-sesame with ground small dried fish and a fair amount of lard?) was very salty and the "coarse" taste seemed to over-emphasize the coarseness of the noodles. When we eat tsuke-men, we usually make a much lighter dip, and leave the sesame half-ground...and that's what I'll be doing in future!

futomenpacck sml.jpg

futomentsuke sml.jpg

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OK, then the edit I inserted above (this) is also "Ramen" in this thread; and this should also be covered.

 

What about non-wheat noodles (you referred to variations in noodles "even in Japan") - such as, for example, something like "Artificial Pickled Cabbage Fish Flavor" instant vermicelli or sweet potato thread stuff (like this)?

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25 minutes ago, helenjp said:

I decided to make a tsuke-men (noodles and concentrated soup for a dip) version as it's a very popular way to eat ramen recently.

So the idea is that you plate the noodles "naked" then just give them a quick dip in the soup? Or do you drop them entirely into the soup and then pull them back out with some bits of whatever else is in the base? What's the advantage (or just the appeal) of serving like this?

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Chris Hennes
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I don't know, to me it's more that ramen are one type of alkaline noodle...they are very similar to some other East or Southeast Asian styles, less similar to others. Ramen seem firmer than most Chinese alkaline noodles I have eaten, though. And sweet potato vermicelli or rice vermicelli are made from a different starch (not wheat flour) and a different preparation method (don't use any alkalizing agent) too.

Edited by helenjp (log)
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I wanted to find you an online copy of one of the specialist ramen mags in Japan but my Google fu isn't up to it tonight. I did find the English language website of the ramen museum in Yokohama so that will have to do ;) the build your own ramen booth is apparently very popular!

 

raumen.co.jp

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48 minutes ago, helenjp said:

I don't know, to me it's more that ramen are one type of alkaline noodle...they are very similar to some other East or Southeast Asian styles, less similar to others. Ramen seem firmer than most Chinese alkaline noodles I have eaten, though. And sweet potato vermicelli or rice vermicelli are made from a different starch (not wheat flour) and a different preparation method (don't use any alkalizing agent) too.

 

OK, so at the least you would think of "ramen" as wheat noodles only, and needs to be in the Japanese style. (ditto Tere's citation of the Japanese website and the "kinds" exemplified) The North American common usage of "ramen" to refer to almost any kind of instant noodle dish/package, also discussed in the original post, is not what you yourself would talk about.

 

I note, in passing, that the package you pictured above uses "Chinese buckwheat" (中華蕎麦) noodles? But perhaps it is simply "中華そば" which is what "ramen" is commonly called in Japan (i.e. "Chinese soba", harking back to its Chinese origins) and no actual buckwheat is involved?

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Huiray, the pack of noodles I used does say "mugi", but it doesn't actually mean buckwheat (just to be confusing!) It's a retro sort of name, where "mugi" is a catch-all word for almost any kind of grain other than rice that is used for flour. 

Chris, the appeal of "tsuke-men" is probably the fact that it brings ramen closer to other types of cold noodles served in Japan. Hiyashi chuuka or chilled Chinese noodles (= ramen noodles) is a popular summer dish, but it has a real Showa feel to it, with all those '60s foods like cucumber, ham, tomatoes...and the dip is a bit sweet-sour.

 

Tsuke-men is more straightforwardly savory, with the dipping sauce just a concentrated version of ramen soup, served hot or cold, as you like. A big bowl of ramen is hot, so it takes a while to eat, yet needs to be eaten as soon as it's served, so that the noodles don't go soft, and of course it's steamy and heavy in summer. Hiyashi-chuuka is chilled, but tsuke-men is served at room temperature - which is the default for Japanese food anyway. It's more adaptable when you are eating with friends.

It is well worth giving the noodles a working over as you rinse them, so that they don't stick together when served.

 

Images of tsuke-men with dipping sauce. As you can see, there are all kinds of dip. You just pick up a few noodles, dip them in the soup, and eat, occasionally fishing some meat or vegetables out of the dip to vary things. Including meat, tofu, or vegetables in the dip is quite common with somen or hiya-mugi as well, especially when eaten at home.

Edited by helenjp (log)
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17 hours ago, Paul Bacino said:

K..  Dave

 

I know this is weird..  But I did a Mussel broth ramen..  Since you said you were into the Salmon

 

22061314633_88344119d2_k.thumb.jpg.32f1c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paul, lovely rendition of this popular and ubiquitous soup!

 

Are the noodles you used shiratake or mung bean starch? The camera shows them quite translucent compared to regular wheat ramen noodles.

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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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7 hours ago, David Ross said:

The success of our Cook-Off's is due in large part to the fact that we don't lay down defined boundaries .  While we specify the dish or ingredient that is the main theme of a Cook-Off, we like to encourage discussion of different tastes and opinions, which inevitably opens the door to discussion on traditional versions of a dish yet inspiring individual creativity. 

 

Oh, the happy dance I did years ago upon discovering that eG "Cook-Offs" were not competitions as the name suggests, but rather a think tank with skilled and experienced cooks and interested newbies alike participating!

 

The fact that we have members who grew up with and live or lived in the cultures some of these dishes came from is such sweet, sweet icing on this delectable cake. :smile:

 

Just had to add that the crepe Cook-Off is what got me over my fear of crepe making and prompted me to finally join.

Edited by Thanks for the Crepes
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> ^ . . ^ <

 

 

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7 hours ago, Thanks for the Crepes said:

 

Paul, lovely rendition of this popular and ubiquitous soup!

 

Are the noodles you used shiratake or mung bean starch? The camera shows them quite translucent compared to regular wheat ramen noodles.

 This was the Shiratake Noodle  and thank you for the compliment!!

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Its good to have Morels

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