ramen bowls?. . .

by mulberryshoots

Okay, so we’ve all cooked a packet of ramen when we’re hungry and on the run. I particularly like the brand, “Sapporo Ichiban” which you can even find in the local grocery store (Shaw’s) nowadays. That little aluminum foil full of flavoring spices though, was pretty salty.

On the other side of the coin, there are those of us old enough to have seen and enjoyed that Japanese movie about making ramen noodle broth called “Tampopo” where the entire film seems to be made up of shenanigans instigated to discover the secret recipe for making the best broth for the noodle bowls.

Today, I received a cookbook called “Simply Ramen” from Amazon.The author is a Californian fourth-generation Japanese cook named Amy Kimoto-Kahn, who is also a Mom to three kids one finds out later. The photography of noodle nests on the flyleaves augurs well for the rest of the book.

I have a lot of cookbooks already, especially Japanese food, and so was a little dubious when I first opened the book. A pleasant surprise! Not only are the photos appetizing and gorgeous to look at; the book itself is organized in the most helpful way possible:

First chapters on how to make five core soup broths. And these aren’t just a handful of ingredients either. They’re hard core authentic recipes from Japan cookery schools and the like.

Then, the noodles and how to make them from scratch (I plan to use fresh wonton noodles from the Asian market in town – boiled first, rinsed and then slipped into the rich soup broth. )

Then, the condiments and how to prepare them: I especially liked the teriyaki marinated soft-boiled eggs that you cut in half and put on top of the ramen bowls when you’re ready to serve. Sauteeing fresh bamboo shoots with a teriyaki type seasoning sounded good too.

Then, recipes for each category of ramen bowls to try out: “pork ramen,” “beef ramen,” “seafood ramen,” “vegetable ramen” etc.

After perusing the book for awhile, I began to think about what kind of combinations I might try first. The first modification I thought of was that instead of using a slow cooker to make the broth for ten hours, that my new Instant Pot would be a much faster and handier piece of equipment to use to make broth for ramen. The ingredients and cooking steps were pretty similar to what I’ve been doing to make bone broth too.

I then searched online for other authentic ramen broth recipes and came upon David Chang’s Momofuku (yeah!) recipe for making HIS ramen broth. (Come to think of it, I have his cookbook in my bookcase and I’m going to dig it out later.) But in this online brief which he wrote for the first issue of “Lucky Peach,” Chang goes through how his cooks modified his original ramen broth to exclude pork bones and to grind up dried shitake mushrooms instead of using whole ones to save storage room and cost.

One aspect he covered though that was a little confusing to me was making “tare” – which turns out to be the seasoning/enriching sauce if you will, that is added to the broth when ready to serve it in the bowls filled with broth. I didn’t recall seeing that in Amy’s book above.

Chang makes this separately with a chicken back, soy, mirin and sake and he roasts the chicken first too. Lots of time for this version. Anyhow, back to the broth, he adds some smoky ham or bacon from a vendor that we don’t have access to so I’m wondering if that might be a piece of smoked ham hock?

I already have chicken bones/wings in the freezer that I was saving up to make a batch of bone broth – I’ll add some pork bones, dashi, ground shitake mushrooms, scallions and roasted chicken parts plus some chicken broth and run it through the Instant Pot for 75 minutes (same amount of time as making bone broth) and see how it turns out. I’ll have to figure out what to do to make the tare later.

Boy, these recipes take a lot of ingredients and time, don’t they?  But there’s nothing that substitutes for good homemade stock. Whether it’s for bone broth or for ramen noodle bowl broth, though, the Instant Pot electric pressure cooker is going to beat the band for making homemade broth in less than a fifth of the amount of time of slow cookers or on the stove!

I’ll let you know how it turns out this weekend. Want to try making it too?

Now that the weather’s getting cooler, it’s really tempting to make the base broth for noodle bowls and top it with slices of barbecued char sui (pork,) fresh Chinese spinach, seasoned bamboo shoots and soft boiled eggs sliced in half on top. Or how about soft-boiled teriyaki-marinated duck eggs? Yum!