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Tag: david chang

ramen bowls?. . .

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!


beef “bone broth” . . .

bone brothDuring our trip to Puget Sound, I had a chance to learn about wellness foods from my daughter, M. who has been following a beyond-Paleo kind of diet: no grains (rice, wheat, flour); no vegetables growing below the ground (potatoes,) no dairy (including cheese!) no sugar. Plenty of eggs, uncured bacon, broccoli, spinach, chard, kale, collard greens, wild fish, organic chicken and grass-fed beef in small portions. She had a chance to tell me about homemade “bone broth.” It sounded similar to the homemade vegetable broth that I made a couple of weeks ago, a tasty broth for vegetable soups, sauce for veal chops piccata and other dishes. What I froze two weeks ago has been used up by now. So today, I thought I’d explore making a beef bone broth using some of the vegetables I had left over from making the vegetable broth, adding roasted marrow bones.

A couple of things stood out for me when I reviewed a few online articles about making bone broth. One was to ROAST the bones or any beef before boiling. This brings out the flavor and decreases the amount of foam that rises when cooking broth using raw meat ingredients. M. also noted that she uses beef short ribs in addition to soup bones and it was best to use grass-fed beef when possible.

The beef short ribs and bones roasted in the oven at 375 degrees for about an hour. roasted beefAfter it cooled, I browned some veggies in olive oil: leek, vidalia onion, carrots, a parsnip and some celery, about one-third the amount of vegetables that I used in the vegetable broth. Then, I added the roasted beef and spring water to the top of the stockpot. A handful of cherry tomatoes from the garden and a spoonful of instant dashi went in at the end. Two tablespoons of organic apple cider vinegar reacts with the bones and draws out the goodness that heightens the healthful quotient of the bone broth.

veggies for bone brothOh, and the other thing the recipes noted was to bring the soup to a boil but do not boil it–just simmer it very gently for a few hours (up to 48 hours!) Yeah, my eyes popped out when I read that too. But then I remembered the Japanese film called “Tampopo” where they spend the whole movie making a delicious soup broth base for their ramen noodles. In that case, pork bones were kept simmering for days. broth and cider vinegar

It’s the beginning of September and the weather is dry and sunny with a gentle breeze. Cool enough to be simmering stock on the stove, although just think of what it would be like to be making continuous vegetable and bone broths during cold winter months? People relate that they drink a bowl of bone broth everyday. To me, that would mean making it constantly because you’d be consuming it almost like tea. Experimenting with making homemade broths has been a revelation. I used to think about making broth as a luxury, carried out by high-end restaurants and super-chefs, using whole chickens and all those great vegetables just to strain it all out at the end.

But no more. What I learned from making that one batch of vegetable broth is how incredibly flavorful the stock is. There is a hint of umami taste too which is intangibly elusive to describe. The beef broth cooled overnight and I skimmed off half cup of fat from it. I used to buy cans of chicken and beef broth to add to stews, soups, glazes and sauces. Having begun to make stock myself, I’ve realized it can enhance flavor while imparting a clean taste. All it takes is a little planning, washing, preparing vegetables and roasting bones as sous prep. Browning the vegetables in olive oil, adding bones, skimming foam and keeping the stock to a simmer is all there is to it.

I’ve strained the broth and reserved some for our supper tonight. I plan to boil some udon noodles separately and then add to the broth along with bits of beef, organic spinach and thinly sliced mushrooms. Along with fresh, crisp bean sprouts and a few fresh mint leaves from the garden on the side, the dish resembles a Vietnamese Pho.

At the oriental market today, I noticed that they had pork and chicken bones. My next broth experiment might be a combination of roasted pork and chicken bones, green onions, fresh ginger root, diakon and perhaps chinese chives. It might resemble a “Tampopo” type broth to add to fresh ramen noodles and snow peas–or as a clear stock for winter melon soup with shitake mushrooms.

beef bone broth with udon, spinach and mushrooms . . .

beef bone broth with udon, spinach and mushrooms . . .

I just remembered that David Chang, in his cookbook entitled “Momofuku” gave a broth recipe that required using a ton of ingredients and simmered for days on end. I’ll have to dig that out and see how different it is from the one I made today. It’s fun to see where making broth is not a mere boiling exercise, but how the results have the potential to transform one’s cooking for just about everything.

Hey, remember that old folk tale called “Stone Soup?” Weary soldiers who have nothing to eat make a soup made with a huge pot of water and washed stones because there is no food to be had. As it is boiling, curious villagers come to see what is cooking and begin to volunteer some of the foodstuffs they have hidden from the soldiers: some bones with meat on it, barley, vegetables and more grains. Before long, there is a huge pot of delicious, hearty soup, enough to feed everyone! This is sort of like that.

Making this or vegetable broth doesn’t take a village, just a little planning and patience while the broth quietly simmers on the stove.



easter . . .


French macarons . . .

French macarons . . .

G. and I are enjoying a quiet, sunny day today. The kids are visiting in-laws and so we will have a quiet day and a simple supper tonight. Right now, I am listening to Dave Brubeck’s “Take Five” and feeling like snapping my fingers to the music–it’s so much fun to listen to it! Earlier, I went to the piano and played the 2nd movement of the C minor Fantasie by Mozart. The makeshift wooden board that G. placed over the pedal worked well with my leg that still has a heavy cast on it.

Last night, with absolutely nothing to watch on TV (unless you wanted to tune into a four-and a half hour view of the “Ten Commandments”,) we decided to watch “Amadeus” the 1984 movie which won 8 Academy Awards. It’s a little grating to me with the Mozart character’s neighing all the time (from Tourette’s Syndrome)? But F. Murray Abraham (who won an Oscar for best actor in this best picture) plays Salieri, a rival court composer whose works are banal compared to Mozart’s and who is obsessed both by God’s gift of talent to Mozart and his equally strong belief that God has shortchanged him of same. This assignation of “blame” to God for Salieri’s shortcomings is one of the amusing conceits of the film. Reading about Salieri online, he is purported to have taught the likes of Beethoven, Schubert and Liszt so he must not have been as lightweight a musician as the movie, “Amadeus,” makes him out to be.

Anyhow, seeing the period instruments (since G. specializes in all things piano) is a treat to watch. I was also reminded again hearing excerpts of Mozart’s great Mass in C minor with its rousing opening “Kyrie” how great a composition it is. So, I listened to it this a.m. before segue-ing to the more upbeat and laid back jazz of Dave Brubeck’s quartet and Paul Desmond playing saxophone. Did you know that it was actually Desmond who composed “Take Five?” I didn’t until recently when I watched Clint Eastwood’s masterful biographical DVD of Dave Brubeck which we saw on PBS a couple of years ago.

For lunch today, I’m going to heat up some frozen Korean dumplings with chives and make a piquant dipping sauce of Chinese black vinegar, Japanese seasoned rice vinegar, Ohsawa soy sauce, sesame oil, chopped scallions and grated fresh ginger root. Afterwards, we’ll try a tiny sliver of the dark chocolate sour cream cake that I made yesterday afternoon. I had to bake it ten more minutes than the recipe called for and even then, the beautifully rounded middle sunk when cooled so it looked like a miniature tube cake!

I also had difficulty broiling a miso eggplant dish for dinner last night–you couldn’t chew it and it felt and tasted like wet cardboard. I even tried frying it afterwards but to no avail. Then, I remembered the pizza stone the other night didn’t seem hot enough even though heated to 500 degrees. And that instead of the pizza taking 3-5 minutes to cook, it still wasn’t done at 15 minutes and I had to turn on the broiler to finish it. So, dear reader, it occurred to me that perhaps my stove/oven isn’t heating up properly. (DUH!) It’s about a dozen years old and I cook a lot, so it wouldn’t be surprising if it’s losing its legs, heat-wise that is.

So, I dug out my oven thermometer and will be double-checking whether it preheats to 425 degrees when I get ready to roast the rack of lamb that we’re going to have for dinner tonight. I use Julia Child’s recipe for a mustard (Grey Poupon Country Dijon), olive oil, soy sauce, fresh rosemary chopped and lots of minced garlic–the marinade coating applied for the room-temperature lamb before going into the oven. The lamb on the rack looks miniscule so I’m hopeful that there will be something tasty there when it comes out of the dubious oven.

better nomaYesterday, I don’t know what came over me–perhaps it was re-reading a cohort of British cookery books in the last few days–I decided to cull out and reorganize my bookshelves, one whole section of which is dedicated to food. One of the shelves now includes a set of Terence Conran, Roald Dahl, Jane Garmey and Time-Life volumes on making galantines, terrines, meat pies, trifles and aspic with eggs. In this group, I rediscovered the absolutely wonderful simple and yet appealing recipes in Nigel Slater’s cookery books. Slater’s recipe for roasting chicken wings suffused with fresh lemons and cracked pepper until the wings are caramelized to the baking sheet is one I’m going to try next week, I think. SLATER

Even though they were somewhat pricey, I went through some books yesterday that had recipes I know I would never try (too conventional, complicated or took too much work/ingredients) so they went into the carton that will be donated to our local library. That is the only way I can justify ridding myself of books–which is to recycle them at an institution that will either catalog them or sell them in their bookstore.

Back to the reorganization, the revised bookshelves also hold a section of what I call “Celebrity Chefs”: David Chang’s “Momofuku”, Rene Redzepi’s “Noma”,Thomas Keller’s”French Laundry”, Daniel Boulud, Stanley Tucci, Jane Grigson, Judy Rodgers’ Zuni Cafe Cookbook and the River Cottage series by that guy who has an un-spellable name.

On the top shelf (for most usage) are short stacks of cookbooks featuring Asian noodles, tofu, dim sum, Chinese snacks, Bento box and Japanese Zen/Temple cookery. There’s also a smaller section down below on macrobiotic and raw vegetable ideas. Right now, I think I’ll be cooking more recipes out of the Nigel Slater books than anything else. Not only are the books now better organized, there’s now room for more!better asian

The photos above and below are of an order of French macarons that I made and had sent to C. and her husband for Easter. She teaches high-school French so these little treats seemed like the perfect thing for Easter. She’s going to share them with her in-laws after their luncheon today. The funny thing about them is that I ordered them from a baker on Etsy (one of my favorite places to find homemade things,) and in finalizing the purchase, I noticed a Chinese name in their email address. Sure enough, she was trained in France to bake these macaron specialties but like me, she’s Chinese. I meet many artists who are Asian on this site. And in the oddest of places too–like with these macarons. They’re made of egg whites and an almond paste filling–somewhat like marzipan, I think. They arrived in time and C. said they shared one macaron before bringing them to the Easter luncheon and it was delicious!macarons 2

rack of lamb with mustard, rosemary, garlic glaze . . .

rack of lamb with mustard, rosemary, garlic glaze . . .

In addition to the mustard/rosemary rack of lamb medium rare (hopefully,) we’re having artichokes with a curry mayonnaise as a starter, the lamb, small yukon potatoes crisped in butter and garlic salt, and parsnips (G.’s favorite vegetable.) And for dessert, the dark chocolate sour cream cake with chocolate frosting.

So, here’s hoping you have also had an enjoyable day filled with reading the paper, Easter egg hunts and some nice wine and tasty food!

noma . . .

I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Noma, but it’s reputedly the “best restaurant in the world,” located in Copenhagen, Denmark and run by a young chef named Rene Redzepi. My daughter, M., surprised me with a gift of his latest publications by Phaidon, a journal, photos and recipe book of a year spent developing new recipes for the restaurant after being named “the best. . .” for three years running.

His initial offering, a large album book called “Noma” was already in my bookshelves, my having opted to purchase it when it first came out due to the unusual and unusually beautiful photographs of food that you could not ever fathom tasting. Even so, I find it rather inspiring to read and look at, if only because it is so independent of mind in the development of flavor and taste which is supposed to equal, food.

Maybe it’s whimsical of me to partake in the experimentation that this kind of culinary pursuit takes, but it appeals to my sense of other-li-ness that I welcome in anything that is tried and true. I mean, of course, people can go and treat themselves to a tasting menu at Daniel Boulud’s restaurants in NYC. or, for that matter, go ramen tasting at Momofuku, David Chang’s hangout that is now being challenged by other ramen spring-ups all over town.

In fact, Redzepi writes fondly about a visit by David Chang to his restaurant when Rene’s second child was born–the very same weekend–and he seems much more interested in how Chang unpacks his cooking knives than belaboring the fact that he’s become a father of two at the same time. It’s an inside look at how cooks, or at least this cook, thinks, nay, is absolutely obsessed with developing something novel and delicious.

In the Journal that Redzepi keeps, he is alarmed that the restaurant is spending more than it is bringing in. For a few months in a row, the ink runs red. Then, he begins to gather the facts that:

a.  They serve 20 dishes to each customer.

b.  Each dish has at least five ingredients–most of which require advance preparation.

c.  There are 111 purveyors from whom they buy supplies; keep track of, pay and store ingredients from.

d.  They also forage, clean and store a huge amount of ingredients.

e.  Sometimes they are surprised by their suppliers who bring in fresh snails or seafood on a Saturday that is inconvenient because it won’t hold until Monday and the menus are already set for the weekend.

f.   Besides preparing menus of 35 plus dishes for 500 customers a week; there is a staff of 70 to feed and clean up after everyday.

One late night after the flow of new ideas from the 35 cooks has gone well, Redzepi noticed a foul smell in one of the rooms downstairs. Someone has neglected to clean fish remains in one of the sinks. Another area was unscrubbed. In a good mood, he starts to clean it up by himself and then blows a fuse, calling every cook at 1:30 in the morning to gather in the kitchens, the whole crew cleaning up EVERYTHING until the place sparkles. This kind of story about how nudging a group to a higher level of teamwork can at the same time also result in backsliding for the most basic of tasks (cleaning things up after yourselves) is apocryphal and amusing.

And Rene Redzepi is only in his mid-thirties. Honestly, I can’t see myself cooking reindeer moss. Or cooking something to resemble or remind one of reindeer moss. But the very stark, austerely beautiful platings that adorn his books, and that same aura which permeates his restaurant are a treat and a treatise for one’s imagination.

So, today, after my hospital ankle appointment when the cast was taken off so that the sutures could be removed, then a new cast put on for another three weeks, I was a little more restrained than usual when we went to do the grocery shopping afterwards. I picked out a couple of endives and a radicchio to make a bitter salad with a honeycrisp apple, walnuts and golden raisins. Maybe a little sour cream and honey in the vinaigrette. Bunches of beets to roast, leeks to cook with potatoes for a creamy Sunday soup; parsnips to accompany a small boeuf bourguinon cooked in the new pot that our friend, B. gave us last week, with some tiny yukon gold potatoes, boiled, sliced in half and slowly browned with a little garlic salt and dried parsley. These ideas are in no way anywhere close to let’s say, experimenting with lamb’s brains but, c’est la vie!

What I have taken away from these armchair adventures of food developed in the cold and wintry land in Scandanavia is to concentrate on flavors, small portions, beautiful settings, eating less, eating better, having fun trying new ways with old habits that still work. All this from reading a few books! Voila!

life (a little) less driven . . .

What drives us to live intensely? Maybe it’s family genes. I know that’s part of what’s going on with my side of the family. My daughters also live hard driving lives, full of lots of activity, scheduled and not. We’re just used to it, I guess. This week alone, I ran around to a couple of dentists trying to figure out what best to do next after a bridge broke off a couple of weeks ago. Then, yesterday, I considered flying to China on a Zen mountain journey trip that turned out to be oversubscribed already. In the meantime, I found a website where you could get a visa to China overnight. See what I mean?

In parallel, I am exploring the other things that I want to learn to do this Fall:

a. make homemade tofu to the taste and texture that melts in your mouth when eaten with yummy sauces. Reading the instructions sounds like chemistry experiments (ratio of time soaking soybeans to the amount of water, boiling and blending; then how much weight to set on the tofu press and so on.) Since it’s such an individual preference for the taste to the texture (custardy) it’ll probably require a number of attempts before getting it down to a routine. I’m thinking that the homemade tofu might be a regular part of some simple meals along with vegetable dishes.

b. make ramen noodle broth (remember the movie, “Tampopo”?)from scratch from David Chang’s Momofuku cookery book (entails starting a dashi broth with a round of dried shitake mushrooms, boiling a whole chicken until the meat falls off the bone; then add pork neck bones and simmer slowly for 7 hours, etc., then adding final seasonings and condiments with the noodles.

c. learn to shuck cherrystone clams and oysters, which I love but have always been too timid to try handling the shucking knives myself.

During the Olympics, I knitted three sweaters from some gorgeous Noro yarn that was discontinued but which I found in the U.K. One was a wonderful sleeveless tunic with a cowl neckline that I made for C.; another was an abbreviated version with an empire length that I just sent to J. There’s a set of knitting that I just sent to M. and the Minneapolis contingent too. I’m now waiting for a shipment of a new colourway (deep blue indigoes, mulberry tones) from Canada that seems to be hung up in customs at the border.

So, when my daughter M. skyped today and said she was ready, after a long, long time, to be less driven, I nodded, along with a flash of recognition myself. Time to go and have lunch with G. and maybe take a nap this afternoon.