Have you seen the Japanese movie, “Tampopo”? It’s pretty old but it’s a classic about making ramen, a soup noodle in broth simmered for days. “Ivan Ramen” is a memoir cum cookbook about an American from New York who goes to Tokyo and opens a ramen shop.
Just to be clear, the ramen I’m talking about in this post is not the instant ramen noodles in colorful cellophane packets that college students eat for four years plus maybe longer when they’re starting out looking for a job and a place to live. My favorite brand of instant ramen is Sapporo Ichiban. It’s great cooked up quickly for lunch with a handful of baby spinach thrown in just before serving.
Nope, the ramen I’m talking about in this post, in “Ivan Ramen” and in Tampopo, is handmade. The taste and texture of handmade fresh ramen noodles and instant is night and day. Ditto, the soup broth. Then there’s all the add-ons: barbecued pork (char sui) or pork belly, Chinese spinach, halves of a boiled egg, fresh cilantro–you get the picture. Ivan’s cookery book gives detailed instructions on how to make chicken stock from scratch which takes 9 hours of simmering a whole chicken. He combines chicken broth with freshly made dashi broth (seaweed based.)
Because I’m not crazy although I am retired and might have the time to follow Ivan’s recipes, my predisposition is to simplify and still achieve an acceptable meal with a lot less trouble and expense. Here’s my experiment:
1. Make chicken stock using three lbs. of fresh chicken bones from the local asian grocery instead of using a whole chicken. This morning, I roasted the chicken bones for almost an hour, then made broth, simmering for a few hours.
2. Make dashi from kombu, bonito flakes and enrich with a little instant dashi granules.
3. Use fresh Chinese thin noodles from the Asian grocery instead of making from scratch (this one is truly a no-brainer.)
4. Buy char sui pork (barbecued pork) from Chinatown available at the local Vietnamese grocery store on Saturdays (ditto.)
5. De-stem and wash Chinese spinach leaves and rinse fresh cilantro.
6. Boil eggs and hold in ice water.
In ramen sized bowls, place stemmed washed spinach in the bottom of the bowl. Add cooked fresh Chinese noodles in layers. Place slices of Char Sui pork (Chinese barbecued pork). Add boiling hot soup broth, filling the dish. Garnish with eggs sliced in half, sprinkle with fresh cilantro and chopped scallions.
One bowl noodle, spinach and pork in broth is a nice way to handle supper in the midst of these New England snowstorms. Oh, and our hot water heater was finally repaired this afternoon so I ran an overloaded dishwasher through a wash and dry cycle, emptied the warm dishes, glasses and clean silverware before I began assembling our one-bowl ramen noodle supper.
While G. went outside to do more snowblowing to clear areas to make room for more snow expected yesterday and today, I decided to make a half batch of chocolate chip cookies. Using the last stick of unsalted butter, I mixed the cookie dough by hand and baked small cookies for when G. came in from the cold. His face lit up as he reached for a couple of cookies during this very snowy couple of weeks here in New England.