Remember those college days of instant ramen and cup noodles when you were too busy studying and didn’t have time to cook? I had my fair share of those days. I stockpiled them. I didn't know any other type of ramen besides the instant one. Anyway, I got a proper introduction to Japanese ramen when Vu and I were in the bay area a few weekends ago. Vu’s sister took us to Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara. The restaurant opens at 11:30, but the list of name on the waiting list was growing by 10:30. I thought those people were crazy. Boy was I wrong. Their ramen was beyond my expectation, and my craving for ramen has been plaguing me ever since.
I couldn’t stand it anymore and took the plunge to make ramen, my first experience with Japanese cooking ever. I used the ramen recipe from David Chang's Momofuku cookbook. This recipe is very involved but worth every effort. I made the broth and prepared the pork belly a day ahead. If you are health conscious, leave the broth in the fridge overnight to let the fat harden and remove all the fat before warming up the soup. I discarded about a half inch fat layer. If you prefer your broth fatty, remove half of the fat. The broth was very flavorful. A nice balance of saltiness, smokiness, and sweetness.
And the pork belly was amazing! So juicy and tender.
The pork belly and egg are essential but the possibilities for garnish are endless.
What can I say! We ate ramen for dinner three consecutive nights. This experience has given me a new appreciation for ramen. David Chang, your recipe is a keeper!
Momofuku Ramen (adapted from Momofuku by David Chang)
2 3x6 in pieces of konbu (edible kelp)
6 quarts water
2 cups dried shiitakes mushroom, rinsed
1 four-pound chicken, either a whole bird or legs/thighs
5 pounds meaty pork neck bones
1 pound smoky bacon
1 bunch of scallions
1 medium onion, halved
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
½ cup of sake
½ cup of mirin
1 cup of light soy sauce
2 tbsps sugar
1. Rinse the konbu and combine it with water in an large stockpot. Bring water to a simmer over high heat and turn off the heat. Let steep for 10 minutes.
2. Remove the konbu from the pot and add the shiitakes. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Then turn the heat down and allow the liquid to simmer gently for 30 minutes.
3. Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Put the pork bones on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for an hour, turning them over at the 30 minute mark to ensure even browning.
4. Remove the mushrooms from the pot and add the chicken. Save the mushrooms for later. Let the liquid simmer gently, removing any froth, foam, or fat that rises to the surface. Replenish water as needed to keep the chicken covered.
5. After an hour, test the chicken: the meat should pull away from the bones easily. If it doesn’t, simmer until you can do that. Then remove the chicken from the pot.
6. Add the roasted pork bones to the broth along with the bacon. Adjust the heat to keep the broth at a steady simmer.
7. Remove the bacon after an hour and continue simmering the broth for 6-7 hours. Stop adding water to replenish the pot after 5 hours.
8. Add the scallions, onion, and carrots to the pot and simmer for the final 60 minutes.
9. Remove and discard the spent bones and vegetables. Pass the broth through a strainer lined with a cheesecloth.
10. Finish the broth by seasoning it to taste with the sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar.
1 three-pound slab pork belly
¼ cup kosher salt
¼ cup sugar
1. Nestle the belly into a roasting pan that holds it snugly.
2. Mix together the salt and sugar in a small bowl and rub the mix all over the meat. Cover the container with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for at least 6 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
3. Preheat the over to 400˚F.
4. Discard any liquid that accumulates in the container. Put the belly in the oven, skin side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting it with the rendered fat.
5. Turn the temperature down to 250˚F and cook for another hour until the belly is tender. It shouldn’t be falling apart.
6. Remove the pork belly and transfer it to a plate and allow it to cool to just about room temperature.
7. When ready, cut the pork belly into ½ inch thick slices that are about 2 inches long.
2 cups of ramen broth
5 oz of store-bought fresh ramen noodles
2-3 slices of pork belly
2 pieces of nori
¼ cup of thinly sliced scallions, both greens and whites
2 slices of store-bought fish cake
4-5 pieces of canned bamboo shoots
¼ cup of seasonal vegetables
1 hard boil egg or slow-poached egg (Vu will share his secret technique for poaching egg in another post)
1. Get all the ingredients ready.
2. Heat the soup and season to taste (miring, salt, or water).
3. Boil the noodles according to manufacturer’s instruction.
4. Place the ramen into the bowl. Arrange the meat, egg, and garnishes (bamboo shoots, fish cake, vegetables, and nori) around the edges of each bowl. Add the scallions.
5. When ready, ladle 2 cups of soup into the bowl and serve hot.