Thursday, March 29, 2012

Momofuku-inspired Ramen


Mmm ... ramen.  Since I lived in Tokyo after college, I discovered that ramen was more than those cheap little packs I grew up with, and I developed a preference for shoyu ramen, or soy sauce ramen which is Tokyo-style ramen.

When I make quick-style ramen for us, I use the noodles from the cheap packs, but instead of using the seasoning packet, I make an easy Asian broth, which consists of chicken broth infused with a little grated ginger, sliced scallions, soy sauce, and ground white pepper to taste.  I've bought sliced pork from the deli section of the grocery store to add to the ramen and assorted veggies like thinly sliced napa cabbage, spinach, etc.  I loved boiled eggs in my ramen, but my girls definitely pass on that!

In any case, this is one of the fastest dinners ever.

The Momofuku restaurant is famous for ramen, and its cookbook has detailed instructions on how to make their ramen.  It goes kind of like this: make dashi broth, make tare, make shredded pork, make seasoned menma (bamboo shoots), make soft-boiled eggs, etc.

Momofuku's way is not the fastest way ever, but it's certainly informative, and you can then pick and choose what you have time to do.

Momofuku Ramen Broth

Recipe by David Chang – Momofuku Cookbook
Makes 5 quarts – this is enough for about 10 portions of ramen. Make the entire recipe. It freezes nicely and making less seems like a waste of time when you’ve got a pot on the stove all day. So make all of it. David recommends it!
Two 3X6 inch pieces of konbu (dried kelp, find this at Asian markets)
6 quarts of water (use at least an 8-quart stock pot)
2 cups dried shiitakes, rinsed well (clean them good, or you’ll end up with a scummy broth)
4 pounds free-range chicken, either a whole bird or legs
2.5 pounds pork neck bones
1 pound smoky bacon
1 bunch scallions
1 medium onion, cut in half
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
Taré (this is basically the main seasoning – the primary “salt” component – in ramen. This recipe takes another hour to make and I didn’t have enough pots or the time to make it this time around, but I will in the future) – or – equal parts kosher salt, soy sauce and mirin to taste (more about this in the directions below)

  1. Rinse the konbu under running water, then combine it with the water in an 8-quart stockpot. Bring the 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 back up to high and bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down so the liquid simmers gently. Simmer for 30 minutes, until the mushrooms are plumped and re-hydrated and have lent the broth their color and aroma.
  3. Heat the oven to 400°F.
  4. Remove the mushrooms from the pot with a spider or slotted spoon. Add the chicken to the pot. Keep the liquid at a gentle simmer, with bubbles lazily and occasionally breaking the surface. Skim and discard any froth, foam, or fat that rises to the surface of the broth while the chicken is simmering, and replenish the water as necessary to keep the chicken covered. After about 1 hour, test the chicken: the meat should pull away from the bones easily. If it doesn’t, simmer until that’s the case and then remove the chicken from the pot with a spider or slotted spoon. (After I let the chicken cool off, I shredded all the meat to save for future use and tossed the bones in the freezer to make a future chicken stock)
  5. While the chicken is simmering, put the pork bones on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and slide them into the oven to brown for an hour; turn them over after about 30 minutes to ensure even browning.
  6. Remove the chicken from the pot and add the roasted bones to the broth, along with the bacon. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the broth at a steady simmer; skim the scum and replenish the water as needed. After 45 minutes, fish out the bacon and discard it. Then gently simmer the pork bones for 6 to 7 hours—as much time as your schedule allows. Stop adding water to replenish the pot after hour 5 or so.
  7. Add the scallions, onion and carrots to the pot and simmer for the final 45 minutes.
  8. Remove and discard the spent bones and vegetables. Pass the broth through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. You can use the broth at this point, or, if you’re making it in advance and want to save on storage space, you can do what Momofuku does: return it to the pot and reduce it by half over high heat, then portion out the concentrated broth into containers. It keeps for a couple of days in the refrigerator and up to a few months in the freezer. When you want to use it, dilute it with an equal measure of water and reheat it on the stove.
  9. In either case, finish the broth by seasoning it to taste with taré – or – 2 or 3 tablespoons of combined kosher salt, soy sauce and mirin, per quart. Taste it and add more seasoning to get it right. It should be very seasoned, almost too salty. Under-seasoned broth is a crime. I made a seasoning mix of salt, soy sauce and mirin to season the entire 5 quarts I ended up with, but you may have to add additional seasoning after the broth “sits” overnight.

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