a long ass post about ramen and there’s a recipe in there somewhere.
Posted March 21, 2012on:
Being in Albany means there not really a bowl of decent ramen within a 30 minute drive from home. There’s one that’s about 25 minutes away, at Norikonoko, a small family food place that sells rice courses with udon and ramen added to the menu as an afterthought. I’ve heard that their ramen is decent. I haven’t had the chance to try it, but I did eat their udon, and liked it. Thing about Norikonoko is, it’s run by an elderly couple pushing 80 (or maybe 90, who knows), and for awhile, it was shut down without any notice. And then it suddenly reopened this year, with really odd hours. Something like 4 days a week, 1.5 hr window for lunch, 2-3 hours at night. I think it’s closed by 8pm or something, probably due to the health issues of the old lady (yelp.com says so).
Lately I’m not craving for ramen, but I got this idea in my head that I can’t quite shake loose. It’s the challenge of making it from scratch. It sounds like the Pho of the Japanese, with individual’s fiercely guarded secrets and 16 hours of boiling bones and water from purest sources, etc. etc.. I’ve watched Tampopo and I have google, and I have markets galore near home to gather my ingredients, how hard can it be? Not too hard, apparently, but pretty tedious.
I didn’t follow just 1 recipe. There are some complete recipes, but from reading them, I know it won’t yield the flavor I want. From what I have learned and observed in their kitchens while I ate ramen at ramen places (not you, Orenchi), I know that they have several stocks, and when an order is placed, the chef begins combining stocks and adding final flavors (salt, miso, soy sauce, soy milk, chili oil, etc.) to produce a bowl. The shio ramen stock is sometimes made entirely from seafood with back fat added for richness, or sometimes it’s a combination of seafood and chicken stock, or, chicken + pork bone + seafood. I figured since it’s my first try, I’m going all out. The result is pretty good. Not as great as Orenchi or Santouka, but let’s say pretty comparable to Himawari in San Mateo that one time I ate there…. Slightly better than the Daikokuya in Alhambra because mine is not as salty, less rich, but has a bit more depth. That’s another reason I’m trying to make ramen from scratch. I just can’t handle the richness that’s butter-like too well. I get heart burn or it would take me a good 12 hours to digest all the fat. And then the sodium attack kills me (similar to msg attack, but I know specifically that in my case, it’s sodium attack).
So anyway, read on to find out how I spent 8 hours on a beautiful spring afternoon. Next time I will try this: I make the stocks without seasoning them, then I’ll open 2 packs of Ichiban instant ramen and dump a 1/2 teaspoon of the seasoning into each bowl of ramen I serve plus some sea salt or soy sauce. I bet that will come pretty close to Santouka.
Ingredients (for about 10 servings):
2 lbs pork bones, the knuckle big dog bone type cut into small chunks (next time I’ll use 3 lbs of this type of bones)
2 lbs pork neck bones (or something, the guy didn’t speak a single word of English and I just pointed at something looking good on his butcher table. It had tons of meats stuck to it, more meat than bone actually. Next time I’ll use ribs)
1 slab of side pork (or pork belly) to make chia siu (here’s the exact shape and size of that piece of meat, and also complete instruction on how to make chia siu, which I followed to a T).
1 sweet onion
4 small carrots (I used 2 white, 1 yellow, 1 orange)
1/2 head of garlic (cut cross grain, unpeeled)
1 nananegi (that long japanese green onion thingie)
3+ bunches of green onions, the thinner the stalks are are, the better
1 pack of bamboo (not the canned one – I get this type because I’m lazy the whole name is HB Menma Mizuni, if not, just reconstitute the dried bamboo pieces, boiling them until tender, then slice them and then marinate them. Don’t use the canned crap or random stuffs in plastic bags from china and thailand, the texture is very different and will disappoint)
1/2 lb beansprouts
10 pieces of kombu (dried kelp) about 1″x3″ (I used Tokuyo Hidaka Kombu distributed by N.A Sales Co., INC, product of japan. It’s not cheap but the quality is excellent)
about 1/3 -1/4 cup of dried anchovies, gutted. The biggger the anchovies, the better. (I just found out recently that FDA regulation now bans dried anchovies that are not gutted to be imported into the US, so it’s rather difficult to find dried whole anchovies. Ranch 99 might still have some gutted ones. I got mine from our local Korean supermarket, which sells them in large boxes in their refridgerated/frozen section (where they keep their other dried fishes and squids. Since the Koreans use dried anchovies to make stocks a lot, I always go to them first before I resort to Ranch99. If you can’t find the anchovies, just go with the powdered packets -and make sure the first ingredient is “anchovies” not msg or bonito etc. )
1.5 cup of bonito shavings (katsuobushi). do a google search for them and you will see the packaging.
lump of rock sugar
1 small bottle of Japanese Sake. I used Ozeki Junmai Reishu sake, the blue bottle. Son likes it.
1 tbsp msg or a packet of seasoning from a japanese instant ramen, make sure it’s shio flavor or pork flavor, don’t do the soyu or miso one unless you are set on eating soyu or miso ramen.
1-2 bay leaves
1 piece of ginger, about the size of 2 ice cubes
1/3-1/2 cup mirin (japanese cooking wine)
tsuyu (I use Mitsukan brand)
6-12 small to medium size chicken eggs. Or fresh quail eggs, but double the amount. San Jose chicken farm has some awesome peewee eggs, they are chicken eggs that are xxs, I would love to get those next time, since my servings are small.
8-10 oz of pork back fat. It’s basically the fat trimmed from pork belly or side pork, same as the fat you see on your bacon. Berkeley Bowl sometimes sell back fat, or if you can’t, just bo to a japanese or korean market and buy 10-12 oz of their thin sliced sliced pork belly( san-mai-niku-pork, literally translates to thi.t ba chi?) pick the fattiest pack, which will look more white than pink. If all fails, you can just get some american bacon, make sure it’s not cooked, not smoked, not seasoned with anything else besides salt, but this should be your last resort, because the salt used to season the bacon is not the best salt….
1 whole chicken. I use an organic chicken from Costco.
fresh ramen noodles. I used Sun brand. This exact package, actually. Dried ones work well too, as I know Santouka uses dried ramen, but I think theirs are from Japan, and the dried ones around here tend to be from china. Not sure if it might produce same texture. When in doubt, just use ramen from the instant ramen packets.
Clean pork bones, put into an 8 qt pot, fill with cold water, bring to boil over high heat, skim continuously. Add the back fat (or whatever fatty pork meats you can find) and 1 small bunch of green onion – I just fold it in half and tie with a piece of kitchen twine to keep things neat in the pot. Once done with skimming, keep it on a rolling boil for about 1 hour. As water evaporates, boil some hot water and pour it back into the pot, keeping the water level about the same (covering all the bones basically) every 30 minutes or so. After a while, put the lid on, but keep it on a rolling boil. This will give your broth its milky opaque appearance, and its buttery taste, because the rolling boil mixes the fat into the body of the stock. If you do a gentle simmer, which some recipes recommend, your stock will come out clearer, and the fat will float on top. It’s a matter of taste.
while boiling the bones, put 4 small carrots + 1/2 onion (cut cross grain) and 1/2 head of garlic (also cut cross grain, unpeeled) into a tray, brush them with some oil (canola will do) and roast or boil them in the toaster oven until they are golden or very lightly browned. I broiled them, so it took me only 20 minutes. When done, add the carrots and garlic into the pork stock, plus a piece of ginger. Pull the ginger out of the stock after about 30 minutes. Add 1/3 cup of sake.
keep this stock on a rolling boil for a minimum of 6 hours. I had mine on for 8.5 hours. Remember to add boiling water to it whenever the water level drop. If you don’t add water, then the flavor get more intense and concentrated, so it’s up to you to decide the richness of the broth.
in a separate 8 qt pot, cut up the chicken into pieces (wings, drumsticks, breasts etc.), add cold water to cover, bring to boil, skim, then keep on a rolling boil but at a lower temperature than the pork stock. Add the roasted onion, a lump of rock sugar (about size of an ice cube or smaller, a piece of ginger (I added the same one that I pulled out of the pork stock). Cover with lid and keep on rolling boil for a minimum of 2.5 hours. I kept mine boiling for about 4 hours. Add 1/3 cup of sake. Don’t add water to the chicken stock, because you will be adding something else.
at the same time, soak 1/3-1/4 cup of dried anchovies + kelp in about 2 qt of cold water. Leave standing for 30minutes to 1 hour. After that, turn on the stove and heat it up, but pull out the kelp when you see smoke rising out of the pot – do not let the water boil with the kelp in it, because it will ruin the stock. Once all the kelp pieces are out, bring to boil and let simmer for about 15 minutes, add 1/2 of the mirin (1/6 cup) then add the 1.5 cups of bonito shavings. Stir and let stand for 45-60 seconds, then drain the whole thing into a new pot – you will have a clear seafood broth.
Add the seafood broth into the chicken stock. Keep boiling.
I just followed this recipe I did everything as instructed.
When the chia-siu is cooked, I added about 1/2 of the stock in the chia-siu pot to the pork stock on the stove instead of using boiling water.
menma (braised bamboo shoot strips)
Drain the bamboo from package, rinse with water.
In a small pot, add about 1 tbsp sugar + the remaining 1/2 of the mirin + about 1 tsp light soy sauce + 5 tbsp chicken stock. Adjust the taste with Tsuyu
Simmer for about 20 minutes.
japanese soft boiled eggs
in a heavy bottomed pan, add 1cm of cold water, 6 eggs, cover tight with lid, put on the stove. turn the stove to high and bring to boil, then turn the heat down to medium and set timer for 4 minutes. Turn off the heat after that and set timer for 3 minutes (don’t uncover). After that, open the lid, plunge the eggs into cold water until they are cooled. This will yield you the eggs that look like this. The recipe for the soft boiled egg is also taken from epicureandebauchery, I just did everything the author told me to do with repeated success. With quail eggs I do 2-2 instead of 4-3 minutes.
slice up 1 bunch of green onion thinly. Really thinly. I sliced mine too thick because I was dead tired, but the next time I’ll make mine about 1/4 the size.
boil some water, blanch the beansprouts for 3 seconds, then drain.
8 HOURS LATERRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRRR…. TIME TO EAT RAMEN.
Bring 4 qt of water to boil, use a deep pot. Use a noodle strainer or something of the kind, place it into the boiling water (keep it on rolling boil the whole time). Drop 1 serving of noodles into the strainer, let sit for 1:45″ for firm noodles, 2 minutes for less bite. Remove from hot water, give it a good bag or toss in the strainer, do it a few times, it’s fun. If you are serving this to a kid, I suggest you cook the noodles for 2’15” and then run it under cold water. That way it won’t be too hot.
Put ramen noodles into serving bowl, add about 1/8 -1/4 tsp of sea salt + a bit of MSG directly on top of the noodles [or a bit of salt and a good sprinkle of ramen seasoning packet :) ] – I add MSG to mine, because I know my favorite ramen places use msg, if someone is allergic to msg, you can leave it out. If you leave them out because you think they are bad for you, don’t blame me if it doesn’t taste as good as I claim. Ladle 1 part pork stock + 2 parts chicken stock into the bowl. Quickly add 2 slices of chia-siu, 4 pieces of menma, some blanched beansprouts, good tbsp of green onions, a few drops of sesame oil, and your first bowl of ramen is done!
I need to take better pictures and arrange the toppings better next time. I also need to slice the onions more thinly. Ah what the heck, 9 hours in the kitchen was killing me.
If someone prefers soyu ramen, you put some soy sauce on the ramen instead of salt, then ladle 1 part pork stock + 1 part chicken stock.
if someone prefers tonkotsu ramen, you use a combination of salt and light soy sauce to season the noodles, then use 2 parts pork stock + 1 part chicken stock.
If they ask for miso ramen, tell them I am not there yet.
Same thing with the spicy ramen. Better luck next time.
I use this pepper to sprinkle on top of my ramen (S&B Assorted Chili Pepper – Nanami Togarashi)
This is not a recipe for someone who has never tasted a decent bowl of ramen from a beloved ramen joint. Because I’m terrible with measurements, everything is recorded in approximation. I also eat less salty than most people I know, and definitely less salty than what restaurants typically serve.
I often spend years eating some of my favorite dishes, and then from my taste memories, I recreate those dishes by guessing what have gone into them (after doing some researches). What I share here, I hope that you will have tasted a few good bowls of ramen by the time you attempt this, and you, too, have a good memory of what your favorite ramen tastes like. Then you can use what info I provide to figure out how to replicate the taste of your favorite ramen.
Here’s some essential info I have, going into this 1st attempt:
Shio ramen are sometimes made of chicken and seafood stock alone, no need for tonkotsu. I like my ramen richer and more buttery, that’s why I add some tonkotsu stock; if the ramen from your memory is less rich, and cleaner in taste, you might probably want to simmer your stock instead of keeping it on a rolling boil, and stick to chicken stock and seafood dashi instead of adding tonkotsu stock.
Since I mostly wanted to make shio ramen, I didn’t use as much back fat in my tonkotsu broth. To achieve the milky whiteness and the buttery flavors that places suck as Daikokuya in Little Tokyo serve, you will need to triple the pork knuckle bones and the back fat, as well as using a few pieces of pork hocks (trotters)
In making the seafood dashi, the anchovies are like the fish sauce seasoning, the more anchovies used, the saltier and deeper the flavor gets. The Kombu is like salt, you need it in moderate amount, and good salt makes a big difference. The bonito flakes are like sugar, they balance out everything. Don’t over cook the bonito flakes. If you boil them for longer than 60 seconds, it gives a weird acerbic taste to the broth, probably because of the smoky flavor. Don’t ever boil the kombu, the slimy substance will get into the stock and ruin the taste. If you use the seafood dashi recipe alone, and add some tsuyu to it, then you will have yourself an udon stock.
There are other topings such as a sheet of seaweed, chopped kimchi, black mushrooms, nananegi, quail eggs, fish cakes, etc., so you can look into them if they sound good to you. If I can ever find it, I would love to add a single umezuke (crunchy pickled plum) to my bowl of ramen, but I can’t find any around here right now.
Sun ramen is a very decent noodle brand. They don’t use preservatives, and they don’t add artificial coloring to their noodles. They are a company based in Hawaii.
Let me know how your ramen turns out. Next time I might just make a simple tonkutsu stock with just bones and back fat, then freeze the sucker, and each time I want ramen, I just use the stock, add seasoning of an instant ramen, and slurp away. That’s a thought.
sources I’ve referenced:
http://norecipes.com/blog/tonkotsu-ramen-recipe/ (very good explanation and guideline + recipe, highly recommended for anyone who wants to make tonkotsu ramen – I didn’t find this site until tonight, will use this recipe next time).