“She ate ramen noodles from the vending machine, their texture just a few molecular recombinations from the Styrofoam cup containing them.”
I can’t pinpoint the exact inspiration for my adventure into ramen broth over the weekend, perhaps those “Shanghai Girls or “The Samurai’s Garden” books that I’m reading, or knowing that TCL Theater is now the current home of the “Oscars Night” and not Grauman’s, or in fact the dreary weather and that “Asian pantry” of goods holding my last piece of kombu staring at me, but smell memories do count.
I was trying to find the words to describe all Ramen noodle variations lining the grocery store shelves knowing without reading the labels that they are full of salt among other mystery ingredients. A while back, I had a wonderful bowl of ramen reminding me of a winter day in Japan long before the Yokohama Raumen Museum opened. Nevertheless, big bowls of ramen from tiny shops/carts in Tokyo and Yokohama were a nice treat after a train ride to an orthodontist back in the 60’s.
Armed with just a little knowledge from several online sources I decided to make my own broth, which is not difficult, but one needs to watch over the pot of broth that barely simmers. Periodically skimming the foam and impurities that rise to the top of the broth is necessary all in all a Japanese version of a labor of love “Sunday sauce” so bear with me as the recipe and directions are not short.
Today’s pork market trip had plenty of goodies to add to the pot, but not one pig’s foot, leaving my choices of pork rib bones and pork neck bones as the two main pork ingredients. Chunks of bone-in chicken thighs and chicken wing tips were the next ingredients for the stock along with carrots, the green tops of fresh leeks, ginger, onion, garlic, a sheet of kombu, and dried shiitake mushrooms.
There were so many thoughts on simmering the stocks to read, I plucked tidbits of information and started out for the hours long ramen adventure. Beginning with a brief initial simmer of the meat ingredients (separately), draining and a gentle rinse then back into a cleaned pot along with about 1-1/2 pounds of roasted pork neck bones. After adding in all of the remaining ingredients, I settled in for a long skimming and simmering period and hoped for a flavorful ramen broth to have for many bowls of ramen…
The first day went very well, the cold night temperatures (35 +3° or so not more than 39°) cooperated enough to keep the broth (lid on) safe on the covered porch overnight, and in the morning, I removed the congealed fat from the broth. Now of course I didn’t toss all of the fat as I planned to add some to the noodle cooking broth. Saving the rest is my secret…
Ramen Stock Recipe – 14 quarts
6 lbs pork neck bones, *optional roasted
Two meaty pork butt bones, roasted
Any assorted chicken bones
Chicken wing tips from a family sized package of wings (save the rest of the wing parts for Asian style wings)
4 lbs chicken thighs, bone in skin on and cut in half
The bright green stalks of two thoroughly cleaned leeks
2 medium-sized carrots, peeled
1- 3-inch piece of ginger
1 medium onion halved
2 small heads of garlic unpeeled and cut in half
One sheet dried Kombu, 3 x 6
Pinches of bonito flakes or bonito seasoning
One big handful of shiitake mushrooms
*2 quarts of homemade chicken stock
Roast the pork bones at 375° for 20-25 minutes and add to a big (16 quart) stockpot, cover with water, bring to boil, turn down to medium high and simmer for 3-5 minutes skimming all of the foam that rises to the top. Drain the pork bones (lightly rinse any foam that clings to the bones, follow the same procedure for the chicken. Add all the meat to the stockpot along with the rest of the ingredients, fill the pot almost to the top with water and bring to a boil, lower heat to the lowest simmer possible and let stock simmer for 8-12 hours, skimming any foam that rises to the top.
Strain all of the stock into a large pot, cover and refrigerate overnight or do as I did place out on the covered porch in 35° temperatures. It is easier to skim the fat from the broth when chilled. Portion broth into 1-quart containers and freeze leaving some out for the first night’s bowl of ramen of course.
Now here is where I go cheap with the remaining meat and bones that I am sure still have some flavor left in them (roast it all for 20 or so minutes), toss all of the strained ingredients into a smaller stockpot (8 quart), cover with water and another quart of homemade chicken stock or broth and simmer again for at least 2 hours. Strain again and haul the bones and pickings down to the canal to feed crabs and fishes and you will be greatly rewarded come crab season. and don’t be surprised if you catch a flounder, legal sized of course.
More wonderful broth (season with additional tare sauce) to simmer fresh ramen noodles in before adding to a big bowl of the original ramen broth and your choices of fresh ingredients.
In my experience and Asian store has better prices on ingredients than a grocery store is and it is much easier to stock a mini-Asian pantry from a reliable and consistent source.
My choices for garnishes for ramen bowl:
Tare sauce, homemade or Asian store-bought (if homemade consider a bit of mushroom soy as part of the soy sauce amount)
Fresh cooked ramen noodles (substitute dried noodles of choice but they will take longer to cook in seasoned noodle broth)
Fresh green onions chopped
Soft boiled eggs, halved (see note)
Clean all of the leafy fresh ingredients and drain on paper towels
Fresh bean sprouts
Shredded Napa cabbage
Shredded bok choy
Julienne snow peas
Fresh enoki and/or maitake mushrooms
Fresh spinach leaves
Dried shredded fuere furekame
Japanese rice seasoning or Japanese pepper
Thinly sliced tare sauce grilled pork (thin pork chops worked fine, but remove bone and trim before slicing
*Soft boil eggs in boiling water for 6 minutes, cool with cold water, gently peel. Put into a small zip bag, add about ¼-cup tare sauce, and allow the eggs to marinate for at least 20 minutes to take on some color from the sauce. Drain and chill until ready to use.
Assembly: Heat ramen broth, prepare garnishes, and cook fresh noodles. Serve a bowl of cooked noodles for each person and a bowl of hot broth to which each person can add noodles and garnishes of their choice.