Momofuku week, Ramen
Ramen has a notable place in the Momofuku cookbook being the first picture in the book, the first recipe, and the subject of one of the first narrative stories. Fittingly, I chose ramen to be my first foray into the official-Momofuku-cookbook-world.
Making ramen stock is no more difficult than making any other kind of stock, but I can understand a Swanson canned broth user being intimidated by such a large amount of liquid simmering for hours on their stove. Is it worth it? Definitely.
As mentioned in the Momofuku introduction, this recipe is broken up into multiple sub-recipes, many of which could be optional, and all of which can be used in other recipes in the book (or eaten on their own). The only required elements are the broth, of course, and noodles. Did I make my own noodles? No. David Chang doesn’t mind. From the noodle recipe introduction:
But, and this is a big but, I really don’t think you need to track down alkaline salts or kansui and make these noodles…Substitute any other homemade pasta you like, or fresh lo mein, which you can buy in any half-respectable Asian food store or supermarket.
The other elements of ramen that I did make: roasted pork belly, pickled bamboo shoots, and slow-poached eggs. In upcoming posts I’ll talk about how the pork belly can be used in buns, how the bamboo shoots can be used on a pickle plate, and really, how can’t a runny poached egg be used? The raw ingredients used in the broth itself are also not wasted—spent shiitakes were pickled, chicken was shredded (to be served both in the ramen and on its own with ginger-scallion sauce, also from the book), blanched bacon was fried up.
As for the flavor, my only real benchmark for ramen comes from Samurai Noodle here in Seattle and it sets a fairly high standard. The Momofuku ramen comes close enough that adding in the homemade factor sends it to the top of the chart. The ramen broth is not as in-your-face as Samurai, leaving a lot of room for complexity and subtlety from the layers of ingredients used to make it. It has great mouthfeel, owing to the pork neck bones and a nice smokiness from the bacon, all on top of heavy umami from the konbu and shiitake.
For this recipe, the cost of ingredients is pretty low and the time investment is mostly inactive. Pull out your biggest stock pot, throw it all in, and put on Tampopo while you’re waiting. The $0.10 packet of Top Ramen will be history!