Ramen: Beyond the Instant Packs

Ramen: Beyond the Instant Packs

I have a confession to make. I love ramen. All ramen. From Ippudo in New York City to the 10 for $1 packs at the grocery store, I'll pretty much eat any ramen that comes my way. That's not to say that I don't appreciate the good stuff when I get it. In fact, Ippudo made such an impact on me that I was determined to make the good stuff at home.

Ramen is pretty much noodles in broth with toppings. I make no claim that my ramen recipe is authentic to any particular place or style. In fact, my ramen is inspired Momofuku's ramen, which is itself a play on traditional ramen. The biggest thing I took from Momofuku was the idea of making bacon dashi. I like the combo of pork and chicken and for my ramen, I didn't want to go traditional with the dashi base. Out went the bonito flakes, in went the bacon.

Boozy Epicure's Ramen Recipe

Vegetable oil
1 lb of pork shoulder, cut into large cubes
2 cups of homemade chicken stock
6 cups of water
1 large piece of kombu, rinsed
1 cup of dried shiitake mushrooms, quickly rinsed
1 onion, 1 carrot, 1 rib of celery, cut into big chunks
2 thick slices of bacon (applewood smoked is my favorite)
sake, mirin and light soy sauce to taste (roughly 2 tblsp each)
6-10 oz of noodles (I get look for fresh wheat noodles)

4 soft boiled eggs (1 per bowl)
Fresh cut scallions
Slivers of sliced nori

I like making my broth by combining the flavor or pork with chicken, so I braise pork shoulder in chicken stock while I build the bacon dashi. Once your meat is tender, you combine the two and you've got delicious, rich broth and super soft, unctuous meat for the bowl of ramen.

Start by browning the pork shoulder in a pot with a little oil. Once it is browned on all sides, add the chicken stock, scraping the bits from the bottom, bring to a boil, then cover and let simmer while you make the dashi. You can also braise the pork in a 325 F oven while you buid the bacon dashi. Skim the liguid as necessary.

To build the dashi, place the water and the kombu in a different soup pot. Turn on the heat, bring to a boil, then remove from the heat, letting the kombu steep for 10 minutes. After steeping, remove the kombu and add the dried shiitakes. Turn the heat back up to high, bring the water to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes, until the mushrooms are plumped and have given their flavor and aroma to the broth. Remove the mushrooms from the broth,

Add the bacon, onions, carrots and celery, keeping the broth at a constant simmer. Add water as necessary and skim any scum that floats from the bacon. This all needs to simmer for an hour. By this point, your pork shoulder should have spent about 90 minutes simmering/braising. It's time to put the two together. Strain the dashi as you pour it into the pot with the pork and chicken stock.  You may need additional water if the chicken stock reduced a lot while cooking the pork. Keep this at a simmer and season with sake, mirin, and light soy sauce. I like to add a tblsp or two of each, then let the whole thing simmer/meld together for another 30 minutes before you taste one last time and adjust the last touch of seasoning before you build your bowls of ramen.

Follow the cooking instructions for your noodles, then place in a bowl. Cover with the ramen broth and add some of the pork. Finish garnishing with the scallions, nori, and soft-boiled eggs.

Serve and slurp.

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