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Category Archives: Soups

Rich White Chicken Ramen


(serves 3)
This is a relatively easy way to make an impressive rich chicken stock for Ramen, on par with those in Ramen restaurants. You won’t need to grind bones and slave over the simmering stock for hours, simply by using soy milk as the secret ingredient. A lazy man’s Torikotsu Ramen if you will. The Chicken Chashu and Caramelized Leek used in this recipe give this Ramen its own character.  
 

Ingredients 

  1. Chicken Thighs (3 with bone)
  2. Chicken Breast (3 halves)
  3. Ramen Noodles (3 servings)
  4. Bacon (2 slices)
  5. Soy Milk (1.5 cups)
  6. Eggs (3)
  7. Leek (1)
  8. Hon Dashi
  9. Soya Sauce
  10. Chicken Stock Cube (1)
  11. Sesame Oil
  12. Sesame Seeds
  13. Coriander Seed Powder

The Night Before 

  1. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a pot. After rinsing the chicken thighs, place them into the boiling water together with 2 slices of bacon. Cut the leek into half. Place the top half with the leafy portion into the pot and retain the lower half for later use. Keep the pot on a very low simmer for an hour and then leave covered overnight.
  2. Brine 3 pieces of chicken breasts in a solution of 4T salt and 4t soft brown sugar dissolved in 4 cups of cold water. Make sure all the meat is submerged and keep them in the fridge overnight. (refer to notes if you haven’t done this before)
  3. Boil some water in a different pot and place 3 eggs in the boiling water for 7 1/2 minutes and then straight into iced water. This is to get the yolks runny but the whites cooked, the so-called Ajitama style egg. Shell the eggs carefully and soak them in a solution of 1T of soya sauce and 0.5t of soft brown sugar in 1 cup of water. Keep them in the fridge overnight as well. (refer to notes if you haven’t done this before)

The Next Day

  1. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer again, until the volume is reduced to about 3 cups.
  2. Rinse the brined chicken breasts thoroughly and marinate in 2T sesame oil, 1t Chinese Wine, 1t coriander seed powder and 2T sesame seeds.
  3. Take the eggs out of the fridge and allow them to warm to room temperature.
  4. Julienne the remaining half of the leek. Pan fry the leek in 4T of oil until they are light brown. The leek should continue to darken for a while after your turn off the fire.
  5. Pour the stock through a strainer to remove any sediment, discard all the solids. Pour the filtered stock back into the pot. Add 1 chicken stock cube, 2t of Hon Dashi and 0.5t of sugar, followed by 1.5 cups of soya milk. Bring to a simmer again.
  6. Remove and reserve half the crispy leek from the pan for later use as garnishing. Add some of your chicken soup to the pan with the other half of the crispy leek, stir and pour everything back into the soup pot.
  7. Arrange the sesame seeds in the marinade onto the chicken breasts like a crust. In a toaster oven, cook the chicken breasts for 10 minutes at 150oC followed by another 10 min at 200oC. Alternatively you can roast them for about 13 minutes in a regular oven preheated to 180oC. In either case the chicken is done when it begins to shrink. Check visually to make sure you don’t over cook.
  8. Allow the breasts to rest and when at room temperature slice them as shown below. Deglaze the baking tray with some of your chicken soup and pour everything back into the soup pot.
  9. When the soup has been reduced to 3 cups again, skim off any film that has formed on the surface and it is ready for use. Check for taste and add a bit of water as needed, but remember that Ramen soup has to be more salty than regular soup.
  10. Cook the raw noodles in a separate pot of boiling water. Strain the noodles and separate them into 3 large bowls. Add boiling soup and top off with the chicken slices, the crispy leek and the eggs sliced in half.

Notes

  • If you have a chicken carcass, or even better chicken feet you can add these to the stock pot at the beginning. They will increase the gelatin content of your stock. 
  • Your soya milk should not be of the sweetened variety. It’s the type some people add to their coffee in place of creamer.
  •  If you are unfamiliar with brining, you can refer to this page (but ignoring the poaching part).
  • If you are unfamiliar with making runny yolk eggs, you can refer to this page (but ignoring step 8).
  • Use whatever type of noodles you like but if you want to be authentic and can’t find real raw ramen noodles, you can make ramen noodles out of spaghetti following the procedure from this page.
 

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Flourless New England Clam Chowder


(serves 10)
New England or Boston Clam Chowder, the ultimate blending of seafood and vegetables in a hearty soup. When you are making 
America’s most famous soup there are a few things you want. Thicken the chowder without any taste of flour, make the chowder faster without having to wait an eternity for the potatoes to disintegrate, give the chowder rich layers of flavour. After a lot of trial and error, I think I have come up with just the right recipe to achieve all these things. 

Ingredientsclam chowder 1000

  1. Canned Clams in Brine (3 x 184g)
  2. Bacon (6 slices)
  3. Canned Anchovies in Oil (50g wet weight)
  4. White Wine (0.5 cup)
  5. Potatoes (5 large)
  6. Leek (1 stalk)
  7. Onions (2)
  8. Scallion (10 stalks)
  9. Mascarpone (125g)
  10. Bread (4 slices)
  11. Hon Dashi
  12. Sherry
  13. Dill Weed

Preparation Part I

  1. Cut the crust off 4 slices of bread and leave in the fridge to dry overnight.
  2. Peel the potatoes. Boil 3 (not all 5) of them in a large pot with 10 cups of water.
  3. While the potatoes are boiling, cube the bread into 1cm pieces and crush them into crumbs in a plastic bag with a mallet. Toast the bread cubes lightly if they are not crispy enough to be smashed.
  4. Dice 5 slices of semi frozen bacon and allow them to thaw.
  5. Fish the potatoes from the pot after boiling them for 20 minutes. Keep the water on a low simmer and put the bread crumbs in.
  6. Julienne the onions. Partially open a tin of anchovies and pour its oil into a pan. Fry half of the onions on low heat in the pan, stirring occasionally.
  7. In the meanwhile dice the remaining 2 potatoes into 1cm cubes. Julienne the scallion and the leek. Don’t add them to the pot just yet; you can put the cut vegetables with the raw onion bits.
  8. When the onions have become limp and translucent, mash the anchovies in the tin itself and add to the pan. Stir fry for a minute to mix the anchovy into the onions, turn up the fire and then deglaze the pan with half a cup of white wine. Bring to a boil and after a minute pour the contents of the pan into the simmering pot.
  9. Next, stir fry the bacon bits in the same pan. When the bacon fat has rendered and the bacon begins to brown add the brine from the clams, reserving the meat for later use. After a minute after it reaches boiling, again pour the contents of the pan into the (still simmering) pot.
  10. When all the breadcrumbs have melted, mash the 3 cooked potatoes and add the mash to the pot followed by all the vegetable bits. Add 1T of Hon Dashi pellets, 1T dill weed and 1t sugar. Top up with water such that everything is submerged. Continue to simmer for another 40 minutes stirring occasionally, then leave the pot covered on the stove to cool.
  11. When you are about ready to serve your clam chowder, bring the pot back to a boil and add the clam meat. Place 125g of mascarpone in a bowl with some hot liquid from the pot. Mix until all the lumps are gone and pour back into the pot.
  12. Add 3T of sherry and 1t black pepper, simmer for a further 5 minutes and then add salt (and sugar) to taste. Serve with oyster or other similar type of unsalted crackers

 Notes

  • If you have fresh clam meat you can add that to the chowder in step 10, but you still need to use the canned clams, for the clam brine.
  • Yes I did not use any celery in my recipe, its not essential in my opinion. If you insist on adding some chopped celery, fry them with the onions in step 6.
  • If you are using waxy type potatoes, you can keep the skin on the diced potatoes if you prefer. Depending on the size of your potatoes you may need more than 5; I’ve assumed the use of large ones. For a thinner chowder, mash only 2 potatoes.
  • If you don’t have any Hon Dashi, you can substitute in any kind of seafood-type stock cube.
 
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Posted by on January 28, 2017 in Recipe, Seafood, Soups

 

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Singapore-style Prawn Ramen


(serves 5)
Singapore’s Hokkien Prawn Noodles is a favourite of mine, and so is the Shio-Ramen of Hakodate in Japan. In fact they can be considered distant cousins. Both these types of noodles use seafood, pork and salt to flavour their soup so I thought why not try a fusion combination of the two styles. The good thing about prawn stock is you don’t have to boil it for hours and hours for perfection, for extracting the full rich flavour of prawns is a relatively simple process. This makes this Ramen recipe a great option for home cooking. 
 

Ingredients Prawn Ramen

  1. Large prawns (8=600g)
  2. Fish Cake (400g)
  3. Noodles or Ramen (5 servings)
  4. Shallots (8)
  5. Bean sprouts (2 cups)
  6. Garlic (1.5 bulbs)
  7. Coriander (100g)
  8. Chinese Wine
  9. Chicken Stock Cube (2)

Please note: the ingredients for Chashu Pork must also be procured but they are not listed above. Refer to the link just below.

Preparation 

  1. The night before you have to oven-stew the Chashu Pork according to this recipe. Use only 2T instead of 1/4 cup of soya sauce but otherwise follow the recipe faithfully. Leave the Pork to soak overnight in the cooling oven and the following morning, place the meat(wrapped in clear film) and stewing liquid separately into the fridge.
  2. On the day itself, julienne the shallots and put the peeled cloves of 1 bulb of garlic through a press. Fry them together in a pan on low heat in 1/4 cup of oil until they are slightly caramelized. Strain the oil into a bowl and then pour the oil back into the pan, leaving the fried material on the strainer.
  3. Cut the heads off the prawns. Heat up the pan again and stir fry the heads in it. When the heads are red, pour in 3T of Chinese wine. Then add  1 cup of water. Cut the heads up with a pair of scissors while they are in the pan and leave to simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Strain the liquid into a large pot and add a fresh cup of water (without wine this time) to the pan. Bring to a boil again, then simmer for 5 minutes, then strain the liquid into the pot again. Repeat for a third time. This is the secret to a rich bright red prawn broth, the hallmark of a quality Singapore Prawn Noodle. Discard what is left of the mashed prawn heads.
  5. Shell and devein the prawn bodies. Add as much water as you need so that you end up with five bowls of broth. Bring the broth to a boil and place the prawns into the pot and cook them until they curl up. This will not take too long. Remove the prawns into a bowl and allow them to cool. Reduce the heat to a low simmer.
  6. Julienne the top half of your coriander. Tie the stems into a knot and throw them into the pot of broth. Add half of the fried shallot garlic mixture to the pot. Add half the chopped coriander as well. Retain the remaining coriander and fried garlic/shallot as condiments. Sliced Prawns
  7. Add most of the stewing liquid from the pork into the pot followed by 1t of sugar and 2 chicken cubes. Stir and then add salt 1t at a time until the taste is right. Broth that is served with noodles has to be saltier than plain broth, remember this as your are taste testing. Remove the coriander stems at this point.
  8. Slice the pork, prawns and fishcake. Keep the sliced pork wet by drenching it with the remaining stewing liquid. Fishcake comes cooked so there is no need to cook it again. Keep the slices covered in the fridge.
  9. Boil the bean sprouts in plain water with 1t of salt. When they are limp, drain the water and keep the bean sprouts into a bowl. You can reuse the pot for boiling the noodles.
  10. To serve, boil your noodles in a separate pot until they are al dente. At the same time bring your broth to a boil. Divide the noodles into 5 large bowls. Arrange the bean sprouts and various meats over the noodles. For each bowl, pour boiling stock into the bowl and then drain the stock back into the boiling pot – this is to warm up everything. Add broth a second time and garnish with the condiments.

NotesSliced Pork

  • Large prawns are quite expensive if bought fresh. It is ok to use frozen prawns. The size of the prawns is important, do not substitute with smaller prawns or the broth will be very weak (soup is not red).
  • Most of the greyish stuff in the ‘spine’ of the prawn is roe. When deveining the prawn, you really only want to find and pull out the alimentary canal.
  • Besides Ramen, you can use any type of Asian noodles you like, fresh or dried. Do not use pasta or instant noodles.
  • I sometimes make chicken stock with chicken feet to add more body to the soup.
  • For a more Japanese feel, instead of the stock cubes in step 7, you can use a heaping T of Miso. Japanese Prawn ramen usually has a generous topping of Sakura Shrimp. You can also try adding some to your noodles for that added wow factor. 
 

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Japanese Dried Mixed Noodle Toppings


(serves multiple portions)
Dried Noodle Toppings are something you keep in the fridge and sprinkle over freshly cooked soup noodles to instantly transform a mundane bowl of noodles into a symphony of tastes and textures. The toppings are created from a mix of small dehydrated vegetable and seafood items which come back to life after a few seconds in hot soup. While great with instant noodles, they also go very well with oatmeal, congee or any kind of gruel. With Dried Toppings, you needn’t worry about cooking meat to go with your noodles ever again.   
 

Ingredients Mixed Noodle Toppings

  1. Wakame (a.k.a. dried sea mustard)
    a delightful bouncy seaweed which is commonly found in miso soup. It has a mild taste and mainly serves to add the texture of seaweed to your noodles.
  2. Nori (a.k.a. laver)
    a type of crispy seaweed which is processed into paper like sheets. You have probably come across them in sushi rolls. Nori practically falls apart when it gets wet but it does provide gives the flavour of seaweed that Wakame provides the texture of seaweed lacks.
  3. Sakura (a.k.a. cherry shrimp)
    These give your noodles that occasional something crispy and tasty to munch into. They also give your broth an undertone of seafood flavour. You can find out more about sakura on this page.
  4. Dried Shrimp Roe 
    These deepen the hint of seafood from the sakura. You can find out more about this item on this page.
  5. Wheat Spirals
    This is a mainstay of Japanese noodles in clear soup. When hydrated, these spirals feel and taste a bit like a mini rolled up omelette. They also absorb the taste of the broth very well. These are made of gluten, so gluten-phobics be aware.
  6. Dried Bean Curd
    These are small bits of bean curd which have been toasted till they are completely dry. They impart the balancing taste of bean curd to your soup.
  7. Sesame Seeds
    These are a dry substitute for sesame oil. According to convention you should use white sesame if you are using whole seeds (nice crunch) and black sesame (flavours the soup) if you intend to mill them into powder.
  8. Dried Scallion
    You can dry these out in an oven wrapped in foil or just buy them in a bottle. They add a hint of cooked onion to the soup.

Toppings Ingredients

Preparation 

  1. Rather than give you the exact amounts of ingredients, I’ll refer you to the picture above with all the ingredients in the right proportions.
  2. The two types of dried seaweed are required in larger amounts than the rest of the ingredients as you can see and they are essential for noodle toppings. All other ingredients are optional or substitutable with other dried items.
  3. You basically just mix all the ingredients in a bowl and them store them in a zip-loc bag or air tight box in the fridge. All the ingredients are fully dehydrated so they will keep for a long time in the fridge. If any of your ingredients come with a pouch containing drying agents when you purchased them, you should throw these into the zip-loc/box to keep all the ingredients bone dry.
  4. The amount suitable for a big bowl of noodles is whatever you can grab with three fingers. Do not use too much of the toppings or your noodles will get over powered. I usually put the toppings in the bowl before pouring in the noodles and soup (which would make them bottomings) so there is sufficient hot soup to hydrate them properly.

NotesBefore and After

  • Try not to substitute in too many items which have been preserved using salt. Otherwise, your noodles may become too salty.
  • Use only small bits. Don’t substitute in dried items which are too large to rehydrate in a few seconds of boiling water. So things like whole dried mushrooms are out. 
  • You can buy ready mixed noodle toppings as well, at any place which sells dried Japanese goods.
 
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Posted by on May 12, 2015 in Japanese, Recipe, Seafood, Soups

 

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Breton Fish Stew (Cotriade)


(serves 6)
This is my version of a classic from Brittany, the fish stew that Breton fishermen enjoy after a hard day at sea, the Cotriade. Unlike the more popular French bouillabaisse which relies on tomatoes and crustaceans for a base flavour, the Bretons prefer their fish stew au natural. Its harder to achieve a flavourful seafood stew that is white but when you do it right, the pure unadulterated flavour of fish makes a world of difference.  

IngredientsContriade

  1. White Fish Fillets (500g)
  2. Black Mussels (500g)
  3. Canned Sardines in oil (2 x 120g wet weight)
  4. Canned Anchovies in oil (50g wet weight)
  5. White Wine (1 cup)
  6. Minced Garlic (3T)
  7. Onions (2)
  8. Celery (2 cups chopped)
  9. Carrot (1)
  10. Bread (3 slices)
  11. Thyme
  12. Dill Weed

Preparation Part I

  1. Leave 3 slices of bread in the open to dry overnight.
  2. Cut the crust off the bread and cube the bread into 1cm pieces. Cut the crust into small pieces as well, but separately. Toast the bread cubes till they are brown and then crush in a zip loc bag with a mallet.
  3. Dice one onion. Place the onion bits into a large pot. Partially open one of the sardine tins and pour its oil into the pot. Turn on the heat and occasionally stir fry the onions.
  4. In the meanwhile, spoon all the sardines and anchovies including their oil into a bowl with 3T of minced garlic. Mash everything up with a spoon.
  5. When the onions are soft, turn up the heat and add the fish and garlic mash. Stir fry for a minute, continuing to mash up the fish. Next, add 1 cup of white wine, wait a further minute and then add 4 cups of water and 2T of chopped thyme. This is the stock for your stew.
  6. While the stock is simmering on low heat, cut an onion into 6 wedges, dice 2 cups of celerey and 3/4 cups of carrot. Add this to the stock together with the bread crumbs.
  7. While the veggies are cooking, soak your mussels in water for a few minutes. Also, cut your white fish into chicken nugget sized pieces. You can leave the skin on. Marinate with 2T of oil and a light sprinkle of salt and pepper. Do not put either the mussels or fish into the pot yet.
  8. Continue the simmer until the onion wedges turn into soft individual petals. Then turn off the heat.

Preparation Part II

  1. This is the part you do about fifteen minutes before serving your stew.
  2. Bring the pot up to a full boil.
  3. Add the clams and continue boiling for 1 minute.
  4. Next add the marinated fish making sure all the pieces are submergedand. Continue boiling for 1 minute (less if you fish pieces are not thick, but never more).
  5. Turn off the heat but leave the pot covered for 10 minutes while the fish continues to cook .
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper to bring out the full flavour of the stew. Garnish with a sprinkle of dill weed or chopped parsley.

 Notes

  • When I first decided to come up with my own cotriade recipe, I was confronted with a typical dilemma. Fish gets hard and then flakes up if it is boiled for more than a short while. But, any kind of stew needs to be simmered for a long time for it to develop its full flavour. Many fish stew recipes get around this by using tomatoes (or worse bacon) for the base flavour, but that is the easy way out. The solution was to use canned fish and wine to form the base flavour.
  • The next challenge was to get rid of the fishy smell and taste of the canned sardines. After some experimentation, I found that the combination of onions, garlic and deglazing with wine at a high temperature did the trick. When you see the stew frothing up a bit after adding the wine, don’t worry, this is normal. Its just the fishiness going away.
  • The sardine stock in turn allows us to just par boil the fresh fish right at the end, so it remains intact and tender. A fish stew is supposed to have 3 types of fish for variety so I recommend you use 2 types of fresh fish. Cod I find is one of the best choices, and I also like pomfret and sole, but basically any kind of fish white fish would do. The most important thing is to not overcook the fish.
  • Besides tomatoes, the other ingredient I didn’t want to use was potatoes, which would make it more like a chowder (or worse, like beef stew). This presented another problem: how do I give the stew some body? Then I got to thinking, well you eat French stews with bread, so why not just have the bread already boiled into the stew? That worked out well.
  • For the white wine, the oaky tones of a chardonnay is a perfect fit with the stew.
  • If you want a North Sea taste don’t use olive oil as it imparts a Mediterranean feel. I use sardines in sunflower seed oil for this stew.
  • Instead of using salt at the end, consider ‘cheating’ and using Hon Dashi pellets instead. It will bring out the best in your fish stew.
  • If you like French seafood stews, check out my bouillabaisse recipe.  
 
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Posted by on March 7, 2014 in A Kobi Original, French, Recipe, Seafood, Soups

 

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Types of Ramen, Styles of Ramen


Types of Ramen: The Perfect RamenRamen is a noodle in soup dish which originally made its way from China into Japan when the country reopened its borders during the Meiji Restoration. The dish was refined and improved to such an extent over the past century that it has all but overshadowed its original Chinese cousins on the world stage. The world of Ramen is pretty complicated and this post will systematically categorize the different styles of Ramen that are common in Japan along with their various soup flavours, broth types, accompanying meats and toppings. It doesn’t teach you how to cook Ramen, but you’ll know how to order different types of Ramen at a restaurant or recognize the various types at the supermarket.

The word ‘Ra’ means pulled (into) while ‘Men’ means noodles. That’s how the noodles were made in the old days, a single lump of dough was manually stretched and folded in half dozens of times til it formed a bunch of thin noodles. The noodles are machine made today but the dough is still made from the same basic ingredients: flour, salt, normal water and an alkaline mineral water called kansui. It is the kansui which give Ramen noodles their unique bounce and taste and it also makes them yellow even though they contain no egg. As raw ramen noodles are alkaline and have some flour dusted on them, they have to be boiled separately. The noodles come in different thicknesses and lengths but essentially there is relatively little to differentiate one type of good noodle from another. If you really want to be scientific about it, thin noodles have a larger surface area to volume ratio are supposed to be eaten with the more subtle soups. Just remember, thick noodles go with thick soup, thin noodles go with thin soup. There is a tradition in some shops to allow you to add extra noodles halfway while eating (called kaedama) but I recommend against this as the soup is not really hot enough by this time. Some others allow you to add rice to the left over soup, this is fine.

Broths Ramen
Basic ramen broth does not have too many ingredients. It is usually made from pork bones, chicken bones or a combination of the two. In certain recipes dashi, which is a consommé made from Bonito(dried salted tuna) flakes or Niboshi(dried salted anchovy) is simmered with Konbu(a kind of kelp) and blended into the meat broth to create a purer clear broth. Fresh seafood may be used occasionally in certain regional varieties, but usually not beef and probably never mutton.

Flavour Types
For Ramen, broth and flavour are distinct and separate. This is one of the unique things about Ramen. Think of it as: broth + flavouring = soup.  A Ramen is usually defined by its flavour which affects its final taste. There are 4 primary types of Ramen soup flavours: Shio, Shoyu, Miso and Tonkotsu.

  • Shio (She-Oh)
    means salt and this is traditionally the way Ramen soup is flavoured. All Western broths would be considered of the Shio type. The salt doesn’t affect the appearance of the broth and therefore Shio soup tends to light coloured and clear. Shio flavoured soup will tend to be a tad saltier than the other types.
  • Shoyu (Show-You)
    means soy sauce and this is next oldest flavour type. Instead of salt, a sauce made by fermenting soya beans is used to make the broth salty. This sauce is not your regular table soya sauce, but typically a special sauce with additional ingredients made according to a secret recipe. The broth for Shoyu is the only type that tends not to contain pork. Shoyu soup is also usually clear, but is dark coloured and sweeter than Shio soup.
  • Miso (Me-So)
    In more recent times, Miso paste has also been used to give Ramen broth its savoury taste. If Miso is used, it is immediately obvious as the soup will be opaque. Shio or Shoyu  flavoured soups merely accent the flavour of underlying broth, while miso leaves a fuller complex taste in the mouth since it also has a strong taste of its own.
  • Tonkotsu (Tong-Coats-Zoo)
    is technically not a true flavour since it is contains either salt or soy sauce. It is made from boiling ground up pork bones (ton=pig, kotsu = bones) for 12-15 hours till all the collagen has dissolved into the stock as gelatine (details here). The result is a rich whitish soup that is distinct enough to consider Tonkotsu as a separate fourth flavour of Ramen. To be clear, the use of pork bones does not automatically mean the soup is of the Tonkotsu type. If the pork bones are boiled whole for a relatively shorter period, the result is just regular pork broth.

Meat IngredientsRamen Components
The most common type of meat served in Ramen is Chashu which is another type of food borrowed from China and subsequently modified over decades. It is basically a pork belly tied into a cylinder, braised and then served in slices. What the pork is braised in differs from recipe to recipe but general ingredients include soya sauce, sake, mirin and sugar. In my humble opinion, the Chashu is the hardest part to get right in a Ramen. Chashu often goes hand in hand with Shoyu Ramen since the braising liquid can form part of the ‘shoyu’. Sometimes the pork belly is braised in its original shape but also sliced. You can refer to my own oven braised Chashu recipe here.

Another item that one finds in their Ramen more often than not is Ajitama, a soya sauce seasoned boiled egg with its yolk still runny. The Chashu braising liquid also comes in handy when seasoning these eggs. Ramen can also be served with fresh seafood, Kamaboko(a bouncy fish cake with a characteristic pink swirl) or with no meat at all. Unlike for soba or udon soup noodles, slices of beef are rarely served with Ramen, although new age Wagyu Ramen has been making an appearance lately.

Toppings and Condiments
Whilst the number of possible ingredients used for Ramen broth is quite limited, a large variety of ingredients are used as toppings to differentiate one Ramen from another. The more common toppings include Nori (a type of seaweed paper), Wakame (a type of rehydrated seaweed), Menma (preserved bamboo shoots), Negi (scallion), Kikurage (black fungus), juliened leek, sesame seeds, fried garlic and pickled plum/ginger.  A lot of Ramen shops will also top off with a proprietary spicy sauce or a ball of spicy miso to give a kick to the soup. This way customers can chose how spicy they have their Ramen is.

Regional Styles
The way Ramen is cooked has more or less evolved over the past century along geographical lines. Tonkotsu is the primary flavour of Kyushu Island in the South while Miso is generally associated with Hokkaido Island in the North. The central island of Honshu is home to the Shoyu flavour. Even within these demarcations, local variations have sprung up and are known by their city or prefecture of origin. Many of these variations feature local produce that is famous nationally. The following is a list of the main varieties (that I have come across anyway) of Ramen.

Tokyo Ramen

Tokyo style Shoyu Ramen

  • Tokyo style Ramen
    Tokyo style Ramen is the archetypical Shoyu flavoured Ramen. Many Ramen stalls originally served soba in a dashi soup and when the use of Shoyu was introduced, the practice of using dashi was retained. Today chicken stock and shoyu is mixed with dashi to produce the unique Tokyo style Ramen. Tokyo Ramen is usually served with Chashu, Kamaboko, half an Egg, and is topped with chopped leek and preserved bamboo shoots. In Yokohama, the port of Tokyo, pork is used instead of chicken for the broth resulting in the iekei sub-variation.
  • Asahikawa style Ramen
    This is a less well know shoyu type ramen that is distinguished by its combination of seafood and pork into an oily stock. Like all ramen from Hokkaido, it is designed with cold weather in mind. Asahikawa ramen uses roughly the same toppings as shoyu ramen from Tokyo (see above).
  • Hakodate style Ramen
    As all ramen was originally Shio flavoured, Shio ramen wasn’t invented in any particular place. However, when one mentions Shio ramen, a bowl of Hakodate style Ramen comes to mind immediately. Hakodate is where the tradition of making ramen soup flavoured with salt has remained unchanged even as new flavours and styles were introduced all over Japan. Hakodate style ramen is usually made with chicken broth resulting in a golden coloured soup. Very often Hakodate Ramen comes with chicken meatballs.
  • Hakata style Rame
    Tonkotsu type ramen originated on the warmer Southern island of Kyushu where most of Japan’s pig farming is done. Hakata is a district in Fukuoka City, the biggest city on Kyushu and the style of ramen from there is universally recognized as the standard version of tonkotsu. Hakata Ramen is usually topped with Chashu, egg, scallion, sesame seeds and pickled ginger.

    Hakata Ramen

    Hakata Style Tonkotsu Ramen

  • Kurume style Ramen
    A close cousin of Hakata Ramen is Kurume(Koo-Roo-Mare) Ramen. This is thought of as the original way Tonkotsu was made before it was modernized into the Hakata style. Its soup is similar but even richer in pork taste (from adding pig’s head, trotters etc. to the broth). The noodles of this variety come topped with fried pig lard bits and dried seaweed.
  • Kumamoto style Ramen
    Kumamoto prefecture is in the middle of Kyushu and its style of ramen is yet another variation of the Tonkotsu type. It is served with stewed pork belly, and a generous amount of fried garlic together with the oil the garlic was fried in. Toppings include pickled ginger and julienned leek.
  • Kagoshima style Ramen
    Kagoshima is a port at the Southern tip of Kyush. Here the soup is lighter as it is made from a mixture of pork tonkotsu and clear chicken broth. Kagoshima is home to Kurobuta pork, which makes their chashu all the more delicious. Other types of noodles, similar to those from ‘nearby’ Okinawa or Taiwan are sometimes served in place of regular ramen noodles.
  • Kitakata style Ramen
    This style of Ramen has a unique shoyu flavoured soup made from pork broth mixed with dashi made from dried anchovies. It hails from the city of Kitakata in Northern Honshu which purportedly has the highest concentration of Ramen shops in the world. Kitakata style Ramen features flat noodles and is typically served with sliced pork belly, leek and fish cake.

    Four Seas Building

    Nagasaki Shikairo, home of Champon

  • Nagasaki Champon
    Champon is a specialty of Nagasaki which was invented by a Chinese cook as a Meiji era equivalent of affordable fast food, for the Chinese students who were studying there. It is the most Chinois of all Ramen and today Champon is served at every restaurant in Nagasaki’s Chinatown. It is practically the only ramen from Kyushu which does not use a Tonkotsu soup. Unlike all other ramen, Champon uses special noodles that are cooked in the soup itself. This ramen is served with a stir fried mix of pork, seafood and cabbage.
  • Sapporo style Ramen
    The city of Sapporo is in the Northern Island of Hokkaido and it is the bastion of Miso flavoured Ramen. The first use of miso in Ramen soup was by chef Omiya in Sapporo in the 1950s. Chicken or pork bones are used for the broth and when combined with red Miso paste makes for a rich soup, perfect for the cold weather up North. Hokkaido is home to the big vegetable and dairy farms of Japan as well as several fishing ports. Today the inclusion of the top natural produce of Hokkaido in the toppings (butter, corn, leek, roasted scallops) and soup (seafood) in Sapporo style ramen has become common practice.

    Wakayama Ramen

    Wakayama Ramen with Pork Ribs

  • Tokushima / Wakayama style Ramen
    Tokushima style Ramen is the most popular style of Ramen on Shikoku Island, the smallest of the 4 main islands. It uses a combination tonkutsu-shoyu soup which is deep brown in colour. This ramen is served with a raw egg instead of an almost-cooked one. The other special thing is it is served with baraniku, a kind of stewed pork rib. A sub-variation of the Tokushima style is Wakayama style Ramen. Wakayama is on the main island of Honshu, just across the inland sea from Tokushima which is probably why Wakayama Ramen can be described as a Tokyo style Ramen served in Tokushima soup. For instance it will be served with a boiled runny-yolk egg instead of a raw one.
tsukemen-1200

Tsukemen with Pork Neck

Tsukemen
This is a form of ramen where the noodles comes dry in a plate. The stock is concentrated into a thick soup and is served separately. The idea is to bathe each mouthful of noodles in the sauce before immediately eating them, which is why Tsukemen is usually translated as Dipping Ramen. There is no traditional flavour to the soup, and this just depends on what soup the ramen shop specializes in. The are two reason certain people prefer tsukemen; firstly the flavour is quite intense (but not more salty) compared to normal ramen and secondly the noodles are sort of lukewarm instead of piping hot when you eat them, so you can eat this really fast.

Ebi Ramen

Prawn Ramen

Special Ramen Styles
This last category of Ramen covers those noodles served in non-traditional soups and thus don’t fall under any of the regional styles above. One popular variety is the Ebi Ramen, where a meat stock is fortified with prawn heads, giving it it’s characteristic reddish hue. This prawn soup is unlike any other kind of ramen soup you have ever tasted. Besides the standard condiments Ebi Ramen is also topped off with some unusual ones like deep-fried shallots and sakura shrimp. One famous shop known for this type of Ramen is EbiKin; it is located just outside the (old, not sure if the market has moved yet) Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. If you would like to try making this style of ramen, I have a recipe here.

Chicken Ramen

Torikotsu Ramen

The other type of nouveau ramen I really like is Torikotsu Ramen. The stock of this type of ramen is made in a way similar to Tonkotsu but using chicken instead. After a long boiling time the resulting soup is similarly milky, heavy with gelatine and strong in meat flavour. This distinguishes it from the Hakodate style soup which is also made from chicken, but is clear. Torikotsu is typically topped with things like fried shallots, cabbage, scallion and perhaps a wedge of lemon. In some cases even the accompanying Chashu can be made from chicken as well. To try this type of less-common ramen, may I suggest a small Ramen chain in the Yokohama area called Matsuichiya.

 

Quality Ramen

Quality Ramen Pack

Supermarket bought Ramen
In this final section I am going to discuss home-cooked Ramen. Quality ramen from the supermarket normally comes in rectangular 2 serving packs. If they are available, they will be found in the refrigerated (not frozen) section. The packing will generally indicate the style (e.g. tonkotsu on the yellow pack) of the ramen. If its a really good product, there will be a picture of a famous Ramen chef whose recipe the product is based on. The noodles are soft, sealed seperately within and the instructions will tell you to cook them separately from the soup. The soup will come in the form of a large pouch containing a condensed soup paste. You’ll need to procure all the meat ingredients and condiments yourself separately, resulting in an authentic ramen. If you don’t have any chashu lying around the house, try pan-fried luncheon meat (please do not quote me on this) and perhaps some seasoned runny yolk boiled eggs made according to my recipe. The easiest condiments to use are perhaps Japanese dehydrated kelp, dried seaweed sheets and sesame seeds. You can pre-combine some as described here.

Soba stick ‘Ramen’

A second type of noodles is the off-the-shelf ramen-style soba stick noodles. Technically buckwheat soba noodles means this is not a true ramen but the soup pack that comes with with them is a concentrated form of a recognized ramen soup. These stick noodles also come in dual servings. The packaging will be flat and long, and typically indicate the regional style (Kumamoto, Kagoshima, Nagasaki from left to right in photo) of the soup, often with a map even. It’s not as good as the quality ramen above but on the plus side, they keep for a long time and don’t need to be refrigerated.

If your pack of noodles is the type where you just boil a hard cake of noodles in water or fill a paper cup with boiling water and add some soup powder after the fact, this isn’t ramen at all; its only regular instant noodles. Besides being hard to the touch, the other tell-tale difference is these inferior noodles are always made with 1 serving. These instant noodles are dried by deep frying them in oil and the soup powder contains a heavy dose of MSG so this type of noodles are not too healthy. The packaging will neither give a ramen flavour nor style, but will be described by the meat (e.g. chicken, seafood) used to manufacture the soup powder.

 

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Chestnut and Garlic Soup


(serves 6-8)
There is nothing like some hot Chestnut Soup to warm you up when its chilly outside. The one problematic thing with chestnut soup is the sweetness of chestnuts. When it comes to this particular genre of soups, its very easy to cross the line from soup to dessert. Thats where the garlic and pancetta in my recipe come in.  All said, this is a simple recipe, with only a few ingredients, but the result is a whole bowl of yummy goodness. 
 

Ingredients Chestnut Soup

  1. Peeled Chestnuts (600g)
  2. Pancetta (150g)
  3. Garlic (8 cloves = 0.5 bulb)
  4. Chicken Stock Cubes (2)
  5. Bourbon
  6. Nutmeg
  7. Oregano
  8. Sage

Preparation 

  1. Seal the peeled chestnuts in a gallon zip-loc bag with most of the air squeezed out. Bash the chestnuts with a meat mallet or rolling pin till the chestnut is reduced to little bits.
  2. In a pot with 4 cups of boiling water, dissolve 2 chicken stock cubes.
  3. Add the chestnuts to the pot and simmer for ninety minutes, stirring occasionally.
  4. In the meanwhile peel half a bulb of garlic and put the cloves through the garlic press for mincing. 
  5. Next, fry 150g of cubed pancetta on low heat in a pan until the fat has pretty much melted and the pancetta begins to crisp. Add the garlic and continue to fry til the garlic starts to brown nicely. Immediately turn off the heat and add a cup of water to stop the garlic from getting burnt.
  6. When the ninety minutes is up, your chestnut bits should have soften nicely. Blend the chestnut pieces into a watery puree using an immersion blender. Chestnuts are pretty tough so you’ll need to stir the blender around the pot on high power for about 30 seconds to whip the soup into a nice creamy texture.
  7. Add the contents of the pan into the pot and bring to a simmer again. Add 2t sage, 1t nutmeg and 1t oregano, 2T of bourbon. Maintain the simmer for fifteen minutes so the crispy pancetta can soak in some moisture.
  8. Towards the end, add water to bring your soup to the consistency you like. Sprinkle with black pepper, taste and add salt til the soup tastes just right. Garnish with a bit of chopped parsley.

Notes

  • Nowadays you can just buy peeled chestnuts but if you are starting off with raw chestnuts, cut a cross on the shell (so they don’t explode) and roast them in an oven for 20 minutes at about 200oC before peeling them.   
  • Chestnuts are naturally sweet so you’ll want to use the smoked or affumicata type of pancetta. Pancetta is seasoned with lots of herbs so they release a really nice complex taste into the soup. Don’t be tempted to drain off the oil that melts into the pan, that’s where the flavour lies. There is more than enough starch from the chestnuts to emulsify the oil so your soup won’t be oily.
  • Tip: add a teaspoon of miso in place of salt for that extra dimension of flavour.
 
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Posted by on January 29, 2013 in A Kobi Original, English, Recipe, Soups

 

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