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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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Oven Cooked Creole Jambalaya


(serves 12)
Jambalaya is an all-in-one rice dish specific to the American South-east. If I’m not mistaken Jambalaya means Ham-Rice.  While some consider Jambalaya a spicy version of its cousin the Spanish Paella, I tend to think of it as a heavier meatier version, as is the way with all things American, and that’s the way I make mine, with lots of smoked or cured meat. I use a special extra ingredient, minced pork sausage filling, this flavours the rice really nicely. I also grill the chicken and seafood separately first, this flavours the fresh meats really nicely.      
 

Ingredients Jambalaya

  1. Clams in Shell (600g)
  2. Prawns (16 large)
  3. Scallops (6 Jumbo)
  4. Chicken Legs with Thigh (3)
  5. Smoked Pork Belly (400g)
  6. Breakfast Pork Sausages (400g)
  7. Chorizo Sausages (250g)
  8. Onion (2)
  9. Capsicum (2)
  10. Celery (2 cups, chopped)
  11. Chopped Tomatoes (1 can, 400g)
  12. Raw Jasmine Rice (4 cups)
  13. Chicken Stock Cube (1)
  14. Whisky
  15. Cayenne Pepper
  16. Paprika
  17. Cumin
  18. Oregano
  19. Thyme

Preparation

  1. Boil 7 cups of water in a pot with one chicken stock cube. Cut the heads of your prawns just behind the carapace and snip off all whiskers. Thrown the heads into the boiling stock pot and keep the stock simmering on a low flame.
  2. Shell and then devein the prawn bodies and cut into finger tip size pieces. Cut the scallops into similar sized pieces. Marinate together in a bowl using 0.5T paprika, 0.5T cumin, a pinch of salt and a dash of oil.
  3. In a second larger bowl rub 3 chicken legs with 1T paprika and 1T cumin and 1t of salt.
  4. Grill the chicken for 10 minutes and then the prawn and scallop for 5 minutes. Since the seafood cooks faster, you should not grill them together. Dissolve any left over marinade in hot stock and then pour the liquid back into the stock pot.
  5. Dice 2 cups of celery, 2 onions and 2 capsicum (i.e. bell pepper).
  6. Soak and agitate the clams in a bucket of cold water. Strain and then throw the clams into the stock pot with 1/4 cup of whisky. Boil for a minute on high heat with the cover on before turning the fire off.
  7. Debone the cooled grilled chicken and cut it into bite-sized chunks. You can mix it with the seafood bits at this stage. The bones can go into the stock pot.4 Bowls of Pork
  8. Dice the smoked pork belly. Cut the lard portions into smaller pieces (10 o’clock) and the meat portions into larger cubes (8 o’clock). Slice the Chorizo into slices (4 o’clock). Remove the skin of the pork sausages (2 o’clock) and mix the filling with 1/2 cup of water to loosen it.
  9. Spoon 4T of vegetable oil into a large frying pan. Add the pork belly and Chorizo and fry on medium heat till the lard renders. Next, add the sausage filling as well and stir fry until the minced pork browns.
  10. Remove the meat. Reserve 4T of the flavoured oil leaving the rest in the pan. Stir fry the celery and onion in the same pan until they are limp. Then add 4 cups of jasmine rice (or another type of long grain) and stir fry for a further minute.
  11. Pour the contents of the pan into a large iron pot (i.e. Dutch oven) or large casserole dish. Add the prawn heads and clams (discard those that did not open). Add all the cooked meat and diced capsicum. Mix well.
  12. Preheat your oven to 150oC (300oF).
  13. Reheat the stock and add 5 cups of boiling stock to the pot. Follow this with the can of diced tomatoes, 1T cayenne pepper, 1T oregano, 1T thyme, 1t salt, 1t sugar. Reheat the pot on the stove until is just begins to boil.
  14. Place the pot in the oven with cover on. After 45 minutes, check if the rice is cooked. If the jambalaya is already dry but the rice is still hard, sprinkle on 0.5 cups of boiling water and bake for a further 5-10 minutes. Check the rice deep under the surface. When the rice is perfect, allow it to rest inside the oven with the cover off.
  15. In the meanwhile, mix the reserved pork oil with the remaining stock in the same pan and boil down till it begins to thicken. Spoon this over your jambalaya and serve.

NotesJambalaya in pot

  • This is a recipe for a very large amount of food. You can halve the portions if you don’t have that many people. There shouldn’t be any scaling issues.
  • Between two pots of the same volume, use the one that is flatter. The Jambalaya will cook more evenly.
  • Why didn’t I just cook the jambalaya on the stove?
    Because there is a tendency for the bottom of the pot to burn. You can try that after you have perfected the oven method.
  • Why do we have to grill the chicken and seafood first?
    This is a great way to sear some flavour into them so they don’t taste like boiled meat. The high heat will also remove freezer taste and ensure the prawn does not get mushy, which tends to happen if it is cooked too slowly.
  • Why do we need to make the sauce at the end?
    The varieties of rice which can absorb the taste of the stock will go mushy if they are cooked with too much water. Adding the sauce after the rice is cooked is the best way to ensure the rice is fluffy and yet moist. 
  • Many recipes I have come across use equal parts of water and rice. Not sure what kind of rice they are using (instant?) but I find more water is required than rice.
  • Add more cayenne pepper if you like your jambalaya spicy.
  • I have made some substitutions. I used Chorizo as Andouille it is not easily found in many parts of the world. I also swapped scallops in for calamari as squid gets very hard when it is over cooked. If you can’t find smoked pork belly, use a brined ham hock or cubed pancetta (but not sliced bacon). 
  • I usually use capsicums of 2 different colours for a better visual impact.
 
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Posted by on August 25, 2014 in Main Courses, Poultry, Recipe, Seafood

 

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Singapore Chinese Pork Curry


(serves 6)
Singapore Chinese Curry is a culinary relic of the British colonial era in Singapore. Many of the British officers had previously been stationed in India and developed a taste for curry. The British Army in Singapore however had to rely on Chinese cooks who out of neccesity concocted their own curry recipes. The result was the unique Singapore Chinese Curry which contains many common items of South-east Asian cuisine. In such curries you’ll find strange ingredients such as pork, dried shrimp, bean curd and cabbage. If you are a fan of curry, this is definitely a novel curry variety you must try. 
IngredientsChinese Curry

  1. Pork Spare Ribs (1 kg)
  2. Yeo’s Minced Prawn Sambal (2 x 140g cans)
  3. Cabbage (1 small head)
  4. Firm Tofu (2 standard blocks)
  5. Fried Bean Curd Puffs (2 cups)
  6. Fishcake or Fishballs (200g)
  7. Glass Vermicelli (50g dry weight)
  8. Coconut Milk (300ml)
  9. Chinese Wine
  10. Five Spice Powder
  11. Cumin
  12. Chicken Stock Cubes (2)

Preparation

  1. Begin by pressing the tofu as explained here. You cannot use soft tofu as it will completely disintegrate and disappear.
  2. Open the two cans of minced prawn sambal into a large pot. Add 1kg of raw pork ribs and allow to marinate for at least an hour.
  3. Dissolve 2 chicken stock cubes and 1 t sugar in 2 cups of hot water. Add the stock, coconut milk and fish balls/cake to the pot and heat to a low simmer.
  4. Sprinkle in 1T of five spice powder and 1T of cumin and simmer for 90 minutes. Top up with water as necessary.
  5. Cut your cabbage into quadrants and manually break the quadrants into individual leaves. Cut the pressed tofu into large cubes, about 8 per block.
  6. Add the cabbage, fried bean curd puffs and pressed tofu cubes and simmer for about 15 minutes before turning off the heat.
  7. Before serving, soak the vermicelli in cold water for 7 minutes and then drain away the water. Bring the pot of curry to a simmer again add the vermicelli and 3T Chinese wine. Simmer for 10 minutes before serving.
  8. This dish is best served with steamed rice or egg noodles.
Ingredients

Bean Curd Puffs and Dried Vermicelli

 Notes

  • This recipe is pretty easy if you can get all the semi-prepared ingredients as they are listed. If not….
  • The spiced minced prawn a.k.a. prawn sambal is a key ingredient but unfortunately its not that easy to find in some parts of the world. You can order Yeo’s Minced Prawn in Spices from Amazon. One other option is to make your own. If you have access to a Chinese food store, buy some dried shrimp. Soak a cup of the shrimp in cold water for half an hour before mixing in half a chopped onion, 4T chili paste, 2T Oil, 1T Five Spice Powder and 1t sugar. Put the mixture in the blender for a few seconds and then finish off by frying in a pan.   
  • The other uncommon ingredient is fried bean curd (aka tofu) puffs, also known as Tau Pok in some Asian countries. If you can’t find any bean curd puffs in your local supermarket, you can make some yourself. Freeze then defrost 2 blocks of silken (i.e. not firm) tofu. Next dry and cube the resulting spongy tofu and then deep fry them as you would French fries.
  • Take note that the vermicelli to be used is the glass type (white when raw and transparent when cooked) which doesn’t get mushy even if it is cooked for quite a while. When in doubt, the ones to get are those made in Thailand.
  • For additional flavour, I often add a tin of smoked clams at step 3. Sometimes I also add some baby corn. Its a very flexible dish so experiment with any extra ingredients you fancy.
  • There is another similar style of Singapore curry known as Nonya Curry. That is a fusion of Chinese and Malay cuisine while this is a fusion of Chinese and Indian cuisine. The two should not be confused. 
 

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Japanese Chashu Pork


Chashu is the sliced pork served with Japanese Ramen noodles nine times out of ten. When properly done, Chashu is tender, succulent, infused with taste, the opposite of everything you’d normally expect of pork. The secret is in the recipe of course, and this is where you’ll learn to do it easily, and perfectly. The use of Chashu is not restricted to Ramen. You can also serve it as a main course of stewed pork belly by carving it into blocks or you can do Chashu sandwiches. A useful by-product of cooking Chashu is the stewing sauce, which can be used in a number of different ways.

IngredientsChashu on Ramen

  1. Laminated Pork Belly (400-600g)
  2. Shallots (6)
  3. Garlic (6 cloves)
  4. Ginger (1 slice)
  5. Soya Sauce
  6. Mirin
  7. Sake
  8. Sugar
  9. Butter
  10. Five Spice Powder

Preparation

  1. The first thing to do is to choose the right sized bakeware for your pork. For 400g of pork belly, its best to use bread loaf shaped bakeware that is just slightly bigger than your meat. This way the pork will not be exposed while it is stewing.
  2. Preheat the oven to 200oC (390oF).
  3. Pour 1/2 cup of Mirin, 1/2 cup of Sake and 1/2 cup of water into your baking container. Add 1T of Soya sauce for a light Chashu and 3T of Soya Sauce for the dark tasty variety. Stir in 1T sugar and 1t five spice powder. Place the pork belly into the stewing liquid.Raw Chashu
  4. Peel 6 cloves of garlic and 6 shallots. Also peel a thick slice of ginger about 2 inches long. Fit them into whatever space that is left (see picture). Top off a knob of butter.
  5. Cover the baking container snugly with aluminium foil and place it in the oven. Total baking time is 2 hours.
  6. When the aroma of the stewing pork is noticeable, this means it is boiling, reduce the oven temperature to 150oC (300oF).
  7. After the 2 hours are up, turn the oven off. You may remove your Chashu from the oven immediately or leave it in the oven (the preferred option) to cool for several hours. Seperate the meat from the liquid when they are at room temperature and place them both in the fridge.
  8. When the meat is chilled, cut it into slices. Place the Chashu on the cutting board with the skin facing up and slice from top to bottom, this solves the problem of the skin being of a different consistency from the meat. You can make the slices larger by slicing diagonally.
  9. When the soaking liquid is cold, a layer of lard will form on its surface, you should spoon it out, to discard or perhaps add to your Ramen soup. Put the stewing sauce through a strainer and keep it in the fridge for later use; it should keep for quite a while.
  10. To reheat, simply drench the Chashu slices repeatedly with the boiling soup from your Ramen. If you wish to go the extra mile, glaze individual slices with a bit of the stewing sauce in the oven/toaster oven or with a kitchen torch.

Notes

  • It is essential that you let the Chashu get thoroughly chilled before cutting or slicing it. It is really tender and will fall apart otherwise.
  • The stewing sauce will congeal into a jelly in the fridge, so thats why it needs to be seperated from the meat before going into the fridge.
  • The restaurant Chashu you normally see is round. This is achieved by rolling up your pork belly, skin facing out, with butcher’s twine before stewing it. You’ll need a slab of pork belly that is about 1.5 kg and a oval Dutch oven to do this. It is not practical to do this at home unless you happen to be inviting 10 people over for Ramen. If you really want to do this, here are some pictures to help you.
  • If you feel very strongly that pork belly has too much fat, the alternative cut to try would be pork shoulder.
  • The colour of your Chashu will depend on the amount of soya sauce used and also the age of your mirin. If you want light coloured Chashu, use a fresh bottle of mirin.
  • If you are serving your Chashu western style, i.e. in blocks, you can use the braising sauce to cook additional vegetables like brussel sprouts or turnip. The braising sauce is also ideal for making  Ajitama, a seasoned semi boiled egg that normally comes with Ramen and for marinating chicken for BBQ.
  • If you are interested in Ramen, you can refer to this post.
 
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Posted by on June 28, 2013 in Appetizers, Japanese, Oriental, Recipe

 

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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.  If you would like to try making your own ramen noodles from spaghetti I have a recipe here.

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. If you would like to try making this style of ramen, I have a recipe here.

 

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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Cooking with Rillettes


Rillettes (pronounced Re-Yet with no S) is a French potted meat used mainly as a bread spread. The most common types of meat going into a rillettes are goose (rillettes d’oie), duck (rillettes de canard) and pork (rillettes de porc). Back in the old days, before there was electricity or refrigeration, this was one of the best ways to preserve meat without altering its texture or adding a lot of preservatives. Some people call it the peasant’s pâté since it costs a lot less than pâté de foie.   

To make rillettes, raw meat is salted and simmered with some herbs at low temperatures in lard (from the same animal) for a long time, sometimes as much as a whole day. Some recipes call for braising in stock instead of lard, but those are not the real deal. As the meat falls apart, the bones are removed. When the cooking is done the meat is strained, raked with a fork to shred it,  then allowed to cool in jars or pots. After the strained liquid is cooled, any congealed gelatine is mixed back into the meat with some of the lard. Each jar is then topped off with a thin layer of lard to the brim and sealed by placing a piece of wax paper on the lard. The meat is ready for consumption after aging for a few days in the fridge. The final product is a meat spread which contains very tender meat suspended in a matrix of lard and other natural juices. After you open a jar, you can keep it in the fridge for several weeks before it goes off. 

The purpose of this post is to tell you how to cook with rillettes, not how to cook rillettes. One of the easiest ways to cook with rillettes is to spread it on fingers of brioche (or any other kind of thick soft bread) and then toast them in a toaster oven or grill. The fat melts into the bread infusing it with flavour, and you end up with a nice meaty crust on top. I normally serve these delicious fingers of bread as hos d’oeuvres or as a matching side to duck or chicken dishes.

Rillettes can be used to sautee various types of vegetables. The natural oil and flavour of the rillettes is all you need to for the job although you may wish to add crushed garlic and pepper. For this purpose I usually use the rillettes that comes in a huge tub which you buy in scoops at the meat counter. These are cooked in the traditional farmhouse style and have a higher fat content. Have a look at my Sauteed Mushrooms recipe as a reference.

One other way you can use rillettes is in the making of meaty ragout pasta sauces. You can avoid the tedious task of simmering meat for a long time and still end up with a wholesome sauce of nice tender meat. The pre-shredded meat also sticks readily to pasta because it is of the right size. I usually use the rillettes that come in small jars on the shelf for making sauces, as they tend to have less fat. Have a look at my Duck Ragu Pasta recipe for further details.

 
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Posted by on December 22, 2011 in French, Ingredients, Poultry

 

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Split-Pea and Ham Soup


(serves 8-10)
Have you heard the phrase ‘fog as thick as pea soup’? This is that soup. Split-pea and Ham Soup is a wholesome soup that has been on the menu in Northern Europe for centuries, if not longer. The Germans, Dutch and Scandinavians all have their own versions where split-peas are simmered till they disintegrate completely, leaving a gorgeous emulsion of peas suspended in ham flavoured stock. Kobi’s version doesn’t require a ham hock, so its particularly easy to make.  
 

Ingredients

  1. Dried Spit Peas (240g)
  2. Cubed Ham (150g)
  3. Pork Sausages (150g)
  4. Onion (1)
  5. Butter (25g)
  6. Cream (1/4 cup)
  7. Pork Stock Cubes (2)
  8. Nutmeg
  9. Mint Leaves

Preparation 

  1. Rinse the split peas briefly and then soak them in 2 cups of room temperature water.
  2. In a seperate cup of hot water, dissolve 2 pork stock cubes.
  3. Cut the onion into 1/4 inch bits.
  4. Slice each sausage down the middle and open them like a book face down to remove the sausage skin. Stir 1/4 cup of water into the sausage filling to loosen it up.
  5. In a large pot, fry the onion on low heat with a half inch thick slab of butter. When the onion begins to soften after about five minutes, turn the heat up and then add the wet sausage filling. Stir fry till the sausage begins to brown slightly – which means its fat has melted, then add the cubed ham and fry for another minute.
  6. Add the pork stock to the pot, followed by 3 cups of plain water, and then the peas including the water they were soaked in. Add 2t chopped mint leaves, 1t nutmeg, 1t sugar and 1t black pepper.
  7. Bring back up to a simmer again and maintain this for 90 minutes or so, at which time the peas would have disappeared. You’ll need to stir once in a while to prevent anything from sticking to the bottom. You’ll also need to add water from time to time as it evaporates.
  8. Before serving, reboil and stir in 1/4 cup of cream. Add salt incrementally (about 2t by my experience) till you are satisfied with the taste. Pea soup turns into a sludge when it cools down so always serve it piping hot.

Notes

  • If you are wondering why I’m using such and odd amount of split peas, its because 240g is half a pound and split peas more often than not come in half pound packs. It also happens to be 3 cups if you want to go by volume. 
  • One of the age-old problems with split-pea soup is: the amount of ham required to make a proper stock is 10x more than the amount of ham that should be in the soup when it gets to the table. The traditional way of resolving this is to use a whole ham hock for the stock, with a small part of the hock diced for the final soup itself. When I initially experimented with pork stock cubes, I found them to be too lean and eventually I discovered that adding pork sausage to the mix was the ticket. The sausage contains fat (and other pork parts that I don’t want to discuss) and this with the pork cubes simulates a ham hock stock nicely.
  • Pork stock cubes are popular in Asia and you should find them easily in a gourmet supermarket or Thai/Asian food store. If you really can’t find pork cubes, use chicken stock cubes boiled with spam instead. You’ll need to discard the spam before using the stock, but that’s still better than using a ham hock.
  • If you can’t find pre-cubed ham, ask for ham from the deli counter that is sliced 1/3 inch thick and criss cross that to get your cubes.
 
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Posted by on November 23, 2011 in Recipe, Soups

 

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