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Goma Style Cold Ramen (Hiyashi Chuka)


(serves 2-3)
Cold Ramen or Hiyashi Chuka was traditionally served in summer as a refreshing chilled alternative to hot Ramen in the days before air-conditioning became commonplace and is still served seasonally in some places. Thus all the ingredients of Hiyashi Chuka, cucumber, ham, omelette and imitation crab sticks and even the Ramen itself are served cold. This Goma variety is served in a creamy sesame sauce and is great for lunch on a hot day. If you love the taste of peanut butter, you are definitely a fan of Goma Hiyashi Chuka, even if you don’t know it yet.    
 

Ingredients

  1. Ramen (2 servings)
  2. Tahini
  3. Ham (100g)
  4. Imitation Crab Sticks (100g)
  5. Cucumber (1/2)
  6. Eggs (2)
  7. Sesame Oil
  8. Sesame Seeds (black or white)
  9. Soya Sauce
  10. Rice Vinegar
  11. Mirin
  12. Hon Dashi Granules

Early Preparation 

  1. If you keep your Tahini in the fridge, take it out ahead of time so it has a chance to warm up.
  2. Dissolve 1t of Hon Dashi granules in 1/3 cup of warm water to make some stock.
  3. Beat 2 eggs with 1/3 of the stock, 1T of Mirin and 1 heaped t of sugar. Cook an omelette with the egg mixture, using low heat to make sure it doesn’t get burnt. Cut the omelette into strips that are about 1/8 of an inch wide and place the egg strips in the fridge, covered in cling film.
  4. Cut the ham into long strips matching the egg. Do the same with the crab sticks. Also put them in the fridge in cling film.
  5. Julienne half a cucumber into long thin pieces. They must be as thin as the noodles so they don’t remain rigid. Ideally you’d use a mandolin slicer for the cucumber as it is difficult to cut the cucumber sufficiently thin by hand. Keep the julienned cucumber in the fridge as well.
  6. If you intend to make your Hiyashi Chuka presentable keep all the toppings separate in the fridge. They should also all be of the same length.
  7. Now for the sauce.  Mix 3 heaped t of Tahini with 2T sesame oil, 1T rice vinegar, 1T Mirin, 1t soya sauce in a bowl. Use the back of a tea spoon in a circular motion to integrate the tahini into an emulsion.
  8. Dissolve 1t sugar in the remaining stock. Stir the stock slowly into the emulsion to thin it down into a sauce and then place the sauce in the fridge. It should thicken again once it becomes cold.

When You Are Ready To Serve

  1. Boil the ramen. When the noodles are done (it’s best to judge by tasting) rinse them immediately with running cold tap water in a colander. You’ll need to move the ramen around with your hands as the bottom portion will tend to stay warm. Use iced water if it is a warm day and your tap water is not cold.
  2. Leave the colander to drain for a short while and then divide the ramen onto plates. Pour the sauce evenly into the noodles and then arrange the toppings over the noodles.
  3. Finally sprinkle each plate with some sesame seeds and serve.

Notes

  • Gomadare means Sesame Paste Sauce, which is where the ‘Goma’ in Goma Hiyashi Chuka comes from. Plain Hiyashi Chuka refers to original cold ramen that is served in a vinegary soya sauce.
  • Hiyashi means chilled, which makes sense but Chuka means Chinese Style, which is strange since this dish was invented in Japan. My guess is that the closest thing Cold Ramen resembled when it first came out was Chinese tossed noodles (i.e. Lo Mein) and that’s how Chuka came into the picture.   
  • The egg and cucumber are standard ingredients for Hiyashi Chuka, but the strips of meat are allowed to vary. You can also have more than 4 toppings. Some common alternatives/additions are roast chicken, Chashu pork, fish cake, corn and tomato.
  • The sweet omelette is essentially made according my Tamagoyaki Recipe. You can check it out if your are interested in the finer details.
  • The Ramen that you use should be of the yellow wavy type. If you can’t find ramen pasta is a viable alternative. In Japanese-western buffets you sometimes see a cold pasta version of Goma Hiyashi Chuka in the appetizer section. And of course you could try making ramen from spaghetti. Whatever noodle you end up using, make sure its a type of noodle that doesn’t get mushy easily – i.e. no instant noodles.
  • If you have no Hon Dashi, you can substitute in 1/3 cup of any kind of stock you fancy, but it should be salted.
  • If you have no Mirin you can boil 4T Sake with a dab of maple syrup down to 2T to make your own substitute.
  • If you have no rice vinegar, any kind of white vinegar should do.
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Posted by on November 3, 2017 in Japanese, Pasta, Recipe, Red Meat, Seafood

 

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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 Wings (8)
  2. Chicken Breast (2 halves)
  3. Ramen Noodles (3 servings)
  4. Bacon (3 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. Rinse the wings, they must be whole, not just the mid-joint. Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Place the wings into the boiling water together with 3 slices of bacon.
  2. Cut the leek into half. It should be at least 1 inch in diameter, or else use more than 1 leek to compensate. 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.
  3. Brine the 2 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 the link in the notes below if you haven’t done this before)
  4. Boil some water in a different pot and place 3 eggs in the boiling water for 7 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. (again refer to the link in the notes if you haven’t done this before)

The Next Day

  1. Bring the chicken stock to a simmer again. Boil until the volume is reduced to about 3 cups. In the meanwhile…
  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 boiled 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 or salt as needed; 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 your chicken breast came with the breast bone, cut this out carefully and boil it with the wings. In fact any chicken bones you have on hand can be added to the stock pot. 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 the optional part).
  • 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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Making Ramen Noodles from Spaghetti


(serves 3, scalable to however many)
You can change Spaghetti into Ramen noodles. This faux Ramen derived from pasta has got the bouncy texture of and a similar taste / aftertaste to real Ramen noodles. The special ingredient for making Ramen noodles is Kansui, an alkaline mineral water.  What we are going to do here is use Bicarbonate of Soda to duplicate the alkaline effect. Boiling the pasta in alkaline water allows it to absorb more water than usual without getting soggy. Granted the result is not as perfect as fresh Ramen, but it’s close enough if you can’t buy authentic raw ramen near where you live. 

Ingredients

  1. Spaghetti (250g)
  2. Bicarbonate of Soda
  3. Vinegar (white)

Please prepare the soup, meat, toppings etc. ahead of time and have them ready before your begin making your Ramen.

Preparation 

  1. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil in a large pot. Separately boil some additional water in a kettle for later use.
  2. Add 2 flat t of Bicarbonate of Soda to the pot. This will increase the pH of the water to the necessary alkalinity.
  3. Boil the spaghetti in the pot as per normal. After a while you will notice a few things that are different from when you normally cook pasta:
  4. Firstly the water will really foam up as the Bicarbonate reacts with the starch in the pasta. I included a photo of the reaction so you won’t be shocked when it happens. Anyway, this is why you need a larger pot than usual.
  5. Secondly, the water will become a bit slimy or gooey. This is normal, the same thing happens when you are boiling fresh raw ramen.
  6. Finally, as the pasta cooks it will turn into a deeper shade of yellow than usual, to the colour of ramen.
  7. When the noodles are done they will be a bit thicker than you’d normally expect of pasta because more water has been absorbed. For your first time it’s better to test the noodles by bite rather than relying on sight. You want the noodles to be just fully cooked, not al dente.
  8. When the noodles are cooked, immediately add 6T of a white type of vinegar, like rice or malt vinegar, into the water. Lemon juice should work too. Give the pot a good stir, you will get a second round of foaming as the bicarbonate is neutralized. This will get rid of the bitter taste.
  9. Pour the contents of the pot into a strainer and then give the ramen a good rinse with some very hot water from the kettle.
  10. Your Ramen is now ready for consumption.

Notes

  • I wish I came up with this great idea but the credit belongs elsewhere. I came across it in a Japanese website.
  • If you have a choice, buy the smallest guage spaghetti that you can find, i.e. the one with the smaller n number. This will maximize the surface area to volume ratio. In fact Spaghettini might be even better, but I hardly ever see any in supermarkets. I’ve also tried capelli (angel hair), but I found it to be too thin.
  • There is no need to add oil to the pot as the bicarbonate reaction stops the pasta from sticking together. Besides, you don’t want oil to coat the pasta and inhibit the alkali from getting into the pasta..
  • There is no need to add salt to the pot as sodium bicarbonate when neutralized becomes a type of salt.
  • What about the rest of the Ramen? Not to worry, my site now has recipes for all the components of Ramen.
    1. try the Soup Recipe from here
    2. try the Chashu Pork Recipe from here
    3. try the Ajitama Egg Recipe from here
 
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Posted by on March 19, 2017 in Ingredients, Japanese, Pasta, Recipe

 

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

Ramen noodles come in many different varieties but they essentially belong to one of two types, low or high alkaline. The low alkaline noodles are thin and straight. They have a stronger taste of wheat, and have a heavier texture. They also tend to get soggy faster. The high alkaline variety are a brighter yellow colour, have a lighter feel and are more springy. They also add a layer of flavour as they have a taste of their own. Wavy ramen and thick ramen noodles belong to this second category. 

There is lots of debate over which type of noodles go best with which kind of soup and many say thin soups should go with the thin noodles cause they have higher surface area etc. , but you needn’t worry too much about this, the Ramen shop will typically pair the noodles with the soup for you and you rarely get to choose. 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 I think is the better idea. 

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).
  • Champon from Nagasaki
    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  The home of Champon is said to be the famous Shikairo in Nagasaki. Champon 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.
  • 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 Ramen
    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.
  • 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.
  • Sapporo style Ramen 

    The Sapporo Ramen Story

    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 of Aji no Sanpei (the shop is still operating today) in Sapporo in 1954. 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. If the noodles are cooked in the soup and not separately, this is a dead giveaway that you’re not making ramen. 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 is 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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Runny Yolk Boiled Eggs


(serves 4)
Half a boiled egg is perfect as an amuse-bouche or hors d’oeuvre. Its easy to prepare and can be cooked ahead of time. To avoid the powdery taste of fully cooked yolk, many recipes simply scoop the yolk out and mix it with something creamy like mayonnaise but I prefer the more natural solution, which is to have the yolk still runny after the white has cooked. In Japan, where the practice of eating Ramen with molten yolk eggs was developed, this type of egg is called Ajitsuke Tamago or just plain Ajitama for short.
 

Ingredients

  1. Soya Sauce
  2. Chinese Cooking Wine
  3. Vinegar
  4. a Drawing Pin

Optional Ingredients

  1. Garlic (3 cloves)
  2. Smoked Salmon (25g)

Preparation
The first thing anyone learns about boiling eggs is to put cold water in the pot with the eggs to prevent them from cracking and leaking. This golden rule does not hold here as timing is absolutely crucial in having the yolk runny and white solid. Not to worry, there are a few tricks to that.

  1. Store your eggs in the fridge first and then submerge them in some tap water for 5 minutes to bring the temperature of the shell up but keep the yolk cold.  A fresh egg will sink completely in water. If part of an egg floats above the water surface that means an air pocket has built up inside and it is a few weeks old – you may want to cook that egg fully. Also an air pocket means part of the boiled egg will be flat and the yolk will end up off-centre.
  2. Next heat a pot of water, adding a T of vinegar. Make sure you have sufficient water to cover the eggs.
  3. Using a drawing pin, punch a small hole at the base (the wider end) of the each egg. This will serve to relieve stress on the shell and prevent cracking since you are putting the eggs directly into boiling water.
  4. When the water is boiling strongly, lower the eggs into the boling water. If the water stops boiling momentarily after you put the eggs in, you are using too little water. Simmer from 6 minutes for medium sized eggs to 7 minutes for XL sized eggs. Use a ladle so you can put all the eggs in at the same time.
  5. As the eggs are simmering, prepare a bowl of iced water. Once the eggs are ‘done’ transfer them immediately to the iced water to prevent further cooking.
  6. After the eggs have cooled sufficiently, tap them over their entire surface to fully crack the shells. As the eggs are cold, the egg itself should have shrunk enough to detach itself from the shell membrane and this will help you to avoid damaging the eggs’ surface as you peel them.
  7. Mix 4T soya sauce, 2T Chinese Cooking Wine and 1t of sugar in the smallest container you have that can house the eggs without stacking them.  Top off with water, stir and place the eggs in, making sure they are fully submerged. Cover with clear film and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight if possible. After the eggs are stained, they will retain some taste from the marinade.
  8. Near the time of dining, slice each egg into two, and place a few drops of the marinade onto the yolk to impart some taste to them.

Optional (i.e. if not eating with Ramen)

  1. While you are letting the eggs warm to room temperature, peel and slice three cloves of garlic as finely as you can and pan fry them in a dash of oil till they are golden.
  2. Cut a slice of smoked salmon into tiny squares.
  3. Use them both as condiments for your egg as shown above.

Notes

  • This type of egg, that is to say Ajitama, is served with many types of Ramen.
  • If you happen to be making Chashu for Ramen you can use the stewing liquid as the marinade instead of making it from scratch. The soya component of the marinade can also be replaced with things like olive tapenade, tea leaves or mashed anchovy.
  • If you want to use a zip-loc bag to marinate the eggs in, make sure the bag is kept in a bowl the entire time.  When you lift the bag without a bowl, its narrow base can squeeze the eggs and cause ruptures, especially if you are making many eggs at once.
  • The iced water is essential. Instant cooling will help ensure that your eggs are cooked to the correct degree each time. Besides, slow cooling results in a grey coating on the yolk which we’d like to avoid.
  • The boiled egg is versatile. Other than the garlic/smoked salmon condiment combo suggested, you can try a wide variety of savoury alternatives like caviar, salmon roe, crispy fried bits of Iberico ham etc.
 
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Posted by on December 5, 2010 in Appetizers, Japanese, Recipe

 

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