Ramen is on my mind 24/7 and sometimes I forget to stop and smell the roses. My mind has running at a 100 miles per hour trying to make complex and unique ramen, but sometimes the best bowl of ramen is one that is recognizable with simple and straight forward flavors. That is why this weekend I took a step back and made a Tokyo's signature bowl of Shoyu Ramen.
Tokyo Ramen's roots dates back to 1910 with Rairaiken, which is said to be the first Ramen restaurant in Japan. It was made by a Chinese cook who used hand kneaded and pulled noodles with Chari Siu and Menma. The basic idea of Tokyo Ramen is a light soy sauce based soup that is transparent. The stock is typically made up of a Japanese type dashi stock with a katsuobushi base and soy sauce. Some will argue shoyu is the best of the flavors like these Kikkoman lovers...
Up until this weekend, Shoyu Ramen was my least favorite of Ramen. This was most likely because I have a lot of mediocre to bad bowls of Shoyu Ramen. Of the bowls that I have had, the great Shoyu ramen that stand out fall into three categories:
(1) Shoyu Forward - The chef showcases the high quality soy sauce in the bowl or ramen. The soy flavor hits you with a big impact, it pulls away to let in the other ingredients, and leaves you a shoyu after taste.
(2) Fish/Niboshi Forward - Fish is one ingredient that is used in all of Japanese cuisine and has a strong affinity to soy sauce. With a fish forward broth, you get punched with a fishy umami goodness followed by soy sauce flavors.
(3) Well Rounded Flavors - I like to think of this broth as the Mario of ramens. For those of you who have played a lot of Nintendo games, Mario is always the character with the most balanced skill set. In Mario Kart, he will have average acceleration, max speed, and weight. It Mario Tennis, he will have average power, spin and control. A good well balanced broth will balance the flavors almost to the point where it is hard to discern where one flavor starts and another ends.
simple and basic shoyu ramen
Ramen is complicated, but it doesn't take much to make delicious ramen. This simple recipe breaks it down to the 5 basic components as outlined in my Ramen Basics.
- Soak your kombu in your water the night before or at least 4 hours. If you are pressed for time, you can increase your cook time.
- We are going to keep things simple and make a baisc dashi. Place your kombu and water combination into a box and set to high heat. Bring the temperature of the water to 175 degrees F (80 degrees C) then reduce the heat to the lowest setting. If you do not have a thermometer, heat until the water is just about to bubble at the bottom of the pot. If the temperature is too high you will get a slimy texture with your dashi. Let the kombu soak for at least 15 minutes. 1 hour is the ideal time to extra the most out of your kombu.
- Remove the kombu and add your katsuobushi and give it a good stir. Make sure that your water is still around 175 degrees F. At this point you can turn off your stove and let the katsuobushi steep for 10 minutes. After the time has past, strain the liquids but be sure not to press on the katsuobushi too much or you can get bitter flavors.
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees F (95 degrees C).
- Heat an oven safe pot that will barely contain your meat on high heat with a dollop of oil. You want the meat to be snug in your pot to reduce the marinade needed to cover the top. Sear meat on all sides to give it a nice brown. This will start the maillard reaction and help develop flavors.
- While your meat is searing, add all of your liquid ingredients together with the sugar. Once you have seared your meat, add this mixture to your pot with garlic and green onions. Bring the liquid almost up to a boil then place your pot in the oven for 2.5 to 3 hrs or until your meat is tender.
- Strain the marinade to use as your tare.
- Thinly slice your garlic and place into a small pot with your 1/2 cup of oil. Set the heat to low and slowly fry the garlic. Keep an eye on the garlic as it can easily burn. When the garlic turns golden brown, remove from the heat and set aside.
- In addition to the chashu you made, toppings are really your choice. Typical toppings are eggs, green onions, seaweed, bamboo shoots, and naruto (the white fish cake with a pink swirl.
- For my eggs I poke a hole in the flat end of the egg with a push pin. This will help get the shell off more easily. I place them in a steaming tray and steam them for 7 minutes. Steaming is my preferred method as you can steam a large quantity of eggs at the same time. When you add eggs to boiling water, you drop the temperature which often stops the boil. Cool your eggs and peel them. You can marinate them in the shoyu tare for an hour if you like the flavor your egg.
- For each bowl, add 1 tbsp of garlic oil, 1 cup of dashi (245 g), and up to 1/3 cup of shoyu tare (80 g). The amount of tare you add will depend on the soy sauce that you use and the amount that your tare has reduced. If you are making multiple bowls at once, you can slowly add your shoyu tare to your dashi until it is salty enough for you. It is always better to under season than to over season. *Always add the oil the bowl and never directly to your broth. If you boil the broth with the oil in it, it will suspend the fat into the liquid which will make your soup cloudy. You want a nice layer of fat on the top of your broth to help insulate it and to coat the noodles.
- Boil your noodles per the manufacturer's direction. Typically 2-3 minutes for fresh noodles.
- Add your toppings to your hearts content.
Chashu Marinade/Shoyu Tare:
1-1/2 cups (600 g) soy sauce
3/4 cups (300 g) mirin
3/4 cups (300 g) sake
1 tbsp brown sugar
8 cloves of garlic
1 piece of ginger two inches long - sliced
1.5 to 2 lbs of pork belly or pork shoulder
1/2 cup of a neutral oil (canola, grapeseed, etc)
4 cloves of garlic (sliced)
Fresh Noodles from your local Asian grocery or homemade (recipe coming soon)