This was originally going to be my New Years post, but I was a little slow to start my new year resolutions. Now that Chinese New Year has come around I can redeem myself. Instead of aiming for a beach bod for my resolution (which I could totally get whenever I want) I decided to aim for a delicious goal: Cook ramen at least 2 times a month. As mentioned before, I am a little behind on my posts as its already February, but I have already made over 5 types of ramen and eaten more bowls than I should have.
Now I am not talking about instant ramen as I could easily live off of Shin Ramyun alone. The ramen I am talking about is full on fresh noodles and broth from scratch. I have made ramen from scratch for at least a dozen occasions but it has always been from other people's recipes. While recipes from Kenji Alt-Lopez, Ramen Lord, No Recipes and Ivan Orkin are well thought out and very authentic, Ramen is a vast world that cannot be captured in a few posts. Like most dishes that I cook, I want to know the intricacies behind every component for possibly my favorite dish of all time. Let me tell you after slurping away at a few dozen of homemade bowls... this is going to be a long journey.
For my first bowl of ramen of 2016, I started basic and set the baseline for my future experiments by making Shio (Salt) Ramen. Shio is one of my favorite Ramen flavors as it is the cleanest and clearest in taste and appearance. It is made up of 3 basic component: Chicken, Fish, and Salt (and occasionally pork). While in theory making Shio Ramen is very simple, but it is complicated in that you have to layer many subtle flavors in order to build a delicious broth. The broth is also very unforgiving as the slightest change can overpower other flavors. This sensitive characteristic is perfect to test the many experiments that I have in store. To start my recipe I scoured the depths of reddit and advised my Ivan Ramen book. I started with RamenLord's Shio Ramen recipe as a base and modified it to use Ivan Orkin's double stock method.
The first component that I made was the ramen stock using chicken backs, wings, and feet. It is essential to get a good Meat to Bone to Skin/Fat ratio. Meat has a lot of flavor but adds no body to the stock. The bones and collagen do not have that much flavor, but they give you the luscious mouth feel and act as a delivery device of flavor. The key to making a pristine shio stock is temperature control. The one number to remember is 176°F. This temperature is hot enough to extract the flavor from your bird, but keeps it right below a gentle simmer that will prevent the fats from being suspended into your golden stock.
To bring in the taste of the ocean I created a simple but refreshing dashi stock using kombu, niboshi, shiitake mushrooms, and katsuobushi. The great thing about fish is that flavor can be easily extracted within 10 minutes. The muscles of the creatures of the sea break down faster which also translates to faster release of flavor. If you have extra time, remove the head and guts of your niboshi. These parts can cause bitter off flavors to your stock at high temperatures, but if you stick with 176°F when making your stock you should be fine.
Now that I have created both a chicken and fish stock, it is time to make the most complex component of my ramen - the tare. The tare is one thing that many recipes overlook. It turns your puddle of meat water stock into a savory bowl of gold. For this particular bowl of Shio Ramen, my tare consists of ground chicken, sake, mirin, kombu, and salt. This is your only salt component so you have to make it count.
This recipe is by far not perfect, but is a great starting point by pulling together a combinations of tested recipes. I can confidently say this will make an above average shio stock that will beat out run of the mill ramen shops in America. Let me know what you think and any ramen topics that you want me to post on. I am going to go into each component in more detail in my upcoming posts and different variations that I am coming up with.
- 3 chicken backs / 2.25 lbs
- 2 lbs of Chicken wings
- 1.25 lbs of Chicken Feet
- 1 whole onion quartered
- 1 bulb of garlic - 10-15 cloves
- 3 peeled carrots
- 3 tbsp of mirin
- 1/4 cup of sake
- Place chicken backs, wings, feet and vegetables in a pot.
- cover with at least 1-inch of water and bring the water up to a boil until skum starts to rise. This will be the grey bubbly stuff that is coagulated blood from the meat and bones.
- Skim the skum from the pot for until no more comes out - about 30 minutes to an hour.
- Add sake and mirin.
- Lower heat to 176°F. If you do not have a thermometer, this is the temperature right before the water begins to boil.
- Maintain this temperature for 6 hours.
- Strain stock and place in a separate contain and store until use.
- 50 g Kombu
- 50 g Katsuobushi
- 75 g niboshi (dried sardines)
- 40 g Shiitake Mushrooms
- Soak Kombu, niboshi, and shiitake mushrooms overnight.
- Heat about 10 cups of water and your soaked ingredients (including soaking liquid) to 140°F for ten minutes
- Remove kombu, and add Katsuobushi.
- Bring temperature up to 176°F, turn off heat, and let ingredients soak for 30 minutes.
- 15 g kombu
- 150 mL mirin
- 75 mL sake
- 75 mL white wine
- 500 mL of your Chicken Stock
- 1/2 lb of ground chicken
- 50+ g of salt
- 10-20 g msg (optional)
- Soak kombu with mirin, sake, and white wine overnight.
- Place above contents into a sauce pan, heat to 176°F, and simmer for 5 minutes.
- Remove kombu from liquid and add your chicken stock and ground chicken. Bring to a boil and cook for 5 minutes or until ground chicken is cooked.
- Let ingredients sit for 30 minutes for flavors to meld.
- Strain the content and reserve the ground chicken for another use. (Great for mapo tofu).
- Place liquid in a pot and add salt starting with 50 grams and msg. The tare should be at a point between salty, and unbearably salty. Side note: You might be thinking, why should I add msg, isn't that stuff bad for you? I confidently believe that it isn't. There are natural forms of it (glutamate) in delicious things such as aged cheese and meats, tomatoes, fish, and many other foods. There are many studies out there that support that many effects of MSG are i
- MSG is common in many restaurants in Japan.
- 1/2 cup of chicken fat or neutral flavored oil.
- 5-6 cloves of garlic
Heat the oil/chicken fat over medium low heat. Slice or mince the garlic into even pieces to make sure that all the pieces brown at the same time. Tiny pieces of garlic can burn quickly. Once the garlic turns golden brown and separate the garlic and oil. Reserve until you put together the ramen broth.
Assembling Ramen Broth
- 180 mL or 3/4 cups of Chicken Stock
- 180 mL or 3/4 cups of Dashi
- 1 tbsp of Garlic Oil
- 1-2 tbsp of tare (add to taste)
- 1 serving of Noodles
- Toppings as desired
- Heat up your chicken stock and dashi.
- Boil water and cook noodles according to instructions.
- While noodles are cooking, place 1 tbsp of garlic oil and 1 tbsp of tare to your ramen bowl.
- Add your chicken stock and dashi to your bowl and stir to incorporate the oil and tare into the broth. The first bowl will help you gauge the exact amount of tare is needed. Taste the broth and add tare in small increments until the flavor of the broth pops out at you.
- Drain your noodles and add them to your bowl with your toppings.
- Enjoy your delicious bowl!