The past few months I have been going out of my comfort zone and playing around with a Vegan Ramen. Now I know what a lot of you are thinking: “Ugh vegan ramen, it can’t be that good”. To be honest, I was once like that too. The word “vegan” was a turn off, however I was only exposed to vegan dishes trying to be something that it is not. I have seen dry vegetable/nut logs that are supposed to imitate a hot dog to jack fruit that is supposed to emulate meat, and even the infamous “Tofurkey”. When cooks are so focused in turning an ingredient into something that it is not, often they lose track of what makes that ingredient so special. When cooking we need to elevate the ingredient for what it is.
Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays. The fall weather and colors invoke a warm and cozy feeling from within that is begging to be nourished by ramen. It is a time where friends and family get together to have multiple feasts over a span of a few weeks with amazing leftovers. The day after Thanksgiving my family always takes the leftover bones of the turkey and repurpose it into Turkey Jook (congee). No waste! Since I am living the #ramenlife, I of course have to take it to the next level and make Turkey Ramen.
I still cannot believe that I was able to have a pop-up at Ramen Lab in New York. Just preparing for the pop-up was a mental exercise and an adventure of its own. The actual ingredient preparation and cooking for Ramen Lab was a whole nother beast that required the physical conditioning of a marathon runner.
It has been about a week since I left the City that Never Sleeps. After spending 9 days in New York and serving piping hot bowls of ramen at Ramen Lab, I finally understand the meaning behind its name. I did not sleep at all! Despite my lack of sleep, I was dreaming a lot. I was actually living it: The Ramen Dream.
The Nichijou Ramen lifestyle is about Ramen on the mind everyday, which makes it no surprise that ramen has crept into my wardrobe. I have quickly amassed a lot of ramen t-shirts and I began thinking... I need a Nichijou Ramen T-shirt.
The Rick and Morty craze has taken the world by storm. They have influenced McDonalds to bring back their Mulan Szechuan sauce and have driven some fans insane trying to get their hands on it. But life is too short to hunt down dipping sauce. When life gives you pickles, you turn yourself into one.
However, since pickle technology is very limited at this time, turning myself into a pickle is not a realistic goal. Instead, I did the next best thing. Make Pickle Ramen.
Tori Paitan is one of the up and coming ramen broth that is popping up slowly over the United States. "Tori" stands for chicken and "Paitan" refers to a white and creamy soup. Most people who I talk to always say Tonkotsu is their favorite as they love the thick, creamy and flavorful broth. However very few know about its chicken based cousin.
Duck broth is luxurious, but a tricky liquid to perfect. Duck has a gamey flavor that can overpower everything in your ramen. The trick is to mask these flavors to uncover the subtle yet rich duck flavors that are every so tasty. One of the best dishes that has mastered masking the gamey duck flavors is Chinese Roasted Duck with its use of five spice powder, which is why I decided to use some roasted duck bones that were lying around.
Porcini and Parmesan is not the first thing that comes to mind when you think of dashi, or Asian cuisine for that matter. When I pulled out a block of parm, my mom was perplexed and asked if I was even still making ramen. Dashi is a very pure stock: Water, Kombu, and Katsuobushi. Some add dried shiitake mushroom, but the dashi purists will not take it further than that. However with the creation of ramen, we need to think outside of the box and experiment. We gotta do it for science!
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.