One of my New Year's resolutions (I think resolutions are lame - maybe I should call it a 'year end wish') was to master Ramen. Not the stuff college kids survive on -- add boiling water to the styrofoam cup and Boom! You have a meal. I mean real ramen. A Japanese soup with as many regional variations as barbecue in this country.
I was inspired by Lucky Peach Magazine, Summer 2011, Issue one. David Chang, chef/owner of New York City restaurants Momofuku and the Milk Bar (a little in-joke for fellow Clockwork Orange fans) and a few other joints.
His forté is ramen and in the inaugural issue of Lucky Peach (the translation of Momofuku) he gives away the keys to the kingdom. All the recipes for his ramen. It's such a huge process, it's no wonder he felt comfortable putting his formulas out there. Very few people are going to make the duo (or trio) of broths, noodles, pork belly, roast pork etc. necessary for killer ramen.
I'm one of the very few. I made broths and belly back in March, so this week's goal was Alkaline Noodles. I read the recipe, wrote down the noodle formula, and put the magazine away.
When the noodles are done, I'll re build a broth, poach eggs, chop garnish, and fry belly trim. Beware, even in my well stocked and reasonably organized kitchen, it took a solid four hours to make this dish. It's still not Momofuku authentic. It will be my take on his recipes and process. All from scratch.
But, once the noodles and broth are done, it'll come together quickly. Heat stock, boil water for noodles, chop garnish and poach eggs.
Good ramen also needs kamaboko, or cured surimi (pureed and processed white fish that has a solid, vaguely rubbery, texture). I didn't have any so my soup lookes a little naked.
Alkaline Ramen Noodles
Process by Harold McGee, recipe by Dan Felder (Momofuku test lab) for David Chang, ramen god
3 cups AP Flour
4 tspns baked baking soda*
1/2 cup warm tap water
1/2 cup cold tap water
Dissolve the baked baking soda in 1/2 cup warm water in a large bowl. Add the cold water and the flour, stirring to make a crumbly dough.
Knead it aggressively for five minutes or until it begins to smooth out. It's a very tough dough, not soft or pliant in the least. Wrap in plastic and rest on the counter for 20 minutes. Knead the dough again for five minutes (it will be a little tougher), wrap in plastic and chill for one hour.
Portion the dough into six equal pieces. Each chunk of dough represents one portion of ramen noodles. Using a pasta maker, roll it through each setting twice, from thickest to the second-to-last thickness. Then run it through a cutter -- I used the spaghetti thickness. Or cut the noodles by hand.
* To make authentic alkaline noodles, one needs kansui or packaged alkaline salts. It's something you'd buy at Fubon or you local Chinatown. The salts come in huge tubs that aren't really effective for the home cook. Harold McGee discovered that by baking baking soda, it changed from sodium bicarbonate to sodium carbonate -- an alkaline salt.
Bake 1/2 cup of fresh baking soda in a 250 degree oven for one hour.
Back in March, I got a whole belly through work and spent a week playing with it. The linked post has a lot of good information on rubs.
For the belly pictured, I made a lovely rub that was ultimately unsuccessful. Too salty. I used Chinese five spice, ground star anise, granulated ginger, salt and brown sugar. The proportions were off.
I cured the belly (a standard cure is two parts sugar to one part salt--I went overboard on salt), marinating it for two days.
To cook, rinse off the cure/rub/marinade, pat dry.
Sear in a hot oven (450 degrees) for 30 minutes. Cut the heat to 275 and roast for one-and-one-half hours until it's tender but not mushy.
If you don't want to marinate the belly, score or dock the fatty surface, season and sear in the oven etc...
This is the easiest of the assembled parts of Ramen. Also the most time consuming. This is my own process, the Momofuku broth is expensive and more labor intensive than I can handle right now.
So I faked it by making a completely lovely hog stock. I took the belly trim meat, chopped it into small pieces, and sauteed the bits. When they had a nice color, I added a quart of water to the cooked pork, added two cups of frozen pork and onion broth from a previous meal, and a chopped onion.
The stocked simmered for about three hours. I removed the pork bits, and --get this-- sauteed them in the rendered fat! The belly was sauteed to caramelization, simmer for three hours, and THEN re fried in rendered fat. The result, even after all that cooking, was stunningly porky-deliciousness. It lost very little flavor in the manipulation process.
Chang's ramen broth is worthy of another two or three blog posts. He uses ground, dried shiitaki mushrooms, chicken parts, konbu, and scallions for one of his broths. Whew.
Thank you David Chang for inspiring me to cook harder, write better and push my food comfort-zone boundries.