Reflections of a foodie & the making of Ramen

ramenbowl10
Ginger Scallion Noodles

I’ve been wanting to write this post for a while. My time off from any type of legitimate food blogging had me thinking about the term “foodie”. Coincidentally, there is some debate brewing between the “foodies” and the anti-foodies here in Richmond, Va.

Phrases like “wads of vascularized ass-fat” have been forever embedded in my vocabulary.

For more on this story, see here and here. If you are reading this post for the ramen recipe, just skip my chatter and skip a few paragraphs below. :)

I try to stir clear of food politics, which is probably why I accidentally on purpose left my copy of “Omnivore’s dilemma” on a plane earlier this year. It somehow gets in the way of my enjoyment of food. I already know what is wrong with the food chain here in the U.S., all I have to do is look at the shopping cart of a Mom with 2 1/2 kids checking out at the grocery store.

I’ve also gotten a bit allergic to the term “foodie”. I, for the life of me, have no idea how that word has gotten a bad rap. It’s kinda a mouthful to say, “I’m a person who loves food.” But somehow the word has gotten equated with food elitism – which clearly does not describe me.

I do admit in the beginning of my food blogging days, I’ve explored the realm of fine dining and followed the work of Thomas Keller, Daniel Boulud, Michel Richard and company.Years ago, scoring a reservation at El Bulli or the Fat Duck had been my ultimate dream, but that has changed. As one fine dining experience turned less and less gratifying while dollars spent on soulless food  continued growing, I realized that carefully composed plates of 10-course meals were no longer my scene.

I craved dining that satisfied the spirit and bowls of grub that were steeped in culture, not creations driven by the latest technology or a chef’s inflated ego.

Ethnic cuisine, made with recipes handed down through generations, is what makes me smile long after a meal. So forget El Bulli and the Fat Duck, hawker street fare from Malaysia or Singapore is what ultimately stimulates my salivary glands.

So let’s see what side of the Foodie spectrum I fall into:

  1. I adore Peking duck, duck confit, pork belly & roast suckling pig. The key theme here is crisp skin and unctuous, glorious fat.
  2. I have an annoying trait of insisting to make dishes the right way almost to the point of being unreasonable. Even if it takes a couple of days to prepare and just a few minutes to eat, I continue to forge ahead. I am leery of using shortcuts if they noticeably affect the end-products.
  3. I find rice and noodle bowls very appetizing. Specially if there is an egg nestled somewhere in that mess which relates back to the appeal of street food.
  4. I am obsessive about finding the right ingredient which can be downright frustrating in a town like Richmond, Va … and unfriendly to my pocketbook specially if I have to have them shipped from somewhere else.
  5. Before macarons, my obsession was apple pie and will remain so until I find the best recipe to make it. More on this in the next post.

Anyway, for purpose of full disclosure, here are some of the skeletons in my “foodie” pantry:

  1. I love catsup and knorr seasoning. I argue that this is either culture or genetics because I see my nieces and nephew do the same.
  2. Chicken bouillon. I tried, I really tried, specially after Ruhlman lambasted the use of this and insisted that water is a better substitute. Sorry man, I taste the difference. I’m sticking to the knorr soup bouillons cubes I get from the Asian store.
  3. I love instant noodles. Though I do get mine from the Japanese store which are infinitely superior to the Cup ‘O Noodles one gets from the neighborhood supermarket.
ramenstack07
Fresh Ramen noodles – yes they can be done!

Now just because I love instant noodles doesn’t mean I don’t care for the real thing. Much to the contrary, and just to show how contrary a foodie I can be, I am not averse to making my own ramen noodles … if the recipe works.

Ramen is a type of Chinese-style wheat noodles popularized in Japan in 1980’s. It may have gotten its name from the Chinese Lo-mien, nobody knows for sure. Ramen-ya(s) are restaurants that specialized in ramen fare and there are thousands of them scattered across Japan. No question, it’s one of that country’s top comfort food, much like cheeseburgers here in the United States.

When I googled making ramen noodles, I was highly amused to see that most of the hits I got were how to microwave those bricks of instant noodles. There were also youtube videos on how to prepare instant noodle – no kidding!

Out of curiosity, I watched Ramen Girl, a film about Abby, a young American woman in Tokyo trying to discover what she wanted out of life… as for me I discovered just how revered the art of ramen-making is in this Eastern culture. A bowl of ramen is meticulously prepared, all ingredients must be in harmony and the broth is what binds all these together – undoubtedly one of the most vital component. One memorable part of the movie was when Abby and her sensei (her ramen chef teacher) went to visit the sensei’s mother because even as Abby executed all the correct techniques needed to make the Ramen broth, something was amiss. After tasting Abby’s broth, the sensei’s mother said that her broth lacks spirit, that her mind was full of other things (her boyfriends keep on leaving her). “When you make your ramen broth you must pour whatever you are feeling into it. If you are sad, pour all your tears into the broth.

I wasn’t ready to make my broth yet, but I was ready to try out the noodles.

I first tried Momofuku’s ramen noodle recipe using alkaline water instead of the alkaline salts (potassium carbonate, sodium bicarbonate) that were mentioned in the recipe – for one thing I wasn’t ready to spend $50 on those salts.

I failed miserably.

Then I came across this recipe from Tess’s Japanese Kitchen. It uses a special ingredient called kansui which is the alkaline salts in liquid form and it was available at my local Asian market, $3.00 sounds much better than $50.

kansui
Kansui – the magic ingredient behind ramen

The dough came together beautifully. The first time I made it, it did feel a bit wet and when I tried to cut the noodles they kept sticking together in two’s. For my next batch, I reduced the water just under the required 1 cup of liquid. I also found Mark of NoRecipes post on ramen very helpful.

ramenball01
Ramen Dough Ball

The dough might feel slightly moist, but you can adjust the water to make it less wet. Wrap this ball in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour.

ramendough02
Prepping dough for the pasta roller

You can use a rolling pin to shape the dough to get it ready for the pasta attachment. But it can be really hard to roll out but just do the best you can and the pasta roller will do the rest. The bench brush in the background is a good tool to remove excess flour.

ramenflat03
Stretching the dough out

Using the Kitchen Aid lasagna attachment, I rolled the dough twice through each setting of 1,3 & 5.

ramenflat04
 

By the time the dough was rolled after setting 3, I cut it in half.

ramencutter05
Linguine attachment

Make sure to flour enough when you start cutting into threads, the first time I did this I had problems with sticking.

ramenstacks06
Fresh stacks of ramen!

Here’s a short collage of how to cook it.

ramencollage
Click to enlarge


Ramen Noodlesadapted from Tess’s Japanese Kitchen

3 cups (415 grams) bread flour
¼ cup ( 35 grams) wheat gluten
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg at room temperature
1 ½ teaspoons Koon-Chun kansui 
diluted in 1 cup water – less water if dough comes out wet

Combine the first four ingredients in a stand mixer bowl. Add the kansui to the cup (or less) of room temperature water. Attach the dough hook to the machine and start mixing at low speed (if using a Kitchenaid, it’s the speed 2). Slowly add your kansui-water mixture. After it forms a ball, continue mixing for another 2 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic and refrigerate for an hour.
Divide the dough into four, work with one quarter and return the rest to the refrigerator. Flatten the dough using a rolling pin until it can pass easily through your pasta attachment. Sprinkle flour on your dough and brush off excess with a bench brush. Connect the lasagna attachment to the Kitchen Aid. On the widest setting (1 on mine), pass the dough through it twice. Continue to flour as needed. Move the setting to a narrower setting (3 on mine) and pass it again twice. By this time the length of the dough is too long and I cut mine in half. I passed the noodle dough twice through the next narrower setting (5 on mine).

Attach the linguini or spaghetti attachment to your mixer. Make sure your dough is well-floured again and pass it through. Guide the noodle strands out and then sprinkle lightly with flour and arrange in a swirl. Use immediately or freeze.
 

*These noodles cook in about 1 minute to 1 and 1/2 minutes depending on how much noodles you drop into the boiling broth and if they were frozen to begin with. On a test batch of my second attempt of making ramen, I noticed a slimy residue upon lifting the noodles from the broth. I determined that this was the starchy by-product of the extra flour or the noodle itself. By a stroke of luck, when I watched Ramen Girl, I noticed that the chef poured hot broth over the noodles after he just lifted the noodles out of the broth.  I adapted this methodology and it took care of the issue. I guess you do learn stuff when watching movies.

scallionginger08
Components of scallion-ginger sauce

Since I’m not ready yet to make the recipe for ramen broth, I decided to make ginger scallion noodles. A very simple way to immediately enjoy your noodles.
 

Ginger scallion sauce
from: momofuku cookbook

2 1/2 cups thinly sliced scallions (white and green parts; 1 to 2 large bunches)
1/2 cup finely minced peeled fresh ginger
1/4 cup grapeseed or other neutral oil
1 1/2 teaspoons usukuchi (light soy sauce)
3/4 teaspoons sherry vinegar
3/4 teaspoons kosher salt or more to taste

Combine all the ingredients, taste and check for salt – add more if needed. Let sit for 15 to 20 minutes to let the flavors infuse. Can be kept up to two days in the refrigerator.

Quick cucumber pickle

2 meaty kirby cucumbers
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt

Cut the cucumbers 1/4 inch thick. Toss with the sugar and salt. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Use immediately. Can be kept in the refrigerator up to 4 hours.

Prepare 6 ounces of ramen and toss with 6 tablespoons ginger scallion sauce. Garnish with cucumber pickles.

(I added shitake pickles but I will include that with the ramen broth recipe)

 

 

scallionginger09
Simplest dressing for your ramen noodles

 

I ordered the Tampopo dvd. I wonder what ramen-making gems I will learn from that.

30 thoughts on “Reflections of a foodie & the making of Ramen

  1. I have started reading your blog recently…very silently. I’m breaking my silence with this post because I just read it holding my breath and thinking “this is the post I was just planning to write and I could have not written it better!” I totally share you view about being or not being a foodie and in general about food. Btw, I made a three days macarons making marathon recently. I loved the challenge…and now I am ever more happy of baking apple pies and scones :) I hope you find the perfect apple pie recipe. I found mine!

  2. Pingback: Fresh Cucumber » Reflections of a foodie & the making of Ramen | Kitchen Musings

  3. We all hide skeletons in our pantry. Nobody is perfect! I also use chicken bouillon/stock (cubes) as I don’t have enough freezer space, but prefer to buy the organic version….

    A wonderful recipe! Your soba noodles are fabulous.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

  4. I guess the weight of labels still depend on where you are geographically. “Foodie” here in Pinas (at least the way I see it) is not being equated to “gourmet”. More of “gourmand”, maybe. I also don’t know how anyone who has the passion for food can steer away from food elitism. I guess it’s just changing brands but there will always be some sort of elitism. You gotta admit there is a certain gastronomic eruditeness yardstick that you use too.
    I love it when people talk about food this way. Makes me remember why I am one out of a million who does not have “losing weight” as my new year’s resolution.
    Anyway, nice to “sort of” meet you here in cyberspace. Very engaging blog. :)

  5. I LOVE this post Veron!!! I never considered myself much of a foodie although, I do adore a good wholesome meal doused in tradition.

    My plan is to make a form of pasta this year and also bake some sort of bread. I’m saving this recipe in case I really get ambitious. Marion adores Ramen noodles and I can’t stand the thought of her only getting them laden with salt.

    Thanks for sharing…

  6. I’m glad you found my recipe and that it worked out for you.

    It’s interesting that your dough was damp, while mine was almost too dry and stiff—must be that my flour is stored in a cupboard just above a radiator which dries it out. Now that we have a new house, I’m betting that my flour will work differently, not only in noodles but other flour recipes. Something to consider.

    If you make stock, make as much as you can freeze; it’s not difficult but it’s time consuming and messy.

    Every time I make it, though, it turns out slightly different. Could be I pour different emotions into it each time… (or experiment with different pork parts).

  7. This was a great post all-around – informative and thoughtful. I love how you address the ‘foodie’ issue, and the ramen noodle recipe is absolutely inspiring. Great job!

  8. HH- Yes, can’t wait to make them again for ramen with the soup, I really like making the noodles, it’s so relaxing.
    Sara – glad that you like the post and congrats on your 3-day macaron baking. I’m almost there with the perfect apple pie recipe – it’s my mom’s but I can’t resist other recipes.
    Rosa – I agree, freezer space is at a premium with me too.
    Hi Tsok – glad to see you in cyber-space. I agree that it is hard to define a foodie and it depends where you are, that is why I referred to it as a foodie spectrum. I think my reference to food elitism also includes when one enforces some kind of snobbery on friends who are not as passionate to certain facets of food as one is. Like I won’t lecture a friend who invites me to dinner and puts cool whip on dessert although sometimes cake box mixes do get me talking. But my motto is “live and let live” and I hate to enforce my way of eating or cooking on someone else which I think some foodies tend to do rather annoyingly. You are right, foodies in pinas are different and there is less politics because a lot of the food there is still very much “farm to table” specially in Baguio!

  9. Thanks Mandarina!
    Thanks Louise, I hope you do make this ramen recipe!
    Hi Tess – you have a new fan of your blog – me! I think you may be right about the flour, also do you scoop and sweep your flour? That’s how I measured mine. I sure will refer to your ramen stock recipe.
    Thanks Stephanie! I used photovisi for my collage and I edited using photoshop to add the text.

  10. Which is why I love the way you wrote about the subject. I think this right here strikes the right formula of criticism sans snobbery.
    Although I must admit I inflict mild snobbery sometimes on my friend. Like the way I cringed when a friend of mine asked for garlic rice and toyo for his pork parmigiana in a fine dining restaurant once. And this is despite my bestfriend hating me for making sure my sashimi is dripping with kikkoman before putting it in my mouth. Hehe…

  11. Thanks Eugenio – happy this is one of your favorite reads, I really enjoyed writing this post too!
    Tsok – I’m glad this post came across that way, because that was my intention. And it’s okay to cringe…inwardly…:)…but I would too if a friend of mine did the same – toyo on chix parm. And since I love soy i can understand your sashimi dripping with kikkoman…hahaha

  12. Veron,

    Are the Knorr boullion cubes you buy at the Asian grocery store different from the American stores? I use the cubes on rare occasion, but generally find them too salty.

    For years now I’ve been buying a roasted chicken broth base from soupbase.com. They make a low sodium chicken/no MSG broth version that’s out of this world. The main ingredient in their base is chicken, not salt. This is the stuff that restaurants use. I hate paying the expensive shipping, but it’s worth it!
    http://www.soupbase.com/view.asp?cid=2529

    Whenever I make ramen, I throw out the packet that comes with the package and use this soup base instead. Makes all the difference in the world.

    I’ve finally found the end all be all apple cake. It took a long time, but it was worth the wait!

  13. Hi Bonoca – I’m not sure if the bouillons from the Asian market is different from the U.S. grocery stores but the packaging is different, bouillons are bigger. I know they are salty which is why I always use 1/4 of it sometimes. These knorr bouillons are very common in the Philippines at least, and I know this will get you the closest to the authentic flavor of filipino and chinese dishes from that country.

    Thanks for the link to the soup base, I’ll definitely check that out. There was also a concentrated soup base that I used that had a chef hat as a cap and it was very good, I just forgot what the name was and where I got it.

  14. I think it’s hilarious that we were making this exact dish within days of each other. We bought fresh noodles instead of trying to make our own, but the whole process of making the ramen broth tired me out enough! It ended up being a huge success on our end too :)

  15. Caitlin – I saw your tweets :). I decided to start with the noodles first though. thanks for the warning on the broth making.
    Bonoca – thanks for the link, the video is very engaging and makes me want to make that perfect bowl of ramen. :)

  16. How beautiful your noodles look!
    I totally can’t stand elitist food; I get nervous when bombarded with all the fancy words I’ve no idea about haha. in my opinion – the best food is still the one that comes out of momma’s kitchen.

  17. Alkaline Water. You have heard a lot about it and you want to know if what is said about it is true or a bunch of hipe. A least those were my questions after my Doctor recommended that I should start drinking it. Go to my site for all of your answers. While the water is not the ware all be all medical cure, it is a step in the right direction of cleansing the body so that it can do it’s job of healing it’s self.
    The realistic fact is that people need to recognize the truth about Alkaline Water and all the benefits it will give you. We need to get the word out about Alkaline Water. The AMA and the Big Drug Companies do not want you to know the water really does work. They would be out of business if we all were healthy and did not need them any longer.
    The water really works. It cleanses the body of contaminants that we put in it by everyday living, floods your body with antioxidants that lets the body do its job of healing itself, and restores your natural wellness. For instance, this is how antioxidant are measured, the more negitive -mV the higher antioxidant level. Tap Water has positive +400 to +500mV, Wheat-Grass Juice has an negative O.R.P. (antioxidant) of -120mV. Which is good. Real fresh squeezed Orange Juice has a negative O.R.P. of -250mV. Which is better.
    The LIFE 7600 Ionizers TM can get over -800mV. in one glass. This is as close as we can ever hope to get to a Fountain of Youth. In addition, irrespective what Machine you buy, the alkaline water is going to help you feel better. Check it out for yourself and you make the call. Do You Want To Feel Good for a Change?
    http://www.way-ya-go-alkaline-water.com/

  18. Hi T.W. – awww, you flatter me. You’re my hero too if you have the knorr cookbook. I just looked through a 68 yr old victory cookbook – a chocolate chip cookie recipe made from that was so good!
    Hi Ben – I do eat some elitist food but I don’t want to be snobby about it. And I get what you mean, I do not know how to pronounce some dishes and some mentioned to me I have no clue about and some folks expect me to be a walking Larousse Gastronome because I write a food blog. :)
    Thanks maria – my pasta attachment had been unused for the longest time but I think that’s about to change.
    Hi Mike – thanks for the info about alkaline water…I do believe in its health benefits.

  19. Love this post Veron! I’ve always found the elitism attached to the word “foodie” strange…can’t we all just enjoy what we enjoy?? I love food, fancy-schmancy gourmet food and street-side sould food alike :) I also have skeletons in my food closet though…Twister fries being a major one…eep!

    Bravo on making your own noodles!

  20. Pingback: momofuku pork buns | Kitchen Musings

  21. I was about to ask if you’d ever seen Tampopo, it’s such a great film! So many funny scenes, it’s hard to pick a favorite! I’m wishing I could make ramen right now after reading your post! I’ve been itching to make my own pasta anyway, haven’t done it for years and will have to excavate all the attachments. I tried out a new little ramen shop in NY recently. Had to wait almost an hour before it opened @ lunch time to get in. Would love to try it again next time I’m in NY, if I have the time to wait. I have a feeling it’s just going to get even busier! http://blogs.villagevoice.com/forkintheroad/2010/06/tiny_totto_rame.php

  22. Pingback: Musings on the zen of ramen-making | Kitchen Musings

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s