The Ramen Quintet

I will start this by saying there is nothing wrong with a bag of ramen. In fact, there is a lot right. All of the carbs, the salty broth, the dehydrated veggie packets that you tell yourself make it healthy. Maybe you’ve even upgraded from Top Ramen and are going international and trying some finds at your local Asian market or blowing out all of your taste buds on the Samyang Hot Chicken Ramen. Maybe you even are dressing it up here and there with some veggies or tofu or a few sheets of seaweed.

All of these things are great, but now it’s time to ascend to making your own ramen broth, instant packets be damned.

Good ramen has five things: a broth (usually a bone broth), a tare, noodles, a flavoring oil, and your toppings.

Your basics.

The Broth

We’ve talked about the broth before, so any bone broth that you make will do. Now if you’re making a specific type of ramen (say, tonkatsu), then there’s a very specific process and ingredients for this. Unless I’m making ramen to impress a crowd, I usually just make a pork bone broth as my base. It gives it a rich fatty texture that shimmers the soup and clings to the noodles.

Of course if you want to make a vegetarian iteration of this, you can use a vegetable or mushroom stock. (If possible, I prefer the latter.)

The Tare

This may be the thing that you’re less familiar with on the list. A tare is a flavoring agent that you add to the broth to flavor it. I eat a lot of ramen, so I make mine in bulk since it will keep in the refrigerator for at least a month. (Let’s be honest. Mine has been in there since July.)

There are three main types of tare–shoyu (which I’m going to teach you today), miso, and shio. Each of these gives your ramen its distinctive umami flavor. Please note that this tare recipe is a modified variation from Ramen Obsession by Naomi Imatome-Yun and Robin Donovan. (A must for ramen lovers.)

A shoyu tare is the easiest and most common tare that you’ll find. To make it, combine 1 cup soy sauce, 1/2 cup sake or Shaoxing Wine, 1/2 cup mirin, and 1 tablespoon each of crushed garlic and diced ginger.

Bring all of the ingredients to a boil, then bring down to a simmer. Cook for ten minutes, then strain the solids. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge until use.

Look at those sexy globs of hot sesame oil.

The Noodles

I love a good wavy, fried noodle in a square packet. There’s something nostalgic and endearing about it at the same time. (Maybe it just reminds me of all the hangovers.) But there are a lot of choices when it comes to noodles. If possible, I either make my own Chinese egg noodles (not the same, but a lot easier) or buy fresh-made at our local Asian market. (Check in the frozen section!)

However, you can also buy a whole range of quality dried noodles, some of which are even straight! (Unlike me. Haha!) Try out a variety. I find some things work better with different recipes. If I’m doing a Korean iteration with kimchi and American cheese, I want the fried wavy brick noodles. But for this, you want something that’s going to really pull through your oils and fats, so consider something a touch fancier?

The Flavoring Oil

A good ramen always has a little glisten to it. Sometimes that’s just the rendered fats in the bone broth. Sometimes it’s a chili oil, or a nice fragrant sesame or garlic oil.

Personally, I love hot sesame oil, which has a pretty solid kick to it without overtaking the whole of the flavor. A little drizzle to finish is a must!

Toppings

Six-and-a-half minute eggs.

What would a bowl of ramen be without all of the delicious things you can dress it up in!

I personally always believe that an egg is a must. I’m a fan of the six-and-a-half minute egg. To make, slowly add your eggs to boiling water. (It helps if you bring them to room temperature beforehand.) Boil for 6 minutes and 30 seconds. Remove from the water and put directly in an ice bath. You can store them in the fridge this way for up to 5 days, which means if you’re taking your ramen components to go, even better for easy transportation.

If you have the time, you can also marinate your eggs in soy sauce, which helps to season them even further.

But there are ENDLESS OPTIONS for the toppings on ramen. Truly. Here is a list of some things I’ve enjoyed in mine recently:

  • Dried seaweed
  • Fish balls
  • Fried tofu
  • Sauteed corn
  • Fish sausage
  • Green onions
  • Blood cake
  • Chashu
  • Bok choy (or any leafy greens)
  • Mushrooms
  • Rehydrated wood ear mushrooms
  • Kimchi

Putting It All Together

To put it all together, boil your noodles following the package instructions. In a separate pot bring 2 cups of bone broth and 2 tablespoons of tare per person to a boil.

Strain noodles and add to bowl. Add broth-tare mixture. Top with delicious things!

Ramen with poached duck egg, fish balls, green onion, seaweed, and chard.

Ramen a great way to clear the fridge out of the last little bit of things from leftovers or the veggie drawer.

Let us know how you’ve been making your ramen recently!

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