The story goes something like this: I eat real-life ramen, I am in love with rich, delicious real-life ramen– I want to eat real-life ramen at home, all the time– I buy a book to learn all about it. Enter David Chang and Momofuku. I read. I cook for two days. I feast. Mission accomplished.
This is not a 30 minute meal. This is an undertaking for the serious ramen-loving perhaps slightly OCD, exploratory, fearless individual. I.e.: Me. Also worth noting, since it does take some time, it doesn’t hurt to be unemployed, or otherwise have plenty of time to sit at home, smelling the amazing, intoxicating, porky aromas, drooling, tapping ones foot, etc. Again: Me. The concepts of traditional Ramen are absolutely nothing resembling the plastic wrapped, eerily artificial, dormitory prerequisite fuel, for which most people ignorantly associate with the term ‘ramen.’ Real ramen is a beautiful and complex composition of broth, noodles, meat (one or more varieties) picked something, nori, and usually an egg and perhaps some other vegetable, like braised greens, or whatever fresh vegetable is in season. Now, having never made real Ramen at home before, I knew I had some serious studying to do. The variations on Ramen are much like the secretive variations that Italian grammas have for their pomodoro. OR the differences in subtle seasonings that differentiate winning and losing pit BBQ sauces in the south. Its all about technique, quality of product, slight differences in quantity of ingredients, cook time, heat temperature, the timing and order of ingredients…and the list goes oooooooooooon……See what I’m getting at? There are endless permutations for the ‘right’ recipe for making ramen. Ab-solute-ly endless. Not to mention the importance of not just one component, but all components. The noodles, the broth, the broth seasoning, tare´, the garnishes, the pickled element, the egg…
The pork belly. Wow. Then, rubbed with salt and sugar, and let sit to cure for 24 hours in the fridge
Its all about the meat. And bones…
After the bones roasted in the oven. The malliard effect is crucial. Caramelization = Flavor
The shitakes, after they flavored the broth, they’re nice and plump and succulent– perfect for going into the light soy and vinegar pickling liquid. Shitake pickles are deeeee-licious
The tare´ is absolutely essential. Its the seasoning for your broth. That’s where all your salt is. And delicious chicken fat. Look at all the gelatin that develops, naturally!! Amazing!
I turned to what I considered the authority. David Chang. His noodle making empire started with the one and only Momofuku, which is synonymous with hip new york food-coolness. Not only that, but the dude is kind of a gangster, and a helluva nice guy. So I dove, head first, into the Momofuku Cookbook. Yep, start to finish– I made his Ramen (or my rendition of it anyway). Broth, pork belly, tare´, pickles… all except the noodles [wince] I bought the noodles from a fairly reliable, if not delightfully shady Asian market, in downtown LA. 3 days later, I had done it. Quite delicious I must say. And how intoxicating the smell. Let me tell you, as those pork and chicken bones are roasting along in the oven… or simmering in a pot of shitake and kombu infused stock. Pork goodness absolutely permeates every facet of my home, filling the air with rich, homemade, aromatic heaven. That doesn’t really even make sense.. I don’t care, you get the point.
So, in retrospect, I’m happy that I made it. I’m happy I leaned the process, and can now work off that, making changes here and there as my own palette dictates. I’m happy I now have backup stores of delicious ramen broth in my freezer for another day. I’m happy to be discovering and learning new techniques and flavor profiles all the time. Life is good
And do yourself a favor– go out to a real ramen shop. Have yourself a big ass bowl of their tonkotsu ramen, or if you’re a true lover, their shinsen gumi tonkotsu ramen. It will change your life. You’ll instantly understand my love affair. If you’re in LA, these places are pretty legit. Tsujita, yamadaya, or the raved and written about Daikokuya
The broth from start to finish. The color and textural change is amazing. Not to mention the flavor! That’s what happens with you cook liquid with bones, and delicious meats for nearly 2 days! And look at that filmy, murky-ness. Now that’s when you know its good.
And of course one last massive thanks to David Chang. There’s no recipe today peeps. Buy Momofuku, its a pretty bardass read. If nothing else, its rather hilarious, and an honest look into what its really like to follow your food dream, open some restaurant[s] and deal with all the ups, downs, and bullshit that’s associated with committing your life to cooking.
Live on, eat on my friends. CLICK on any picture to see it larger, for all you food porn fanatics out there…