Thursday, December 11, 2008

Homemade Ramen Soup

In more low-brow food confessions, I must admit that Evan and I eat packaged ramen from time to time, particularly when we're sick and want something easy, warm, and able to be doctored with hot pepper flakes to get things moving. I'm not so thrilled about offering packaged ramen to Elspeth, however, for obvious reasons.

Evan was feeling run down yesterday and Elspeth and I have lingering colds, so I decided the family was in need of restoration. Thankfully, I felt ambitious and was able to pull everything together with little stress (though the state of the kitchen is something I'd rather not talk about). I even managed to throw together a berry crumble, which rounded off the meal nicely.

There are lots of parts to this recipe, but the second day of eating it requires only assembly. If you plan ahead, you can pull ramen base and infused stock from the freezer and maybe even your cooked protein. Then it would only be a matter of cooking the noodles and deciding what other goodies to throw in.

Though our dinner was not vegetarian, this recipe would easily adapt to a vegetarian version, so I've added that as a label.

Everything you add to your ramen should already be cooked to the doneness level you prefer, as you will not cook anything in the broth. Good things to throw into your soup for added texture, flavor and nutrition include seaweed such as dulse, greens, bok choy, peas and corn, snow peas, and carrots along with your protein items and noodles.

For protein, I roasted some chicken breasts we'd got from the farmer's market and also cubed up some tofu. Silken tofu would be nicest, I think, but I only had extra firm sprouted tofu (I was curious about the sprouted tofu--it tasted fine and they claim it's more easily digested and that the nutrients are better absorbed. Unsure if that's all a load of crap or not).

I ran out of steam last night, so we only had peas and corn along with roasted chicken breast and tofu in our ramen. When I cooked the noodles, I simply added frozen peas and corn to the same pot. I cooked enough so that we would have leftovers. I used the organic soba noodles from Trader Joe's.

This recipe is based on Richard's Ramen Base. I decided to amend the recipe this go around because I've always felt it wasn't quite well-balanced. The brown sugar I added worked wonders! Evan and I felt this was the best ramen base ever, even though it wasn't spicy as we used to like it.

INGREDIENTS (for a double batch so you have plenty to refrigerate or freeze)
1 TBSP vegetable or cooking oil
1-2 tsp sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or put through a press
Generous grating of fresh ginger
1/2 c. miso base (I used Westbrae organic brown rice miso)
1/4 c. soy sauc OR 2 TBSP each soy sauce and mirin
Chili oil or chili flakes to taste
Dark brown sugar to taste, starting with 1 tsp (I think I used 1-2 tsp total. If using mirin, omit entirely)

  1. Heat oils in a small skillet or saucepan over medium heat. When I make the recipe again, I'm going to try adding the sesame oil later, on the theory that its flavor is dulled by cooking and it's really more of a condiment. It works just fine if you do it as written, though
  2. Add garlic and cook briefly--don't let the garlic get brown
  3. Add remaining ingredients and stir well (a flat whisk is great in this situation)
  4. Cook for a couple of minutes. Taste and adjust the chili and brown sugar as needed
  5. Remove from heat. The ramen base seems to last a long time in the fridge, and I suspect will freeze well--it may even remain soft enough that you could easily scoop or slice off the necessary quantity
I used homemade chicken stock, but I'm sure you could use low-sodium storebought (since the ramen base is salty). Veggie stock would be great, too. You don't need to infuse the stock, but I think we got a deeper, nicer flavor this way and more umami because of the kombu. Of course, you could also make an Asian stock right from the get-go and skip the infusion step. Because we use stock for so many different purposes, it makes sense for us not to have a whole batch flavored this way.

6-8 c. unsalted or low sodium chicken, pork or veggie stock
2 garlic cloves, smashed with skins left on
1 inch knob of ginger, cut into several pieces
1 inch piece kombu

  1. Place all ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil
  2. Let simmer for half an hour
  3. Strain broth and discard solids
  4. Set aside until ready to assemble
  1. Place about 1 tsp ramen base in each bowl
  2. Add noddles, protein items and veggies
  3. Add 1 1/2 cups hot broth (or so)
  4. Stir to dissolve and distribute the ramen base
  5. Enjoy! Evan and I agreed that this was far more restorative than packaged ramen would have been and Elspeth had a great time sipping the broth from her tiny stainless espresso cup

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