WHY CREAM CHEESE? BECAUSE COMPARED TO THE COMMONLY APPLIED AMERICAN SINGLES, CREAM CHEESE PROVIDES CHEESINESS AND CREAMINESS WITHOUT ADDED SALT.
WHAT: Perhaps the most internationally embraced instant noodle of our time, Shin Ramyun, now homemade, thickened with cream cheese, and… also doubles as an instant budae jjigae mix.
WHY: I wish to pay a tribute to the untimely passing of Anthony Bourdain, the original, the first and the last, who is perhaps, in the end, a great speculator without answers. Here’s a dish from Korea, budae jjigae, which he had openly embraced and advocated for without irony, both being a mutated creation that exists on the tipping point of conflictions and yet, brings epiphanies and enjoyments to their subjects. We will sorely miss him.
HOW: The flavor profile of the base for budae jjigae and the instant noodle Shin Ramyun is, to no surprise, close siblings from the same family. Both prominent on the fragrance and heat of Korean chili powder, smoothed by a bit of sweetness from fermented chili paste called gochujang, followed by subsequent notes of garlic, a bit of onion, and a hint of soy sauce. By successfully creating a base for one, you would’ve done it for both. But to aim at a higher end goal with more complexity, I like to approach the question from the perspective of budae jjigae.
There is perhaps nothing more ironical about making budae jjigae than to try to stay “authentic” with budae jjigae. The spirit of the dish was founded on improvisation, creating something special from the givens, making lemonade. I first set out to build the groundwork by rendering, browning and pureeing pancetta, anchovies and shitake mushroom powder, which are not traditional but they lay the common bricks for this type of Korean soup-dishes that are often a mixture of meat broth, dried seafoods and mushrooms. Then guess what? That’s all the cooking there is. The only step left is as easy as blending it together with gochugaru (Korean chili powder), gochujang (Korean chili paste), garlics, onion and seasonings, then last but not least, cream cheese. Why cream cheese? Because compared to the commonly applied American Singles, cream cheese provides cheesiness and creaminess without too much added salt. Not mention that it blends more effortlessly into any H2O-based substances.
From this point forward, simply simmer the mix with low-sodium beef stock for Shin Ramyun. OR, add kimchi, SPAM, hot dogs, and just about anything that sounds really wrong to make something that tastes really right, budae jjigae. It will be thick. It will be spicy. It will be heavy, and it will be enlightening. It will be too much, and it won’t be enough. If this can be, then what else is out there?
Go, find out.
“Move.” – Anthony Bourdain
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 75 grams (about 6 tbsp diced) fatty pancetta, finely diced
- 6 fillets of anchovies, drained
- 1/4 cup mushroom powder (see note *)
- 1/4 cup water
- 1/2 small onion, peeled
- 13 cloves of garlic, peeled
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp (69 grams) cream cheese
- 1/4 cup gochugaru/Korean chili flakes
- 3 tbsp (60 grams) gochujang/Korean chili paste
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp fish sauce
- 1 tbsp sweet paprika powder
- 1 tbsp light brown sugar
- 1 tbsp dashi/bonito soup granule
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- See note on the instruction on making mushroom powder. In a small skillet over medium heat, cook canola oil and diced pancetta until the fat is rendered out and the pancetta is lightly browned. Add anchovies and mushroom powder, mashing them into the oil with a wooden spoon, and continue to cook for a couple minutes until the mixture starts to brown on the sides and bottom of the skillet. Add the water to deglaze, making sure all the brown bits are melted into the water, then transfer the mixture into a blender.
- Add onion, garlics, cream cheese, gochugaru, gochujang, soy sauce, fish sauce, sweet paprika powder, light brown sugar, dashi granule and black peppercorns. Run the blender for a couple minutes until the mixture is smoothly pureed. Transfer into an air-tight jar and keep in the fridge until needed. Can be refrigerated for up to 2 weeks (estimate), or divided into 1/4 cup portions each, and kept in the freezer.
- TO SERVE AS SHIN RAMYUN: Whisk together 1 cup of low-sodium or unsalted chicken stock or beef stock with 1/4 cup of the mix, and simmer for 3 minutes. The consistency of the soup will be slightly thicker than commercial Shin Ramyun, due to the nature of the mix and also the cream cheese. If you like it more watery, you can surely strain it. But I usually don't. Meanwhile, cook the noodles of your choice in another pot (if you're using instant noodle bricks, you can cook it directly in the soup), then drain well and add to the soup. Serve immediately.
- TO SERVE AS BUDAE JJIGAE: Whisk together 4 cups of low-sodium or unsalted chicken stock or beef stock with 1 cup of the mix, and simmer for 3 minutes. Add green onions, onions, kimchi, SPAM, hotdogs, noodles, rice cakes, tofu and etc. Keep the mixture as a low simmer as you serve.
- When in doubt, always add more gochugaru/Korean chili powder.
* Mushroom powder is dried shitake mushrooms that are powderized. You can't really buy this but it's very easy to make at home. I like to store dried shitake mushrooms in the freezer whenever I buy them, which makes them extra brittle. Then I break however much I need into small pieces, and grind them in a spice-grinder until finely powderized.