ramen Tag

HOMEMADE INSTANT NOODLE MIX SERIES: INSTANT CREAM CHEESE SHIN RAMYUN/BUDAE JJIGAE MIX

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

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HONG KONG’S CURRY FISH BALLS OVER RAMEN

Drifting over moving chaos, under the clouds of settling dusts, weeks… have passed.  It’s been almost a month since my last post, the longest it has ever been.

This posting gap was considerable in blogging years, unplanned nor welcomed, and in many ways in fact, nerve-wrecking.  But I wanted to do the first “official” post properly, to wait, to get all the shit that needs to be done in our apartment, one that we renovated ourselves 6 years ago before moving to Beijing, so I could include a proper introduction of our new life to your all in this post.  Kind of…  Friends, apartment.  Apartment, friends.  Now help yourself at the buffet.

But turned out, as it seems, that there is more work involved behind those House And Garden variety of apartment showoffs that I used to take completely granted for.  After 4 weeks of grinding constructions, big and small, to touch up those little imperfections that, really, bothered nobody but myself… the apartment, is still not there yet.  So I decided not to wait any longer.  This post may not include apartment therapy – maybe in another week – but worry not, it’s still got food.

Now, for the first “official” post marking a new beginning in Hong Kong, I thought it was only fitting that we start with something iconic to this city.

Every city needs a hero.  Best yet, an nourishing one, dependable, non-judgmental, and accessible to all under its shelter, big or small, rich or poor.  One that doesn’t care if you were hustling sober through the high traffics or stumbling drunk on the stone-cold pavement, always and forever, as the city promises, the rescue that is steaming just around the corner.  Dirty water hot dog in New York, jian-bing in Beijing.  Here, this thing called curry fish balls is the food-hero that bonds between Hong Kong’s identity and its people who hold it dearly.

The fish balls, pre-fried, are boiled in a large tank of neon-yellow water which gets replenished as more fish balls are removed from the water, and served with a spoonful of curry sauce and hot sauce to standing customers huddling around the booth.  This boil-and-sauce technique, I suspect, is catering more to a streamlined service with higher turn-overs than say, optimising flavours.  The fish balls, without actually being cooked in the curry, are slightly bland and therefore have to draw all their flavours from the topical sauces instead of being a single, together, perfect entity.  This makes sense for street vendors, of course, especially in this relentlessly expensive city where any means necessary to speed up services are justifiably, if not rudely, executed.  But if we were to recreate this dish at home – and I would argue that it’s in the best interest to honor its complexity – we shall do things a little differently.

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Longevity noodle w/ black sesame and crispy shallots

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It is the first day of the Chinese New Year holiday, and I’m quickly leaving you with my version of a festive and symbolic dish that are served in many Chinese holidays or events.   Taiwanese call it “noodle threads (面线)”, or as it is called “wire noodles (索面)” in southern China.  It’s extremely long and elastic which makes them resistant to breaking and thus symbolizes longevity and eternity.  And in a deeply superstitious Taiwanese culture, this purpose alone is sufficient to get it invited to every events where they’d like to see good omen literally printed on the menus.

But I don’t eat it like any of that non-sense.  I love this noodle simply because it’s freaking good.

It has a super fine, silky and soft but slightly chewy texture with a subtle saltiness.  And it is just the ultimate February-comfort food, especially soaked in dense chicken stock infused with a deeply nutty, gingery and garlicky black sesame paste, and the pungent aroma from crispy fried shallots.  Its smooth and yarn-like body slides effortlessly into the tummy, with a sip of darkened and aromatic broth that lingers in the mouth.  Every time I make this, I wonder why I don’t make it more often.

So friends, Happy CNY.  Live long and prosper.

 

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Servings: 4

You should be able to find this type of noodles in most Asian supermarkets, or such as this one from online sources.  Or you can substitute with the shorter, Japanese version called somen (hair noodle).

 Ingredients:

Evenly mix toasted sesame oil, black sesame paste, grated ginger, grated garlic and salt together, then set aside.  If you’re frying your own shallots, drain them well after frying and season with a good pinch of salt.  If you are using store-bought, sautée it slightly over medium low heat to bring it back to life, and season with a bit of salt.  Crush the crispy shallots until resembling coarse breadcrumbs.

Bring your chicken broth to a boil, then season well with salt.  Ladle the broth into serving bowls then add a dash of sake, and swirl in 1 scant tbsp of the black sesame-mixture for each bowl.  Bring a large pot of water to boil, and cook the noodles just until done (it should only take a couple min).  Drain well, then transfer into the soup.  Top generously with crispy fried shallots and dust with white pepper.  Serve immediately.

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SEOUL, AND CHICKEN GALBI RAMEN

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THANK YOU, SEOUL, FOR CARRYING THIS LIMP SPIRIT THROUGH ITS STREETS, FEEDING HER WITH NOURISHMENT, GIVING HER SUNLIGHTS.

So, 7 days went fast. And we’re back.

This past week, instead of a “vacation”, was really closer to being on a emotional exile. After two years of relentless, losing battles against too much realities, I just wanted, no, needed to be casted away, to somewhere unfamiliar, string-less… without memories, where I don’t have to… function. Where I could just drift. If only for a little bit. So in a sense, it isn’t really fair, to the city that happened to be used as my emotional rebound. Seoul.

We spent two days in Seoul following Hong Kong (which was more like a business trip for Jason). It was, without saying, not nearly enough time to properly court a great city so rich and immersed in its cultures and cuisines, let alone in a state of mind that was… exhausted at best. I think next time we go on another trip, we will need to be more prepared. Even being able to compare van insurance from the comfort of your own home would have made life a little easier for us on this trip. A family friend recommended this to us, but we didn’t take up the offer this time round. But I know we will next time. Normally, I attack my travels with mannerless enthusiasm, seeking if not prying for all it has to give whether or not it’s being offered. But this time, I wasn’t really thinking about that, about work, the duty of a blogger, about the game. I was wondering without thoughts. If I saw something, I ate. If I felt something, I took a photo. At best, the memory was documented in loose fragments, then slowly pieced back together as I uploaded my mindlessness into digital form, computed at last . So I’m not even going to pretend that I was capable of any profound insights, opinions, or even recommendations for Seoul. I would not insult it like that. Nor can I say when to go to Seoul, since I wasn’t in the mind during my visit. Instead, this is a mirage of its potentials, not fully explored, but it lays the promise of future reunion.

But above all else, I should probably say thank you, to Seoul. For carrying this limp spirit through its streets, even if only for a couple days, feeding her with nourishment, giving her sunlights, though at times, she stared blankly into space. For that, I will always be grateful.

Oh and by the way, this chicken galbi thing it’s got? Basically boneless thighs marinated in gushing garlicky red, then caramelised inside a hot skillet then tossed with carbs and hot cheese. Sick. Just sick. Just something, I guess, to miss Seoul by.

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THE VAMPIRE SLAYER RAMEN-EXPRESS

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CALL IT, THE RAMEN WITH 40 CLOVES OF GARLIC… WAIT.  44 CLOVES.

SOMETIMES, and for the sake of modesty not all the times, but sometimes, after I pasted every photos of a recipe in place and started to stare into space thinking about what I was gonna say… I thought to myself, seriously?  You fucking need a reason to eat this?

Uhem, just sometimes.

But well, today, happens to be one of those times.

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THE SHIT I EAT WHEN BY MYSELF – ORANGE RAMEN

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IT REMINDS ME OF (HIGH SCHOOL CAFETERIA), MINUS THE SIDE OF CONSCIENCE THAT CAME WITH ADULTHOOD

So… I guess here we go.  Day 1 of my new segment – The Shits I Eat When I’m By Myself.  Listen… if you were gonna dump me after this, please do it gingerly, ok?

And really, there’s no point talking or paining an elaborate narrative for this “shit”.  It’s pretty self-explanatorily wrong which, unfortunately by the same definition, also guarantees to be uber-tasty.  Any form of instant ramen-noodle drenched in a bastard-sauce between something tomato-ragu-ish and cheez-whiz-ish… cannot taste bad.  It reminds me of the very popular, tomato/cheese ravioli they sold at my high school cafeteria, minus the side of conscience that came with adulthood.

But what I should point out is – given that if you were gonna do the same – this is something one should only do when utterly alone.  I will not be held accountable for what happens when other human beings walk in on you doing this…

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THREE CHEESE MAZEMEN

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  MIGHT AS WELL CALL IT, A-MAZEMEN

SOMETHING truly unexpected happened this morning.

Something that, as far as I can remember, has never before happened to this under-exercised but nonetheless, well-conditioned casing of white-meat.  In the wee hours of this morning as a standard procedure, I rolled over in a complex twist and tango with my blanket and pillows as how it’s been professionally done in the past three decades, and in a turn of event, inexplicably…

… pulled my neck.

How the hell did that happen I have no idea, but I’m now muscularly decapitated.  Not only speaking to you with the non-photogenic side of my face in a zombie-like tilt, but perhaps it’s worth mentioning as well, feeling… understatedly uncomfortable.

This is very untimely indeed.  Because I have something that’s worth my every bit of literary effort to advertise, but somehow, sitting stiffly in front of a computer screen sounds and feels like a very bad idea right now.  So if I seem… out of words about this absurd, three cheese mazemen, inspired by Ivan ramen no doubt, don’t think of it as I’m slacking off.  Instead, think of this recipe as – and it truly is – beyond the reach of mortal vocabularies.

This recipe is actually a symptom of a condition that I’ve been suffering since I left New York, called cultural separation anxiety.  Compared to a relatively chilled attitude towards culinary fads and hypes while I was still in New York, I’m now constantly obsessed about what’s happening in a food-scene that I’m no long a part of.

And recently, it sounds like this Ivan guy is creating a lot of ruckus.

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Aside from the more familiarized styles of ramen that’s served in soup, or tsukemen as cooked noodles served with a dipping “soup-sauce” on the side, he seems to be popularizing a new style-hype called, mazemen.  What the hell is mazemen, and why is it legit?  Not only legit, but ingenious actually.  It snugs comfortably between a soup-ramen, and dry ramen (noodles dressed with just enough sauce to coat), making it kind of like a one-bowl tsukemen, where noodles are sitting in a generous amount of intensely flavoured “soup-sauce”, plus toppings.  It solves the eternal struggle of ramen-chefs and customers alike, to witness a good portion of the precious broth – the liquid soul of a chef who might have spent days forging out of his cradle of passion – being left wasted in the serving bowl… like a puddle of dead water, after everything else that took much less effort was otherwise consumed.

That shit hurts.

But with mazemen, just the right amount of highly flavoured soup is spared with each portion of noodles.  Highly flavoured as in, things that would otherwise make a “soup” too intense to drink, is being unleashed in an all-out ramen-extravaganza.  Like say, a soup infused with a three cheese combo?  Seriously, ingenious!  Might as well call it, a-mazemen!

But of course I understand that for most of you out there, the cradle of passion may not rock as violently as a ramen-chef.  There’s no shame in that, right, speaking from a person who published a completely pirated version of the sacred spicy miso ramen, and this time, without even consulting Ivan’s cookbook,  I’m not sorry to do it again.

Although this recipe may seem labour-intensive, believe me when I say that it’s already simplified and streamlined in 10-folds compared to a full-blown ramen operation (trust me, I have a book on that, and if you’ve read it, too, you’d appreciatively lick every single drop of soup from your ramen-bowl from now on).  A relatively easy and cheater-base stock is created in a speedy 4-hours time (hey, compared to say… 2 full days?).  Then every cheating soup-flavouring protocols known to noodle-pirates are implemented to bring this bowl as close to the real deal as I possibly can.  Is it at least, inarguably awesome, as far as noodle-pirates are concerned?

You bet it is.  I’m putting my neck on the line…

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The stock-technique of Japanese pork-based soup ramen will conflict everything you think you know about making stocks, that’s if you were French at least.  Forget what you know about low-and-slow of a bare simmer aiming at a clear stock.  It’s all about boiling the mixture into submission and get it to a milky and opaque state.  Then of course, lots of other steps and flavour-layering come after that (adding bonitos, konbu, dried anchovies and whatnots) but, we’re gonna cheat by using Japanese soup base.

It’s important to note that I start the base stock with homemade, unsalted chicken stock (flavoured with onions only) because I almost always have it in my freezer.  If you are going to use store-bought, it’s paramount that you buy chicken stock without salt, AND without the flavourings of thyme, rosemary, parsley, bay leaf or any other western herbs.  When in doubt, buy canned stock from an Asian brand.  But then again, it’s quite difficult to purchase stock that’s completely salt-free.  So if you want to just use water for the base stock, then add to the recipe of base stock: scrap-bones from 1 whole chicken, or 8 chicken wings.

The recipe for base stock will make for 8 servings, and can be made up to 3 days ahead and kept in the fridge in an air-tight container, as well as most of the toppings.  However, the final preparation for the actual three-cheese-broth has to be done right before serving, so I only documented the amount for 2 servings.  If you’re making for 4 people, double the three-cheese-broth recipe, and so on and so forth.

Most ramen restaurants like to serve ramen with sliced chashu (roasted/braised pork), but I beg to differ.  I like minced pork.  It’s kind of an accidental epiphany after my spicy miso ramen-express experiment, and I think it just incorporates better into the overall dish.  But if you like large slices of pork, I also included a quick recipe for that.


For three cheese mazemen: Inspired by Ivan Ramen

  • For base stock: (will make 8 cups, enough for 8 servings)
    • 3 pieces of pork back-gone + 3 pieces of pork shank-bone (total weight = 815 grams/29 oz)
    • 3 large scallions, cut into segments
    • 3″ of ginger, cut into chunks
    • 12 cups (3 litres) of unsalted chicken stock
    • 6 ~ 7 small Asian shallots, peeled and cut in half
    • 1/2 of a medium carrot, cut into chunks
    • 1/2 tsp of black peppercorn
  • For three cheese broth: (for 2 servings only)
    • 2 cups (500 ml/approx 500 grams) of base stock
    • 1/4 cup (15 grams) of dried porcini mushrooms, rinsed and cleaned
    • 2 ~ 3 small Asian shallots, grated
    • 3 cloves of garlic, grated
    • 2 tbsp of Japanese hon tsuyu (soup base)
    • 3/4 tsp of sea salt, plus more to adjust
    • 1/2 tsp of freshly ground black pepper, plus more to adjust
    • 2 tbsp (35 grams) of cream cheese
    • 2/3 cup (80 grams) of soft white cheddar cheese, grated
    • 1/2 cup (30 grams) of Parmigiano cheese, grated
    • 1/8 tsp of freshly grated nutmeg, plus more for topping
  • 2 servings of fresh ramen noodles
  • Toppings recipe follows

To make the base stock (can be done up to 3 days ahead):  Combine pork back-bones, pork shank-bones (and chicken bones or wings if you are using), scallions and ginger in a large pot.  Cover with cold water and set on high heat to bring to a boil.  Cook for 4 ~ 5 minutes after boiling, then careful pour everything into the kitchen sink with cold water running.  Wash/scrub off any scums and impurity from the bones (and chicken bones/wings if you’re using), as well as thoroughly clean the pot.

Return the cleaned bones to the cleaned pot, then add 12 cups of chicken stock (or water if you’re adding chicken bones/wings), shallots, carrot and black peppercorns.  Return to high heat to bring to a boil, then lower the heat down to medium to maintain a constant (but not splattering) boil.  Cook the stock for at least 3 hours, to 4 hours (depending on what you can manage.  the longer it cooks the milkier it gets).  Shred and break up any bones/meats during cooking once they have soften (to release more flavour), and every time the liquid is reduced below 2/3 (meaning less than 8 cups left), add 2 cups of water to bring it back.  When you’re done, the base stock should be milky and opaque with bits of marrows and fat floating on top.

Strain the base stock through a sieve, and press on the scrap-meats and vegetables to extract as much liquid as you can.  You should have 8 cups of base stock.

To make the three cheese broth (for 2 servings only):  This has to be prepared right before serving.

Heat 2 cups of base stock with dried porcini mushrooms over medium heat.  Cook for 5 min until the mushrooms have completely soften and released the flavours into the soup.  Meanwhile, cook the fresh ramen noodle in another pot in boiling water.  Add the grated shallots, grated garlic, Japanese soba sauce base, sea salt and black pepper to the broth and cook for another min.  Then add cream cheese, grated white cheddar, grated Parmigiano cheese and fresh nutmeg, and whisk until the cheese has evenly melted (there may be stringy cheese that doesn’t fully melt, it’s ok).  Taste and re-season with sea salt if need be (note that this is more of a “sauce” than “soup”, so it has to be boldly seasoned).

To take the sharp edge off raw scallions, soak the thinly sliced scallion in water for 1 min then drain.

Transfer the broth evenly between 2 bowls.  Add the cooked ramen noodles, then top with pickled bean sprouts, thinly sliced scallions, parmesan and sesame pork, and a hot spring egg or poached egg (I’m using poached egg).  Grate more fresh nutmegs on top and drizzle with togarashi oil.

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To prepare the toppings:

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PARMIGIANO AND SESAME MINCED PORK: (enough for 4 servings)(can be made up to 3 days ahead)

  • 10.6 oz (300 grams) of ground pork-shoulder
  • 2 tsp of cornstarch
  • 1 tsp of black sesame seeds
  • 1 tsp of white sesame seeds
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil
  • 1/2 cup (30 grams) of grated Parmigiano cheese

Mix ground pork-shoulder, cornstarch, black and white sesame seeds, and salts together until even.  Heat the toasted sesame oil in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the ground pork until no-longer pink, and break it up as finely as you can with a wooden spoon.  Add the grated Parmigiano and keep cooking until the cheese is caramelized and browned.  Set aside until needed.


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SOY SAUCE GRILLED PORK NECK: (enough for 8 servings)(can be made up to 3 days ahead)

  • 2 pcs (13 oz/370 grams) of pork neck meat
  • 2 tbsp of soy sauce
  • 2 tsp of brown sugar
  • 3 cloves of garlic, smashed

Pork neck is an Asian-specialty cut.  There’s only one small piece from every pig near the jaw, that’s perfectly marbled between fat and muscle.  It’s the short rib of pig.  But it can be hard to find, so if unavailable, you can substitute with pork belly (but trim most of the top slab of fat off).

Marinate everything together for at least 2 hours.  Preheat the top-broiler on high.  Remove the mashed garlic, then skewer the pork neck length-wise to prevent curling-up during cooking.  Place 3″ under the broiler and cook until charred and caramelized on one side, then flip and repeat on the other side.  Let the meat rest until completely cooled before removing the skewer.  Slice before serving.


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PICKLED BEAN SPROUTS: (for 2 servings)(has to be prepared right before serving)

  • 1 1/2 cup (150 grams) of bean sprouts
  • 1 tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of sugar
  • 3/4 tsp of rice vinegar

Gently mix bean sprouts with salt, sugar and rice vinegar.  Let sit for 10 min, then squeeze out as much liquid as you can from the bean sprouts.  Set aside.


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FOR HOT SPRING EGGS:  Recipes on here, here and a final comprehensive guide.

FOR TOGARASHI OIL:  Recipes on SPICY MISO RAMEN-EXPRESS.

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SPICY MISO RAMEN-EXPRESS

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I set out to take the first post of 2014 easy… I did.  I thought perhaps a harmless little breakfast pancake can be nice, glistening syrup under the hopeful morning light that symbolizes a new start within me…  Or, perhaps, a statement-recipe like a creme brûlée and ham french toasts-sandwich that’s simple, but flaunting and strange enough to revitalize this blog’s otherwise-subtle individuality in the year to come…  Or better yet, perhaps a complete slacker-post on a summary of everything that could and has gone wrong in my kitchen in 2013… kinda hey~ here’s a fine collection of things you probably don’t wanna eat but don’t I sound really cute talking about it?

But instead, this came out…  And believe me, although it may not look remotely that way, this is taking-it-easy, well… as far as Japanese ramen goes.

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