THE VAMPIRE SLAYER RAMEN-EXPRESS
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.
If you love Japanese ramen, the closest noodle has ever came to being an art-form, and even more so, the shortcuts on how to make it easily and relatively swift at home, then I don’t know why you’re still listening to me babble. But if you must, this is a express ramen-recipe that yields 4 servings but consumes all 44 cloves of garlic. Most of them browned and braised together with an obnoxious slab of pork belly until both meltingly tender, then blended with chicken stock and soy milk (my favourite ramen-cheat) to fabricate the most speedy but intensely rich broth ramen-history has ever seen. Then the rest of the garlics went under knife and hot grease, to be fried crispy golden browned, then pound together with ground white pepper and salt, into pure powder-gold.
Forceful enough to expel any kitchen-fatigue, this strong milky broth flooded a lovely bowl laid with springy Japanese ramen noodles, and on top, drifted a ring of thinly sliced melting pork-belly, mushrooms, runny soft-boiled egg, toasted nori sheets and a floral corner of finely diced scallions. But all exorcism requires loyal apprentices, a final touch of fried garlic powder and garlic-togarashi oil were casted within the rim to complete… the most delicious magic you’ll ever create.
Call it the ramen with 40 cloves of garlic, wait, 44 cloves. Or the ramen packed with opinions and comes with a pleasurably foul mouth. Or call it, The Exorcist.
Me, I’m calling it… The Vampire Slayer.
The recipe, in the realm of Japanese ramen, is relatively easy and foolproof, but there are still a few point to I want to stress on.
First note*: The chicken stock. You can use homemade (like mine with this recipe) or store-bough chicken stock, but make sure that it’s unsalted or minimally salted, and neutrally flavoured meaning NO use of herbs like thyme, rosemary, bay leaves or anything that could be conflicting. Second note**: The soy milk. American soy milk and Asian soy milk, really taste different. In my first ramen-express post, I mentioned that American brands like Silk can be used, but later on I found that even the most basic variety, contains sugar and vanilla-like flavourings. I would strongly suggest either you use Asian unsweetened soy milk, or look for brands that has only “water, soy beans” in the ingredients. After all, that’s what soy milk is supposed to be!! Not some weird mixture of sugar and flavourings in a pathetic effort to make it taste like actual milk.
Updates 2014/12/17: On some missed out steps on the mushrooms and soaking water.
- 4 whole dried shitake mushrooms + 1/2 cup hot water
- 14 oz (400 grams) skin-on pork belly
- 30 whole garlic cloves, peeled
- 1/2 cup (105 grams) sake, or rice wine
- 2 tbsp (30 grams) soy sauce
- 1/2 tbsp (10 grams) mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 14 whole garlic cloves, finely minced or sliced
- 1/2 cup (112 grams) canola oil
- 1/2 tsp ground white pepper
- 1/8 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 cup (55 grams) of garlic oil (from frying the garlic)
- 1/4 cup (55 grams) toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp togarashi chili powder
- 1 tsp chili flakes
- 1/2 tsp black sesame seeds
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 5 cups (1180 grams/ml) chicken stock, see note*
- 1/4 medium-size onion, peeled
- 1 1/4 cup (340 grams) unflavoured unsweetened soymilk, see note**
- 2 tbsp bonito dashi granules (this is what gives it the bonito-flavour so don't skip!)
- 1~2 tsp sea salt
- 4 servings of ramen noodles
- 4 soft-boiled eggs
- 1 cup finely diced scallions, green parts only
- 1 sheet of Japanese dried nori/seaweed
- TO MAKE THE GARLIC BRAISED PORK BELLY: Preheat the oven on 330F/165C. Soak dried shitake mushrooms in 1/2 cup of hot water for 20 min until soft. Meanwhile, add 1 tbsp of oil in a pot that fits the pork belly tightly, then heat over medium-high heat. Brown the pork belly skin-side down first (you can cut the pork belly in half if it fits the pot better that way) until the skin is blistered, then turn and brown all other sides. Remove and set aside. Add all the peeled garlic cloves and cook until lightly browned. Return the pork belly into the pot, and add the soaked shitake mushrooms and its soaking liquid, sake, soy sauce, mirin, salt and ground black pepper.
- Put the lid on and bake in the oven for 2~2:30 hours, turning the pork belly 2~3 times in between, until extremely soft. If you want to do this on stove-top over low heat, you'll need to check the pot very frequently to prevent burning. Once done, carefully remove the pork belly and mushrooms, then plastic-wrap and chill in the fridge for easy slicing later. Reserve the braised garlic and all the liquid. You can do this the day before.
- TO MAKE THE FRIED GARLIC POWDER: When the pork is in the oven, mix finely mined or sliced garlic and canola oil in a small pot, and bring to a gentle boil over medium~medium-low heat. Keep the mixture sizzling, stirring constantly, until the garlic starts to turn golden-browned, approx 5 min. Drain immediately through a fine sieve, and reserve 1/4 cup of the garlic oil. Drain the fried garlics over paper-towels, replace with new ones if soaked, for about 1 hour.
- In a stone-mortar or a spice-grinder, pound/pulse the fried garlic with ground white pepper and fine sea salt, until coarsely ground. Can also be made the day before.
- TO MAKE THE GARLIC TOGARASHI OIL: Combine the reserved garlic oil, toasted sesame oil, togarashi powder, chili flakes, black sesame seeds and ground coriander in a small pot. Set over medium heat and cook for 1 min. Set aside. Can also be made the day before.
- TO MAKE THE STOCK AND ASSEMBLE THE RAMEN: In a blender, blend the reserved braised garlic and braising liquid, chicken stock (at least warm but not hot, so the fat doesn't solidify) and peeled onion until very smooth. If your blender is small, you might want to blend with 1/2 of the stock only, and add the other 1/2 later on in a pot. Drain the soup through a fine sieve into a large pot, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as you can, then discard the solids (don't worry if there's foam on the surface). Add the unflavoured/unsweetened soy milk, bonito dashi granules and 1 tsp of salt, and simmer for 5 min. Re-season with more salt if needed (keep in mind that Japanese ramen broth tends to be salty).
- Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the ramen noodles according to instructions. Drain well and divide into four bowls. Finely slice the braised pork belly and arrange over the top, along with 1 braised shitake mushroom for each bowl, and soft-boiled egg, finely diced scallions and dried nori/seaweed.
- Generously spoon the fried garlic powder and garlic-togarashi oil over, and serve immediately.