I write this just before I take on the task of making two versions of broth for Ramen. It’s not overly difficult but it is a process. It takes time and is a labour of LOVE. And one I’m undertaking as there are no ramen joints here on the Sunshine Coast. The closest is 44km away. I’m desperate.
My first experience with the heavenly soup was not so noble. Like the vast majority of North Americans it was instant noodles or “Ichiban”. And I’m truly not knocking them. I don’t buy them anymore but I’d say I’ve slurped down a coupla hundred packets in my lifetime. And they made a great intro. My first experience with the real deal was 13 years ago in Osaka, Japan. Extremely basic, greasy spoon type of café with enormous pots of steaming broth and water. That was a very so so bowl I had. Garlic was the flavour focus of the one I chose and was as the venue alluded to; greasy. But then a week or so later in Tokyo, we tried another noodle bar and: revelation. Similar setting as the first; small, basic, totally unpretentious place with counter service and the giant pots of steaming liquids. But when my friends and I tucked into our first mouthfuls of ramen it was kaboom! How could such a simple concept dish be so packed full of flavour. It was superb! And cheap.
When I got back to Vancouver where I was residing at the time, I sought out more of the experience I’d had on my holiday. At the time it was the pre-ramen explosion and there was only one restaurant serving it; Kintaro. And going there was daunting as every Japanese student or ex-pat was lined up down the block for a taste of home. Now Vancouver has more ramen restaurants than almost any noodle fanatic could keep up with. And this one has tried. Different styles from all the different regions of Japan. A smorgasbord of rich, delicious broth options. BUT BACK HERE ON THE SUNSHINE COAST… OK I should qualify that last part. Anne Myers from Wilde Kitchen had ramen on her menu at the Roberts Creek Legion before they had to take a temporary Covid break. Haven’t had her version but she can cook so it’s probably pretty good
And that brings me back to these recipes for at home, fully legit broth for make-it-yourself enjoyment. Ironically neither of these come from Japanese cooks. One is from a Swedish chef and hardcore fan of the wonder soup, Tove Nilsson. I have her ramen cookbook and I love it. The other is from American David Chang, owner of Momofuku and a world renowned chef. I have his Momofuku book as well. The first recipe is relatively simple to do whereas Chang’s is very serious and the cost and effort demonstrates it. But I’ve done it before and it’s next level stuff. He’s famous for it and one of the reasons Chang is viewed so highly in the culinary world. The Momofuku restaurant in New York was known to have waiting lists of a year to get in.
As I mentioned, this can be an undertaking. But it makes enough that you can have it several times if your freeze the broth. Have containers at the ready. These are only recipes for the broth and “tare” to accompany but if you decide to try making either/both yourself, you should look up the other ingredients to add to the bowl; Chashu Pork, marinated bamboo shoots or “menma”, soy marinated egg, black fungus mushrooms or “kikurage”, sesame seeds and green onions. Again, it’s so, so worth it to make this right to get the most out of it. If you’re adding any of the above ingredients/ sides, make sure you go to the effort to do it properly.
I don’t normally talk about where to purchase ingredients in case the reader is from somewhere other than the Sunshine Coast. In this instance, as this is specific to local people having success making either of these, I’ll pass along where to find some of the more specialized items. All the ingredients I’m showing here are available on the Coast with the exception of black fungus mushrooms. Easy to find in Vancouver but no one here stocks them. Amazon…
Bamboo shoots – any of the supermarkets. They come in tins
Mirin – likely any of the supermarkets though the IGA in Gibsons stocks a good selection of Asian ingredients.
Kombu and Bonito flakes – Gohanya Market & Deli in Wilson Creek
Ramen noodles – any of the supermarkets
Shitake mushrooms – Supervalu in Gibsons or Gohanya Market and Deli
Sake – buy the 750ml Gekkeikan from the BCLDB. About $12 with taxes.
Rice wine vinegar – likely any of the supermarkets
- ½ cup Sodium-free or Low-sodium Chicken or Vegetable Broth
- ¼ cup Mirin
- ½ cup Soy Sauce
- 2 Tbsp Sake
- 1 tsp Brown Sugar
- 1 tsp Rice Wine Vinegar
- 1 inch piece Ginger, peeled and smashed
- 1 clove Garlic, peeled and smashed
- 1 Scallion, chopped
- Bring all the ingredients to simmer in a saucepan.
- Simmer the tare until it reduces to ½ cup, about 25 minutes.
- Strain the solids and let the tare cool. Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.
Pork & Chicken Broth
by Tove Nilsson
You’ll need a large stock pot
Makes 2 ½ – 3 litres
- 4 litres water
- 1 chicken carcass or two thighs
- 2 pieces kombu seaweed (6 grams)
- 6 dried shitake mushrooms
- 10cm piece of ginger root, peeled
- 4 green onions
- 4 tbsp Bonito flakes
- Place all the ingredients in the stock pot with the exception of the bonito flakes
- Bring to the boil and once it’s at that stage, skim off the foam and reduce to simmer
- Add the bonito flakes and leave so it’s just barely bubbling. Simmer for 3-5 hours
- Strain and allow to cool. Once cooled, skim again.
- Now you can use, adding tare to taste as well as adjusting salt.
Ramen Broth and Pork Belly
By David Chang/ Momofuku
- 2 3×6 in pieces of konbu
- 6 quarts water
- 2 cups dried shiitakes mushroom, soaked for 30 min and rinsed
- 1 four-pound chicken, either a whole bird or legs/thighs
- 5 pounds meaty pork neck bones
- 1 pound smoky bacon
- 1 bunch of scallions
- 1 medium onion, halved
- 2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
- 1/2 cup sake
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1 cup light soy sauce
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1 1 three-pound slab pork belly
- 1/4 cup kosher salt
- 1/4 cup sugar
- Rinse the konbu and combine it with water in an large stockpot. Bring water to a simmer over high heat and turn off the heat. Let steep for 10 minutes.
- Remove the konbu from the pot and add the shiitakes. Turn the heat to high and bring the water to a boil. Then turn the heat down and allow the liquid to simmer gently for 30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Put the pork bones on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for an hour, turning them over at the 30 minute mark to ensure even browning.
- Remove the mushrooms from the pot and add the chicken. Save the mushrooms for later. Let the liquid simmer gently, removing any froth, foam, or fat that rises to the surface. Replenish water as needed to keep the chicken covered.
- After an hour, test the chicken: the meat should pull away from the bones easily. If it doesn’t, simmer until you can do that. Then remove the chicken from the pot.
- Add the roasted pork bones to the broth along with the bacon. Adjust the heat to keep the broth at a steady simmer.
- Remove the bacon after an hour and continue simmering the broth for 6-7 hours. Stop adding water to replenish the pot after 5 hours.
- Add the scallions, onion, and carrots to the pot and simmer for the final 60 minutes.
- Remove and discard the spent bones and vegetables. Pass the broth through a strainer lined with a cheesecloth.
- Finish the broth by seasoning it to taste with the sake, mirin, soy sauce, and sugar.
- For the pork belly, mix together the salt and sugar in a small bowl and rub the mix all over the meat. Put the meat in container and cover the container with plastic wrap and put it into the fridge for at least 6 hours but no longer than 24 hours.
- Preheat the over to 400˚F.
- Discard any liquid that accumulates in the container. Put the belly in the oven, skin side up, and cook for 1 hour, basting it with the rendered fat.
- Turn the temperature down to 250˚F and cook for another hour until the belly is tender. It shouldn’t be falling apart.
- Remove the pork belly and transfer it to a plate and allow it to cool to just about room temperature.
- When ready, cut the pork belly into ½ inch thick slices that are about 2 inches long.
- For assembly, place the ramen into the bowl. Arrange the meat, egg, and garnishes (bamboo shoots, fish cake, vegetables, and nori) around the edges of each bowl. Add the scallions.
- When ready, ladle 2 cups of soup into the bowl and serve hot. Enjoy!