Commander J struck while the iron was hot and the weather inclement. Requiring sustenance over the weekend to prevent a sense of humour loss while listening to my attempts to elicit something recognisable from my poor abused guitar, she subtly (not) suggested I make ramen. Riding a flush of masticatorial * success after the cassoulet last week I decided to comply. As Ra was the Egyptian god of the sun it also felt like it might usher in some warmth.
This famous Japanese dish is another delicious example of synergy where flavours combine to nourish the body and soul. Whilst there are as many ramen recipes as biltong recipes the essence of the dish is the stock. It has to be rich and unctuous and silky and loaded with flavour from roasted bones and vegetables.
Luckily I had some leftover duck and beef demi-glace from the cassoulet which formed the base of the stock. A tablespoon of miso paste. a splash of soy sauce and we were in business. Another classic ingredient is the soft boiled egg. It is an optional extra but the runny yolk adds another layer of creaminess and flavour that I love. I like a 5-6 minute egg that I chill and peel and then marinade in soy sauce after cooking for a couple of hours.
Ramen noodles are very quick to cook and can be bought in asian supermarkets. They are an alkaline noodle which gives them a chewy texture. Pre cook them before building up the soup in layers. I also added some leftover cooked chicken, a few prawns and some BBQ pork fillet.
Texture is very important in all foods and this is no exception. Thinly chopped fresh carrot, mushroom, cabbage, bok choi went in along with a couple of halved cherry tomatoes. The final topping was home grown chilli, a squeeze of lime juice, slivers of ginger, fresh basil and coriander and some home made furikake seasoning (a dried seaweed, soy, sesame spice). The vegetables will cook a little in the hot broth but you want them to still have some crunch.
This is a great dish to whip out at short notice. All you need is to have some decent stock in the freezer or demi-glace and you can use whatever you have in the fridge. Courgettes, green beans, celery, spring onion, sweet peppers, bean sprouts, fresh basil, fresh coriander, leftover roast chicken or pork belly – you get the idea.
Just in closing – you cannot make this with powdered stock. The stock is the very essence of ramen and needs to be full flavoured. Keep your old chicken carcasses, marrow or roasted bones and vegetable peelings and make your own stock. I like to reduce it down with some tomato and wine to a thick syrup and keep it in a jar in the fridge. You can also freeze it in ice cubes to add a lift to any stew, soup or sauce.
* This is my nomination for the 2022 new words to be added to the Oxford English dictionary.