When we think of Ramen, the first thing that comes to mind are those inexpensive packaged noodles with a spice packet included. Ramen, in Japan, is a dish that is passed on from generation to generation and often has a Master of Ramen soup.
Ramen is made with spirit - and the magical ingredient comes from the heart.
Almost all of the ingredients for this soup can be found in any supermarket. Two specialty Asian items are the dried kombu and bonito flakes.
Kombo is a wide leaf sea vegetable (kelp) that grows in cold Artic currents among Japan's northernmost Hokkaido Island. It is popular for its umami flavor. Kombu is essential to the delicious Japanese noodle broth 'dashi' but can be added to any soup or soup stock to bring it to life.
Bonito flakes are another component of traditional dashi noodle broth. Bonito is a type of mackerel which is steamed and dried to wood-like hardness, then shaved into flakes. I found both of these items in Whole Foods. Although both of these items are strange to me, I really wanted to make a traditional Ramen.
KOMBU DASHI AND TARE
2 pieces dried kombu
1/2 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
1 Tbsp. White Wine Vinegar
PORK AND STOCK
1-1/2 lb. boneless pork butt or shoulder
Salt and Pepper
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2-1/2 lbs. chicken wings
1 bunch scallions, chopped
2 carrots, peeled, cut into chunks
1 head of garlic, halved horizontally
1" piece ginger, peeled and sliced
1/4 cup bonito flakes
Ramen Noodles (discard spice packet) or Rice Vermicelli Noodles
For the Dashi: Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add two strips of Kombu. Lower heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Remove and discard Kombu reserving liquid.
Season pork with salt and pepper. Roll up and tie with kitchen twine at 2" intervals. Heat oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Cook pork, turning until brown all over, 10-12 minutes. Add chicken, scallions, carrots, garlic, ginger and bonito flakes.
Add kombu liquid. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, skimming the surface occasionally.
Simmer until pork is tender and stock has reduced slightly; about 2-1/2 hours. Add soy sauce mixture.
Remove pork from stock and let cool. Chill until ready to use. Strain stock through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth into another large bowl or container; discard solids. Cover and chill.
When ready to serve, bring stock to a simmer; it should be very hot. At the same time cook noodles in a large pot of boiling water according to package directions and drain. Slice pork or cut into strips. Add noodles to your soup bowl. Top with sliced pork and add hot stock over pork to warm through. Stock should come up just to the level of the noodles.
Top with chopped scallions, hard-boiled egg half or pieces of nori sheets.
Add a pinch of cayenne pepper or chili oil over pork if desired.
Bringing ramen home may take a special trip to an Asian Market, but it might be the best noodle soup you'll ever make.