As a home cook, there are some things that you just have to come to terms with.
For me, one of those things is that I probably won’t ever be able to make the perfect bowl of ramen.
A perfect bowl of ramen might not even exist. But if it does, it takes decades to get right and definitely doesn’t come in the tiny plastic packet that most Americans think of when they think of ramen.
After coming to terms with that though, it becomes very doable to make a really good bowl of ramen. If you’re new to Asian cooking, there might be some strange ingredients in this preparation, but you should be able to find all of them at any Asian market or even most Asian sections of supermarkets these days. In other words, there’s no excuse!
For my pork belly ramen, I make a rich soup base that only takes about 90 minutes – as opposed to the days and days it can take for restaurants to make their ramen bases. In the base is a bunch of fun add-ins, but most importantly I tossed in a few thin slices of rich roasted pork belly.
Let’s start with the pork belly. For this version, I roasted mine, but I also direct you to my fellow blogger Dan’s method of cooking pork belly. It looks awesome and you could just as easily use it for this dish.
If you do want to roast it though, just slice some thin cuts into the fat portion of the pork belly. This will help some of the fat render out of the belly as it roasts. Try not to cut too deep down into the belly.
Then rub the pork belly with some sesame oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
This pork belly will need to roast for at least 60 minutes, but to be honest you can’t really over cook it. The longer you cook it, the crispier and more delicious it will get. I roasted mine for 60 minutes, but you could roast it for 90 minutes without a problem.
Eventually, when you are ready to make your ramen bowls, you want to slice the pork belly as thin as you can since it’s so rich.
Now for maybe the more intimidating part: the soup base. As you can see, there are some ingredients that are not common in American kitchens.
The big sticks that you see are kombu, basically seaweed. They add a nice deep savory flavor to the stock. The dried black things are black fungus. You can use any dried mushroom though. Bonito flakes are a Japanese staple. They are basically dried fish that they smoke and slice into very thin flakes. Again, they add a rich savory flavor to the stock.
Don’t add the bonito flakes in right away, but otherwise toss everything into the pot.
Cover it with chicken stock and water and bring to a simmer. Simmer the stock for about thirty minutes and then you can add the bonito flakes.
The flakes are so thin that they will basically dissolve in the broth. Let the broth simmer for another minute or two and then kill the heat, cover the broth, and let it steep for ten minutes.
Next, strain the stock through a mesh sieve to remove all the ingredients. That should leave you with a relatively clean broth.
After your broth is strained, return it to the stove and bring it back to a simmer, uncovered. Season the broth with soy sauce and rice wine vinegar and then let it reduce by about a quarter. That will take another 15-20 minutes of boiling.
Now everything is coming together. I made a few other add-ins that are great in the ramen bowls. I sautéed some shiitake mushrooms and spinach with a drizzle of oil until they were wilted. That takes just a few minutes.
Then you need to cook the noodles. There are a million different noodle options and use can use almost all of them. For my money, I prefer udon noodles. Just cook them according to the package right before you’re ready to serve.
Now you’re ready to make a bowl! Divide the noodles between a few bowls, top with the spinach and mushrooms, add in a few thin slices of pork belly, and ladle in the ramen base. Then top with scallions and sesame seeds and you’re ready to roll!
Is this the best bowl of ramen in the entire world? Absolutely not. But it’s tasty, beats a plane ticket to New York or Japan, and you can realistically make it in a few hours!
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