Thursday, 4 May 2017

Eating Ramen here in my Pyjamas

Given how often we sang The Virtual Life here last year, you'd think I'd have made ramen before now. I mean, I LOVE ramen. Zach loves ramen. Mark would probably love it and even Miss B will noodles in soy sauce and miso. The Big Lad is never going to like them but if I can get 4 out of 5 of us eating something that's a gold medal in this house.

The online recipes I found initially had me retreating in fear. So many ingredients! So many I'd never heard of! And most crucially, instructions to make a stock over a day or two.
2 days making pork belly stock?
Not going to happen.
I don't even eat pork.
I asked my top mates Suzanne and Hannah for recipes and advice.  They are ramen-scoffing fiends, if anyone would have an easy recipe, they would.
As always, they came up trumps and my first attempt was pretty darned tasty. I picked bits and pieces from all their suggestions and made something I thought worked well.

I'm sure it won't pass as remotely authentic, but as a a family dinner it was delicious. Before I totally forget how I did it, I thought I'd write it up in case anyone else fancied a go (if there is anyone left who doesn't make them already - tell me I'm not the only noodle noob out there!)

The main components of the dish are the broth, the protein, the noodles and the toppings. Lots of recipes use chicken or pork belly in meaty stocks; I'm using salmon and a vegetable stock. A hint on the BBC website suggested using the stalks of the coriander along with a while fresh chilli pepper to infuse instant stock with more flavour and I think it was pretty successful. When I get a chance to pop into town I'll visit the Asian supermarket for some dash or kimchi to spice things up a bit, too.

Beginner's Ramen

1litre veg stock
bunch of fresh coriander
1-2 fresh chillies
1-5tbs soy sauce
1 tbs mirin
1 tbs fish sauce
1 bunch spring onions
4 cloves garlic finely grated or crushed
fresh ginger about half the size of your thumb, peeled and finely grated
large handful of mushrooms
2 salmon fillets
handful of frozen prawns (optional)
2 pak choy
chinese noodles
1/2 tsp bicarb

Bring the stock to the boil; add the stalks of the coriander and half to a whole chilli. Turn off heat, leave to infuse while you chop the other ingredients.

Finely chop the spring onions right up to the green parts. Put the green aside in a bowl. Chop the remaining fresh chilli and the coriander leaves, add to the bowl of toppings.
Toppings ready
Slice the mushrooms and fry on a medium heat with the white parts of the spring onion and the grated garlic and ginger.

Remove the coriander stalks and chilli from the stock. Stir in the mushroom mixture, soy sauce (depending how salty you like things), fish sauce, mirin and a cup of water. Simmer for 10 minutes and taste - add chillies, sugar or soy sauce to taste. Keep it on a low heat ready to use.

I think the mushrooms added depth to the broth
Season the salmon and cook it skin side down for several minutes before turning it over to complete the last bit of cooking.

Cut the pak choy in quarters lengthwise. Put it and the noodles (usually 1 nest per person) in a pan of boiling water with the bicarb. Cook according to the packet instructions (usually 3 minutes). Drain.

Assemble the bowls with noodles first, the pak choy and salmon pieces divided equally, broth and finish with a scattering of the coriander, spring onion tips and fresh chilli to taste.  I decided at the last minute to add some cooked prawns I had in the freezer that just needed warming through in a mug of boiling water, so I added them at the same time as the salmon.  Not sure they were entirely necessary.

If you feel like going all out, add a halved ramen egg to each bowl.  These are soft boiled eggs marinated overnight in soy sauce, garlic and other nice things.  On Hannah's recommendation I used this recipe . I even had a go with some quail eggs; they were delicious but not soft boiled because they are so darned small it's hard to judge the timings.

Fool that I am, I was so flustered bringing everything together that I totally forgot the eggs I'd done the day before so we had them after like a snack. Really lovely!

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