In December I took a baking class from Pim. You all might already know that I don’t bake but that’s one of the reasons I took the class, to try something new. I still don’t bake but I’ve taught my 7 year old to bake for me. What I do make is soup! What I’ve never made is ramen. I was very much looking forward to this class. It was more my speed. The class was full of ingredients from Mitsuwa (my favorite place to stop when on the other side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, a Japanese grocery store) and lots of pork products. Wheeee!
The basic ramen broth is like most other soup broths: bones, veggies, simmer, strain. Voila! The flavor comes from additions to the broth called Tare. This allows you to make one broth but have choices as to the flavor people can have. The most common are Shoyu (soy sauce) and Shio (salt). I prefer shoyu tare. And the recipes we left with will flavor a whole pot of broth which will make and insane number of bowls of ramen.
The prize recipe I left with though was for Tonkotsu broth. I’d seen tonkotsu on ramen menus but I didn’t know what is was and always went with shoyu. What a mistake I’ve been making!!! Tonkotus is basically every iota of porkiness you can eek out of a pig. You boil the bejeezus out of pork bones…for many, many hours. You add sesame, mirin, garlic, soy. Nothing wrong with this idea. Then you top it like a beautiful bowl of any flavored ramen, with slices of luscious braised pork. (I think I just drooled on my keyboard)
I think one of the major things you miss out on as a vegetarian is good ramen topped with good braised pork. Vegetarian ramen is just a bowl of noodles in broth. Pork ramen is an ineffable experience. Have you seen Tampopo? If you haven’t, watch it tonight. For the entire ramen class I had scenes from that movie flashing through my mind. I don’t need to explain it, we have YouTube! Here’s a clip:
Pim braised the pork the day before the class since it takes hours and we wouldn’t have the time. It smelled heavenly. And the braising liquid is exquisite! I’m starting to run out of adjectives already.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a ramen joint that properly cooked the egg. I thought the egg was supposed to be hard-boiled. Apparently, it is supposed to be soft-boiled! The white should be set, the yolk should gush out into the broth. As Pim says, “Next time you’re served a bowl of ramen topped with over-cooked, hard-boiled eggs, get up from the table and walk out. How do you expect a good bowl of ramen if they can’t even figure out how out cook their eggs properly!” I don’t like runny eggs but I will still use this tactic as a benchmark for judging a good ramen joint. Ironically, the only dish I’ve ever eaten with runny egg that I liked was at Manresa! Actually, is that irony or coincidence? Whatever…anyway…
I had no idea what made ramen noodles ramen-y. They’re alkaline! That gives them the distinct ramen texture and flavor. Everyone rolled out their own dough for their own bowls of noodles. Since the pasta roller was a manual one, I had to rely on others to roll mine out for me, my wrists and hands are too shot to do that. But at home I have a pasta roller attachment for my KitchenAid so I can make noodles at home without pain!
Once the noodles were made, the eggs were cooked and cooling, the water was boiling (rapidly) it was time to eat! We were all starving after watching, smelling and sampling very tiny tastes of sauces and broths. I was so hungry, in fact, that I wolfed down my ramen before taking a picture. Then wolfed down a second bowl of Tonkotsu ramen without taking a picture of that either. I’m a dork. But I was a hungry dork and that’s the way it goes.
When I got home I immediately emailed my farmer buddies at my CSA and requested some pork bones from them. I picked them up yesterday. I will keep accumulating bones for a few weeks and hopefully christen my new kitchen (remodel starts next week!!) with a huge pot of Tonkotsu!