Jean Kvam: A good ramen is all about the broth (recipe)
I have to say the idea of being able to buy a whole roasted chicken in just about any grocery store these days would have made my life much easier as a working mother when our family was young.
Even though my husband and I are now retired and I have the time to cook to my heart’s content, a whole roasted chicken makes its way home with me about once a week. It lasts us through myriad creations for several days – that is if the chicken makes it home intact. The poor thing usually arrives on my kitchen counter without the wings which are consumed in the parking lot before I even start the car. It’s really difficult to be in a car with a roasted chicken! I feel like I’m in a mobile KFC.
Once home, the first thing I do is let it cool a bit and then strip it bare. All the bones and extra bits go into a small pot. I then pour some hot water into the plastic container to extract all the aspic that ends up in the bottom and pour that in with the bones. Cover and simmer the bones for about an hour and then you have the most wonderful broth base for soups or use it in place of water for cooking dishes such as rice and polenta. It’s nice to have containers of frozen broth that you can use as a resource for good winter soups. I do tend to make ramen and Vietnamese pho quite often in the fall and winter and as far as ramen is concerned, it’s all about the broth.
I was in Kyoto, Japan a couple of years ago and discovered the best ramen I’ve ever had. The restaurant was called Gogyo which was located just outside the huge Nishiki Market Shopping District and near the area of tiny saki storefronts. The menu was not extensive but ramen tends to be categorized by four main broth styles with pretty standard vegetable and meat additions. I tend toward the soy based broth (shoyu) rather than the miso based, salt based or pork bone based (tenkotsu). I sat at the bar, ordered the burnt soy sauce ramen and sipped the best saki I’ve ever had while watching the ramen master create four foot tall flames out of the wok which would become the base for the broth. The depth of flavors in that bowl layered with meat, vegetables and noodles was intense. Once home, I just had to try to recreate some of the flavors of that experience which a good bowl of real, authentic ramen is all about.
Shoyu Chicken Ramen (4 servings)
1 roasted chicken
6 dried shitaki mushrooms
1 container of enoki mushrooms (optional depending on season)
2 stalks celery
1⁄2 white onion
6 small bok choy or 2 medium
4 stems broccoli rabe
2 green onions
2 T mirin
1⁄4 cup shaoxing wine
1 T soy sauce (good quality premium dark or light)
ramen noodles (I like Japanese buckwheat noodles)
black or toasted white sesame seeds
furikake or sansyo seasoning (optional)
sriracha or chili sauce (optional)
Pour boiling water over the dried shitaki mushrooms and soak overnight (do not throw away the soaking liquid as it will be added to the chicken liquid). Remove the meat from the roasted chicken and set aside. Cover the bones with water, bring to a boil and simmer the bones for at least an hour with the lid on. Strain the broth and transfer to a larger pot. Remove the stems from the soaked shitaki mushrooms and slice the caps into 1/4” pieces. Cut 2 carrots, celery and white onion into chunks and place in pot with chicken broth and the liquid from the soaked mushrooms. Add the shaoxing wine, soy sauce and mirin. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. After cooking, remove the vegetables and discard. At this point, the vegetables have imparted all their flavor in the broth and are pretty much tasteless. Add salt to taste and a little white pepper. Bring a pot of water to a boil, place the eggs in and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand for 9 minutes then drain off the water. As soon as you can handle the hot eggs, remove the shells and cut in half. Cook the noodles according to the package directions and steam your vegetables until they are just tender.
At this point, you are ready to assemble your ramen bowl. The enoki mushrooms can be placed in each bowl when ready to serve as the heat of the broth will cook them just enough. Place a good helping of cooked noodles in each bowl, arrange the bok choy, broccoli rabe, chopped carrots, shitake mushrooms, enoki mushrooms, 1⁄2 hard boiled egg and pieces of cooked chicken on top. Pour in a generous helping of steaming broth, sprinkle with the chopped green onion, sesame seeds, furikake, sansyo, chili paste, to your taste and you’re ready to dig in.