Ramen is severely under-appreciated in the west. Don’t think of the little dried packets sold in America… I mean the deep, rich comfort food you find in little shops all over Japan. This is not fancy food, but feel-good stuff you scarf down from a countertop stall on the way home from work, ort the bar. If you’ve had good ramen while traveling in Japan, you probably miss it already. To me, quality ramen has a near-magical status.
Want to see what I mean by good ramen? Check this out. Or this. What we’re making isn’t quite up to those standards, of course, but it’s close enough to be worth the effort. It’s a quick and easy version – better than the stuff in the packet.
You’ll need ramen noodles… dried (just throw away the stupid seasoning packet), frozen or fresh. It can be tricky to find frozen ramen (I buy it at my Asian grocery) and just about impossible to find fresh. But, man, nothing beats fresh soup noodles. Next on my list to try and make myself.
You’ll also need dashi powder (instant dashi, sold in packets or jars) and miso, two umami-rich Japanese ingredients. Check your Asian market or international aisle.
I like to use what is sold as shiro (white) miso becuase it’s a bit milder/less salty. Miso is sort of like the demi-glace of Japanese cooking… used in broths, sauces and stews for extra intensity and flavor. One thing… don’t boil miso. It gets a bad texture.
Last, a variety of toppings such as boiled eggs, corn, BBQ pork, spinach, mushrooms, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots, bok choy, or just about anything else you can find in the fridge! There are endless variations of ramen, and the dish really has no rules. If it tastes good, it goes in.
If you’re using spinach, enoki mushrooms, or anything else with some substance to it, you’ll want to blanch it in boiling water briefly, then drain before use. Or you can cheat like me, and toss the (washed) stuff into the stock to let it cook a bit as it finishes.
The soup itself consists of pork or vegetable stock (make your own or buy prepared), the dashi powder, soy sauce and miso paste.
Combine the finished broth with the cooked noodles and toppings, you’ve got yourself a nice bowl of ramen.
Quick Miso Ramen
You can use all sorts of toppings… what follows are simply the ones I used most recently, to match the photos here. Serves 4.
Adapted from Steamy Kitchen, Appetite for China, and other online sources.
- Dried, frozen or fresh ramen noodles (to serve 4)
- 8 cups pork or vegetable stock
- 3 tb shiro (white) miso paste
- 1 tb soy sauce
- 2 tsp dashi no moto (instant dashi powder)
- 4 soft-boiled eggs
- 1 bunch fresh spinach, blanched and drained
- 1/2 cup fresh bean sprouts
- 2 scallions, finely chopped
- 2 small clusters enoki mushroom
- Chili oil (optional)
- Prepare the toppings: blanch the spinach briefly in boiling water, then squeeze to drain. Clean the bean sprouts and chop the scallions. Soft-boil the eggs by simmering them for 6 minutes or so, then run under cold water and peel.
- Cook the noodles: make according to package directions. Usually 3 minutes or so in boiling water, then rinse with cold water to stop cooking.
- Make the soup: combine the stock, dashi and soy sauce and heat to a boil. Add enoki mushrooms at the very end to cook through. Remove the soup from heat and stir in the miso paste (don’t boil miso). Taste and add more miso or soy sauce as desired.
- Arrange the cooked noodles, spinach, enoki mushroom, and eggs (sliced in half) into 4 bowls. Ladel the hot soup into each bowl.
- Top each bowl with green onions, bean sprouts and chili oil (if you like it hot, like me).
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