Like many big city serious eaters, I enjoy probably more than my fair share of ramen. Until this week, all of these sips and slurps were at restaurants or food trucks; even though I cook almost everything for myself, ramen has always seemed like a dish best left to experts with plenty of time to tend a long-simmered broth. However, when I opened up Hiroko Shimbo's new cookbook, Hiroko's American Kitchen, and saw not one, but two recipes for the noodle soup, I knew I needed to give it a shot.
Granted, Shimbo's ramen broth takes a bit of a shortcut. Instead of simmering bones to make stock, she combines fragrant, umami-laced dashi with store-bought chicken stock (use homemade if you've got it stashed of course). By simmering it with aromatics and a generous slab of pork belly, she infuses the dish with extra meatiness. Later, she combines the broth with a secondary pork cooking liquid made from soy, sake, and mirin (again, full of porky goodness). These steps make for deeply flavored broth without too much effort. (Yes, there is still an overnight rest, and the matter of making dashi, but neither of these are dealbreakers.) Slices of the pork and an excellent soy-cured egg are the key toppings for the ramen, making for a complete meal.
Why I picked this recipe: Do I really need to provide a reason for making ramen without spending 12 straight hours at the stove?
What worked: While there'd be no mistaking this broth for a long-simmered tontosu, the deep savoriness of the dashi and braised pork belly adds wonderful dimension to the broth. And the soy-cured eggs are a creamy and salty treat of their own.
What didn't: Taste-wise, I could've done without the cabbage, but it did add a nice burst of color to the finished dish.
Suggested tweaks: I had some seaweed salad sitting around in my fridge, so I tossed that into the final bowl. It was a nice touch.
About the author: Kate Williams is a freelance writer and personal chef living in Berkeley, CA. She is a contributor to The Oxford American and Berkeleyside NOSH, and she blogs at cookingwolves.wordpress.com.