Serious Eats

Serious Entertaining: A Ramen Blowout Feast

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[Photographs: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, unless otherwise noted]

Ramen Week 2013

I'll have the ramen, ramen, ramen, ramen, ramen, ramen, ramen, ramen, baked natto, ramen, ramen, ramen, ramen, and ramen.

My god, I feel like Ramen Week 2013 may finally be getting to me. I look out the window and all I see is houses made of vertically draped noodles, glowing, shimmering, Matrix-like in their noodliness. The dogs walking down the street are rolled up, twine-wrapped bundles of chashu pork and their walkers have heads made of giant ajitsuke tamago. Rivers flow with tonkotsu broth and bricks are mortared together with miso.

Why fight it? I've already been lured into the Ramen Monster's grasp, his broth has anointed my lips, and I've been touched by his noodly appendage. Might as well give in by throwing a ramen blowout feast.

Would you like to be initiated into the Church of the Ramen Monster as well? It's easy—just call up a half-dozen of your closest friends, and lay this menu on them.

Appetizers: Steamed Buns

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If you've ever waited on line at Momofuku or Ippudo in New York, you'll know that folks with a hunger for ramen who are forced to wait to fulfill it can get... a bit cranky. Same thing can happen at your ramen party. Since ramen must be eaten as soon as it's served, it doesn't do to set it out on the table before all the guests arrive, and a roomful of happy, slightly tipsy, soon-to-be-ramen-eaters can quickly turn ugly when the stragglers don't show quick enough. Glasses will be smashed, beer will spill, noodles will fly.

I know of only two surefire ways to get those type of folk to calm down. One involves a bodily humor-based party trick that is impossible to capture on a two dimensional screen. The other is to shove their pie-holes full of savory steamed buns.

They're easy to prepare once you've got the basic ingredients prepped, and they make good ice breakers, as there's no dignified way of eating them.

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Pork Belly with Spicy Mayo is the classic, but if you want to keep things lighter, check out these two vegan versions. The first is a Tempura King Oyster Mushroom with Agave-Miso Vegan Mayonnaise, and the second is a Simmered Daikon and Shiitake with Pickled Mung Bean Sprouts.

Main Course: Ramen

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The trick with serving ramen to a crowd is to make sure that your guests are ready to eat as soon as you start cooking. Ramen noodles don't wait, so no dilly-dallying! Have bowls at the ready, have your soup broth hot on the stove, and have a large pot of water at a rolling boil so you can rapidly cook the noodles.

Once everyone is seated, drop in the noodles, let them cook, use tongs to place them in bowls, top them with ladles full of broth, and serve, letting guests customize their own bowls at the table.

A Rich and Creamy Tonkotsu Broth is a great crowd pleaser, but it's hard to go wrong with this miso-based broth either.

Side Dishes: Ramen Toppings

Here's where the fun comes in: customization. I like to put out a whole host of toppings on the table and let my guests place whatever they want in their bowls. At the very least, plenty of thinly sliced scallions, eggs, chili paste or Japanese-style togarashi for heat, and pork should be out there to cover the basics.

For the eggs, I like to make a big batch of Ajitsuke Tamago. I soft boil and marinate the eggs in advance, let them come to room temperature, then slice them up and place them on a platter that goes on the table. The room temperature eggs get plenty hot in the hot broth.

Hot chili paste or dried pepper work, but if you want to really blow away your guests with your condiments, try your hand at making this Burnt Garlic-Sesame-Chili Oil. It's a hot, sweet, and garlicky paste that packs even the most mundane bowl with flavor. For a more traditional approach, just throw some burnt garlic Mayu on the table.

As for the pork, you have a few of options. Easiest is to simply stir-fry some ground pork seasoned with a bit of soy sauce and sesame oil. But much better is to serve slices of Chashu, made by braising rolled pork belly in a soy and mirin-based broth. Bonus points if you throw some of the strained cooking liquid on the table as an extra seasoning option! If chashu is not your style, then go with my new favorite: Crispy Braised Pork. You'll never look back, I promise.

With the bases covered, it's up to you to get creative! Check out our Guide to Ramen Styles for a comprehensive list at some classic toppings, or just make up your own. There's no wrong way to do ramen (other than overcooking the noodles).

To Drink: Beer, Sake, and Wine

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[Photograph: S. Postma]

Head on over to our drinks pairing guide for a complete listing of ramen-friendly beer, wine, sake, and more.

Dessert: Black Sesame and Orange Ice Cream

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[Photograph: Max Falkowitz]

Our Scooped columnist Max has a love for Black Sesame Ice Cream that knows no bounds, and it's easy to see why. Luscious and creamy as all get-out, with a rich, nutty flavor, it's reminiscent of peanuts, but with a richer, deeper, slightly fruity backbone. In his version, a touch of orange zest and sesame are added to balance and complement the black sesame base.

Don't want ultra-creamy after all that creamy pork broth? Understandable. If you're the type who likes to leave their guests smiling and satisfied but not so full that they have to be rolled out the door, try cleansing their palate with a bit of this Green Tea Ice Cream instead, flavored with a touch of ginger, which helps with digestion.

Believe me, after a feast like this, you're going to need it.

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About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.

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