The Food Lab: Turkey Paitan Ramen With Crispy Shredded Turkey and Slow-Cooked Egg
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Turkey soup is all well and good for the day after Thanksgiving, and what's more, it's a snap to make. But sometimes I don't feel like making things snappy. Sometimes I feel like investing a bit more time into my scraps. Sometimes I feel like I want my home to smell like simmering turkey broth for an entire day before I get to dig into the fruits of my labor (or really, the fruits of my stove's labor, because it does the lion's share of work in this recipe). Enter Turkey Paitan Ramen.
If you've kept abreast of our Ramen Style Guide, you'd know that paitan refers to the thickness and opaqueness of the soup. Rich and creamy is what we're after here, and while paitan-style broths are traditionally made with pork (tonkotsu being the most famous example) or chicken, turkey works wonderfully well, with its fuller flavor and slightly sweet aroma.
In truth, this recipe is nothing more than a reworking of my Tonkotsu Ramen recipe, with a few tweaks.
Like that one, it starts with bones. In this case, I use fresh or roasted turkey bones (it's excellent made with a leftover roast turkey carcass!), along with a few extra fresh drumsticks, which are there not only for the soup itself, but to give us a bit of braised turkey meat to use as a crispy garnish in the finished bowl.
To make the broth, I start by blackening onions, garlic, and ginger in the bottom of a big pot. And when I say blacken, I mean that they should be well-charred on almost every side before adding my turkey bones and drumsticks (which have been briefly blanched and rinsed to rid them of excess minerals and blood that can darken the broth), and some carefully chosen aromatics: scallions and leeks (quadruple allium for quadruple allium flavor!), and mushrooms to bring out the meatiness of the turkey.
I fish the turkey drumsticks out of the pot as soon as they're tender enough to shred—a few hours.
The key with a paitan ramen is to forgo the classic French method of broth-making—the low and slow simmer—in lieu of a heavier boil. We're looking for a low rolling boil for the entirety of its 6 to 8-hour cooking time.
What you end up with is a rich, deep brown stock (brown from the roasted turkey bones!), that is absolutely loaded with turkey flavor.
A bit too much flavor if you want my honest opinion.
To tame it, I find that this particular broth takes well to the addition of miso paste and sesame.
Tahini is hardly a traditional Japanese ingredient, but it's pretty much identical to the goma paste used in Japanese cuisine, and much easier to find in your average supermarket.
I whisk in a bit of each, adjusting the quantity to taste.
As with making miso soup, it's important that once you add the miso, you don't bring the broth back up to a boil, or the miso will separate, turning into grainy little lumps. If you let your soup sit and see it breaking like the photo above, you'll know you got it too hot.
Don't worry! It's an easily fixed problem: just buzz it all up using a hand blender or a regular blender and nobody will know the difference.
So what's up with that turkey drumstick meat we fished out? Well, after discarding the skin and bones, you're left with tender meat that can...
...easily be shredded into fine pieces before...
...browning in a skillet with some oil. Just a little more...
...and boom goes the dynamite. Even if you don't make the ramen broth, I heartily recommend simmering turkey drumsticks, shredding, and browning the meat. Turkey carnitas tacos anyone?
I finish off the bowl with a sous-vide soft boiled egg (a marinated soft boiled egg would do, as well), a ton of scallions, some crispy turkey meat, a drizzle of sesame oil, and—as a nod to the turkey's traditional American partner—some seared Brussels sprouts leaves.
Now doesn't that look better than boring old turkey soup?
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.