WOW, RAMEN, YOU’VE CHANGED! The last time we saw you was back in the dorms…you were hanging out in a microwave, and you weren’t really all that exciting. But now, look at you—you’ve ditched the seasoning packet and started hanging out with the farm-to-table crowd. You’re…sophisticated. People line up to get a taste.
In fact, if numbers can tell the story, we could be in the midst of a ramen revolution.
The incidence of ramen mentions on restaurant menus increased about 18.2 percent from March 2013 to March 2014, according to Technomic’s MenuMonitor data on “The Rise of Ramen."
Top flavors for Ramen dishes cited by Technomic, in order of popularity, are: spicy, onion, barbecue, cilantro, ginger, lime, miso, almond and chili.
No doubt about it, Ramen has become a noodle to watch, all grown up and ready to bring some authenticity and excitement to your noodle concept.
Layers of Flavor
The process of creating a ramen noodle bowl means building something out-of-this world with different ingredients, treating each ingredient with the proper attention, bringing out the best flavor, and then tasting how they work together. Salty, sour, sweet, spicy…umami…the sum of the parts should be something that invites slurping.
"It’s about a process, and layers of flavor,” says Kurt Kwiatkowski, executive chef, Michigan State University, where three traditional ramen dishes are offered at the world flavors venue: Shoyu, Miso and Tonkotsu broths. From there, numerous proteins and vegetables can be layered into the broth.
Kwiatkowski likes to use traditional proteins like pork belly, chicken thigh meat, fish balls (made of fish paste) and pork shoulder.
The soft-yet-springy ramen noodles are really what make the dish so good, though.
“It’s all about the sodium carbonate that’s in the ramen dough itself,” Kwiatkowski says. “The noodles are very alkaline, and it makes the noodle extra springy, allowing it to stay in very hot liquid and not fall apart or get mushy.”
Soft cooked eggs are always a great addition, just adding another layer of flavor. Add some fresh chives to the finished broth, and you’ve got a seriously slurpable meal.
“I think adding an egg is a must,” Kwiatkowski says. “It really adds to the depth of flavor of the dish.”
4 Types of Ramen
Since ramen is climbing the trend charts, a lot of younger customers are seeking it out. That’s what they’re anticipating this fall at the Hotchkiss School, a boarding high school in Lakeville, CT.
“It’s trendy and delicious, so we’re going to try ramen in the fall,” says Andy Cox, general manager and director of sustainability with Sodexo at the Hotchkiss School.
The versatility of ramen means it has a lot of menu potential in that setting, he adds.
“In terms of our strategy, we’re always looking for ways to use lesser cuts of pork and beef, as well as looking for killer vegan options,” Cox says. “So this seems to fit both.”
He hopes the students will share in his excitement. To start, ramen bowls will be offered every other week on the menu rotation. So look out, new generation of school kids, ramen is here to stay.
Ribeye Ramen Recipe
YIELD: 24 servings
For the beef broth:
2 gallons reduced-sodium beef broth
4 lbs. veal bones, split
1 quart onions, coarsely chopped
3 cups carrots, coarsely chopped
½ cup garlic, coarsely chopped
¼ cup fresh ginger, grated
¼ cup brown sugar
1 oz. dried forest mushroom pieces
6 bay leaves
2 cups dried bonito flakes
4 leaves dried kombu
1 quart veal glace de viande (full strength)
2 cups mirin
1 cup organic red miso
1 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
For the sautéed mushrooms:
1 ½ lbs. sliced fresh shiitake mushrooms
2 Tbsps. peanut oil salt and pepper, to taste
24 beef ribeye filets
ground black pepper, to taste
6 lbs. fresh ramen noodles
12 oz. julienned carrots (2 x â ”)
12 oz. julienned green onions (2 x â ”)
12 oz. fresh bean sprouts (optional)
120 blanched sugar snap peas
12 soft-boiled eggs, cut in half
1 ½ cups deep fried shallots micro greens, as needed
sliced red chili peppers, as needed
1. For the broth: Combine beef broth, veal bones, onions, carrots, garlic, ginger, sugar, mushrooms and bay leaves in large stockpot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; cover tightly and simmer 2 hours.
2. Add bonito flakes and kombu; bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium; cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; strain.
3. Add veal glace, mirin, miso and soy sauce to broth mixture. Bring to a simmer and cook, uncovered, 5 minutes. Cool, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
4. For the mushrooms: Saute mushrooms in hot oil over medium-high heat until just tender but have no color. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Per order: Season 1 beef ribeye filet with pepper. Pan-broil or grill to medium rare to medium, turning occasionally.
6. Meanwhile, cook 4 oz. noodles in boiling water until al dente. Drain.
7. Place 1â cups hot beef broth in large shallow bowl. Mound cooked noodles in the center. Place ½ oz. carrots, ½ oz. green onions, ½ oz. bean sprouts, 5 sugar snap peas, 1 oz. sautéed mushrooms and 1 egg half around noodles.
8. Carve steak into slices; arrange on top of noodles. Garnish with 1 tablespoon fried shallots, micro greens and chili pepper slices, as desired.
Photo and recipe: The Beef Checkoff
Crunch Crunch Ramen Salad Recipe
YIELD: 18 servings
2 lbs. coleslaw mix (cabbage, carrots)
12 oz. ramen noodles (4 packs, with seasoning of your choice)
2 cups toasted almonds, sliced
2 cups roasted sunflower seed kernels
1½ cups green onions, sliced
1 cup sugar
1½ cups sesame oil
â cup rice wine vinegar
1. Open noodle packages and reserve flavor packets. Crush noodles into a large bowl with slaw, then top with almonds, sunflower kernels and onions.
2. In a blender, mix together contents of the flavor packets and add sugar, oil and vinegar. Toss well, cover and chill at least 4 hours before serving.
Photo and recipe: Ryan Conklin, Rex Health, Raleigh, NC
Pork Belly Ramen Recipe
YIELD: 12 servings
For the pork belly:
4 lbs. pork belly, fat and skin on
1/4 cup peanut oil
1 cup chopped leeks, white portion only
12 garlic cloves, smashed
2 large pieces of ginger, smashed
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup mirin
1/2 cup hoisin sauce
For the ramen soup broth:
1 1/2 cups prepared Tonkotsu soup mix
1 gallon water
3/4 cup less-sodium soy sauce
For the bowls:
12 large eggs
24 oz. cooked ramen noodles
1 cup thinly sliced (on the diagonal) scallions
1 cup bean sprouts
1 cup lengthwise sliced pickled bamboo shoots
nori, cut into strips
1. For the pork belly: preheat oven to 300°F. Set the pork belly, fat-side down on the work surface. Roll into a cylinder and tie across the center at both ends with butcher’s twine.
2. Heat the oil in a roasting pan over medium-high heat. Add the leeks, garlic and ginger and cook until softened and fragrant, 3 to 5 minutes. Whisk in soy sauce, mirin, and hoisin. Set the pork belly, seam-side down, in the liquid, adding water to the bring the level halfway up the roll. Bring the liquid to a boil, cover the top of the pan loosely with foil. Braise for 2 hours, baste the pork, braise for another hour, and then baste again. Continue to braise, basting every 15 minutes, until the pork is fork tender, about 1 hour more. Carefully remove the pork and set on a cooling rack. (The braising liquid can be reserved for another use. Strain, discard the solids and skim off the fat. Among other uses, the liquid will give a flavor boost to finished soups.)
3. Meanwhile for the broth and eggs: Whisk together the soup mix and water in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer and then reduce heat to low. Add soy sauce to taste. Keep warm.
4. Fill a large bowl with ice water. Choose a sauté pan or shallow saucepan wide enough to hold the eggs in an even layer and add just enough water to cover them. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, gently set the eggs in the pan and cook for 6 minutes. Immediately transfer the eggs to the ice water. Cool for a few minutes, crack on the wide rounded side (this accesses the air pocket separating the shell from the inner skin), and peel the eggs under the water. Remove the eggs from the ice water. The eggs can be refrigerated for up to 24 hours, but should be brought to room temperature before adding to the soup.
5. To complete: Slice the pork, across the roll, into 1Å½4-inch slices.
6. For each serving, twist about 2 oz. of the ramen noodles and nest in the bottom of a large soup bowl.
Photo and recipe: Kikkoman
Braised Pork Belly with House-made Ramen Noodles, Soft-Poached Egg and Rich Pork Broth Recipe
For the broth:
30 lbs. pork neck bones
10 lbs. chicken backs, roasted at 400°F until dark brown
1 lb. ginger, split down the middle the long way, caramelized, face down on a hot pan
6 yellow onions, cut in half and blackened in a hot pan, face down
6 bunches scallions
6 heads garlic, with tops cut off
1 qt. dry shiitake mushrooms
1/2 pound kombu
For the noodles:
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rye flour
12 grams baking soda, baked
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 cup cold water
For the pork belly:
1 small pork belly, skin and ribs off, preferably Berkshire
1 cup soy sauce
2 cups sake
2 cups mirin
1 cup sugar
6 bunches whole scallions
6 cloves garlic, whole
1 4” knob ginger, sliced
2 shallots, sliced
For the eggs:
6 farm eggs splash white vinegar
1. While the chicken bones are roasting blanch the pork neck bones, starting in cold water, allow the water to come to a rolling boil and remain in that state for five minutes. Drain water, and remove the blanched bones to a sink where they can be rinsed.
2. Place the pork neck bone and the now roasted chicken backs into a large stockpot, with the charred ginger and onions, add the rest of the ingredients as well.
3. Fill with cold water to cover and bring the water to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and allow to remain on the heat for 6 hours. Drain, strain and refrigerate.
4. For the noodle preparation: For baked soda, place baking soda in a 250 F oven for one hour, this turns the sodium bicarbonate into sodium carbonate- an alkaline salt which gives the noodles their yellow color and springy texture, and allows them to keep this texture when placed in hot broth.
5. Dissolve the baked soda in the warm water, then combine with the cold water.
6. Place all fours into the mixer, stir to combine then add the water with the baked soda into the mixing bowl.
7. Allow the mixer to combine the dough for 12 minutes. When mixed remove the dough and let rest for an hour.
8. Once rested, divide the dough into six pieces and run each one through a pasta sheeter, once you have the sheets rolled to the desired consistency, about the thickness of a quarter, attach the spaghetti attachment to the pasta machine. Run the sheet of pasta through the machine, flouring the noodles as they come out and set them aside on a well-floured sheet tray. Noodles can also be frozen until you are ready to eat them.
9. For the pork belly: Preheat oven to 275°F. Lay out pork belly on cutting board, season with salt, roll up the belly lengthwise, with the skin side facing out. Next using butcher’s twine, tightly secure the belly at half-inch intervals.
10. Place the belly in a high-sided roasting pan. Bring all the ingredients to a bowl in a pot and pour them over the belly, cover with foil and place in the oven for 3 to 4 hours.
11. When tender, place the whole pan in the refrigerator to cool completely in the braising liquid.
12. Slice to desired thickness, just under a quarter inch is recommended.
13. For the eggs: Place the eggs in a pot of cold water with the vinegar, bring to a boil and shut off heat, cover and let stand for five minutes. Cool the eggs and peel.
14. To serve: Bring broth to the boil over high heat, meanwhile cook the noodles in boiling water for about two minutes.
15. Place two slices of the belly in a 200 degree F oven with a splash of sake on top.
16. Put the egg into the pot with the boiling water. Reheat the egg for about two minutes. Once the noodles are done cooking arrange them into six soup bowls.
17. Cut the reheated egg in half and place on top of the noodles, arrange the reheated belly into the bowl, pour the hot broth around the sides of the noodles, egg and pork belly.
18. Drizzle sesame oil and garnish with sliced scallion.
Photo and recipe: National Pork Board
Asian Chicken, Ramen and Grape Salad Recipe
1 packet (3 oz.) ramen noodles (any flavor)
1/3 cup slivered almonds
4 cups chopped Romaine lettuce leaves
2 cups shredded Napa cabbage
8 oz. cooked, diced chicken meat (about 2 cups)
1 1/2 cups green seedless grapes
2 green onions, sliced
For the Orange Mustard Dressing:
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup rice vinegar
2 Tbsps. honey mustard
2 Tbsps. orange juice concentrate
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1. Break up the ramen noodles in the sealed package. Open carefully and discard the seasoning mix. Put the noodle pieces and the almonds in a dry skillet and cook over medium heat, stirring and tossing constantly until the noodles and nuts are toasty brown, about 4 minutes. Set aside to cool.
2. In a large bowl, combine the lettuce, cabbage, chicken meat, grapes and green onions.
3. Prepare the dressing in a small bowl by whisking together olive oil, vinegar, mustard, orange juice concentrate and salt and pepper.
4. Combine the salad, toasted noodle mix and the dressing. Toss well and serve.
Photo and recipe: California Table Grapes Commission