“You couldn’t have done that?”
“Why not? It was all they had available.”
“But, but…it’s not ramen then!”
Backtrack a day, and I’m standing at my local Korean/Japanese grocery store.
“I’m looking for fresh ramen noodles.”
The shop assistant walks me over to the freezer, and pulls out a bag of frozen ramen, complete with frozen soup and all the fixings. The price? 6.99 for one portion.
“This is not what I’m looking for. I just want fresh noodles.”
“But why don’t you take these? I love shio-ramen…just add some hot water and dinner is ready!”
“I’m planning to make my own soup. I just want the noodles.”
She stares back at me with a puzzled face. I spot disbelief in her eyes. After all, how many people attempt to make ramen stock at home? I decide that showing off is the only way to go here.
“Yes, I’ll make the soup with konbu, shiitake mushrooms, pork and chicken bones and some vegetables.”
She continues to look at me in disbelief, but finally offers a kind word:
“I hear that some soups benefit from a handful of niboshi (dried sardines).”
Turns out they don’t have fresh ramen noodles, which sucks because I was preparing for a noodle cook-off. “A” challenged me a while back to outdo her mom’s recipe for Vietnamese pho. I have never made noodles before, but in an act of bravado I decided that making this soup couldn’t be so different than making chicken stock, and I took the challenge.
Making the soup wasn’t so difficult — it just takes a long time. All in all, the pot bubbled for some odd nine hours before a clear basic broth was ready. I seasoned it with tare to turn it into shoyu-ramen (soy sauce ramen), which is one of the most basic and classic preparations. Then came all the fixings. I’m a big fan of ramen eggs, and found Chubby-hubby’s recipe to make them (thanks!). For the rest of the fixings, I roasted pork belly and sliced it thin, cooked a pork shoulder sous-vide and tore it into strands, rehydrated some wakame, sliced a bunch of scallions and bought pre-cut nori.
But the noodle question still lingered.
“You used Korean somen? What the hell? It doesn’t taste like ramen,” said “C”.
I obviously didn’t pass the ultimate authenticity test. In my desperation to find ramen noodles, the next best thing I found were fresh Korean somen noodles, which are a completely different thing.
Not perfect ramen, but almost ramen.