#9 Japanese ~Tantanmen Ramen

I absolutely adore Japanese food. The flavours, the appearance, the delicacy of it all. Refined food with elegant presentation -Japanese cuisine has us believing that it is simple in its preparation.

No.

I will not lie, this dish has many elements, and those elements each require much preparation. I took up the challenge to make the the comforting noodle and broth dish of Japan – Ramen. Ramen could possibly be my most favourite Japanese dish. And if you are going to do it right, the noodles are as important as the broth. My 8 year old son knows that I love this dish, and that I love to cook. So he picked out this fantastic book for me on my last birthday…

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This book is full of recipes from the Bone Daddies Ramen Bar in the UK. Both of the guys behind it aren’t necessarily about authenticity, rather than flavour and fun. I will be definitely looking them up next time I am in their neck of the woods. To my UK family & friends… reconnaissance mission please?

The ramen I made in week 9 was an adaptation of their Tantanmen, which was inspired by dan dan mien – a noodle dish in Sichuan China. Really mixing up our cuisine region here, but for arguments sake, this is my Japanese week.

For each bowl of ramen you will need:

  • 45g spicy pork mince (recipe below)
  • 90g goma tare (Japanese grocer)
  • 300ml hot chicken broth (recipe below)
  • 100g cooked ramen noodles
  • 30g blanched bean sprouts
  • 20g soy bamboo (recipe below)
  • 1 marinated egg (recipe below)
  • 1 large pak choi leaf, blanched, drained and chilled
  • 25g slice of kassler, warmed (German smoked pork, however if you can get your hands on some  cooked sliced chashu pork belly – go with that. The kassler is a fine substitute)
  • a pinch of very finely chopped garlic shoots
  • chilli oil to taste (Japanese grocer)

Now If you are feeling super keen, you can go ahead and make every component of a ramen including the tare and the noodles, which I did the first time I used this cookbook. If you are time poor and/or have an infant to take care of, it can take up to 3 days to prepare a ramen – speaking from experience. So to make ramen at home achievable, make what you can in advance, or visit a Japanese grocer and see what components you can source. Below are the recipes needed to put this delicious dish together. I’ve put them in order of pre-preparation.

Ramen Chicken Broth

  • 1.5kg chicken wings
  • 1.5kg chicken bones
  • 10g kombu (try to source at a Japanese grocer or health food store)
  • 10g dried shitake mushrooms, rinsed and tied in a square of muslin into a bundle
  • 25g ginger, rinsed but not peeled and cut into slices 1cm think
  • 100g green spring onion tops

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C and roast the wings for about an hour, turning halfway through. Add all the chicken to a stock pot and about 3 litres of water (or to the 4 litre mark if you have one), then add all the remaining ingredients. Bring to a simmer and continue simmering for 30 mins, removing any foam, solids or fat that rise to the top. Cover the pot with a lid and cook over very low heat for 8-10 hrs. Skim again and top with water to make about 5 litres, then drain the liquid into a large container. Press the solids and meat through a fine sieve, then mix the pressed broth with the drained broth. Cover & chill for up to 3 days or freeze for 4-6 months.

The broth is the soup base. Ramen broth is more complex than your classic European stocks, mainly because of the addition of dashi. Dashi is a simple stock made of kombu (kelp) & katsuobushi (dried bonito). You can buy dashi powdered stock sachets in a Japanese grocery store if you want a short cut. This is the stuff that some places may use to make a quick cup of miso soup at their restaurant. 

Makes 5 Litres of Stock

Marinated Eggs

  • 4 large eggs
  • 100ml soy sauce
  • 100ml water
  • 2 tsp caster sugar

Soft boil the eggs by cooking them in a saucepan of simmering water for 6-7mins. Drain and place under cold running water for 5 mins. Mix the soy sauce, water and sugar together in a container. Peel the eggs and add them to the soy sauce mixture and leave to marinate in the refrigerator 3-4hrs or overnight if possible.

Tops 4 Ramen bowls

Soy Bamboo

  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 200g drained tin of sliced bamboo shoots
  • 80ml soy sauce
  • 2 tsp caster sugar
  • Pinch of chilli flakes, to taste

Heat the sesame oil in a frying pan and stir-fry the bamboo shoots until dry. Add the remaining ingredients with 1 1/2 tablespoons of water and cook until dry.

Spicy Pork Mince

  • 1 tsp chilli oil (Japanese grocer)
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 200g minced pork
  • 20g tobanjan (Chinese hot bean sauce)
  • 75ml soy sauce
  • 1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped ginger
  • 1/2 spring onion finely chopped

When picking out your chilli oil, make sure it’s full of garlic and sesame oil and possibly ginger. The taste of this chilli oil is amazing and it definitely gets overused in this house.

 

Heat both oils in a wok or frying pan and stir-fry the minced pork until browned. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook until the mixture is dry. Set aside.

Makes 4 servings

Ramen Time…

Now that you have all your components ready to go, it’s time to get your serving bowls hot and ready. I usually fill a sink with hot water, submerge my serving dishes for a short time, then dry and they are ready to go. Refer to the top list for amounts to go into each bowl.

Add the tare and broth to your serving bowl. Tare is the ramen’s seasoning. It is that which defines the ramen’s flavour. You can make your own, some tares being easier than others. This time I picked up the tare from my local Japanese grocer to save time. Whisk together the broth and tare until it appears creamy, then add the cooked noodles (which I also bought rather than prepared from scratch).

Top your bowls with the bean sprouts, soy bamboo, marinated egg halves, a serve of the spicy pork mince, ham, the pak choi leaf and sprinkle with garlic shoots. Or, let everyone top their own bowl with what they like, including that delicious chilli oil.

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Serves 4 very hungry noodle soup enthusiasts.

Check out Ramen Anatomy: The Four Parts of a Ramen Bowl on pepper. for more information on Broths, Noodles, Tare & Toppings if you fancy.

Cheers,

Bex

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