Chef’s and faithful readers the world over have had a long standing obsession with ramen, and not just the instant ramen that has fed countless generations of college students the world over. This Japanese comfort food calls more and more food lovers into it’s ranks yearly, but relatively few have taken the challenge of trying to make their own. David Chang’s expose on the topic in the first issue of Lucky Peach magazine recently has had many kitchens buzzing, and mine is no exception. I tried making his recipes verbatim soon after reading the magazine, and felt so armed to start fucking around with my own version.
The noodles for this ended up being Chang’s recipe, verbatim. I experimented with making potato noodles using potato flour; didn’t work. The noodles kept expanding then turning to mush when I went to cook them. After I had given up I was told that I should have worked in xanthan as a binder, which one day I may try.
For the broth, we did a traditional corned beef braise; wherein a beef brisket is brined for five days, then braised for four hours in a low oven. We strained off the broth, augmented it with a simple beef stock made from cows’ necks. We steeped in konbu and ground dried shiitake mushrooms, and reduced the broth by one third. The traditional seasoning for ramen broth comes from what’s called tare (tar-ay,) a rich syrupy stuff made from chicken backs, soy, mirin, sake, and bacon. We tweaked this by using hanger steak instead of the chicken backs, and smoked ham hock along with the bacon. The tare is blended into the broth right before it hits the bowl. Again, I adapted all of this from Lucky Peach, so I hope David Chang doesn’t sue me. However, I guess if he was going to, he would have already.
The idea behind this dish was to “fuse” corn beef and cabbage with ramen, and the garnishes reinforced this. We had baby carrots, roasted fingerling potatoes, raw shredded cabbage, pickled mushrooms, and a breaded and fried soft boiled egg. We made a radicchio chip that had the very similar texture and flavor to the traditional nori. The hunk of corned beef was pull apart tender, warmed through in a little bit of the ramen broth.
Overall, I was extremely happy with this dish. As my own toughest critic, I have a few critiques. Firstly, ramen should not be part of a multi-coursed dinner. Ramen IS a multi-coursed dinner. I did not have enough broth in relation to the other ingredients in the bowl because I was worried about over filling people, as is my custom. Ramen should be a huge satisfying meal unto itself, not just a stop on runaway fusion train.
It’s worth mentioning that PDX Eater did a little piece on this dish for their reoccurring Chef in the Kitchen feature. A big and warm thanks to Erin Dejesus for her great article and ongoing interest in KitchenCru, and as many thanks to the talented photographer Dina Avila for her beautiful photos. The article is cool in an of it self and all, all though I was so excited during the shoot I forgot to put the corned beef in it. The real joy of this article however, came the day after; when people started to comment. Check it out, it’s worth a good laugh.