Posted in General, Ph D posts

‘Stay at home’ Ramen – post Ph. D hobbies

It’s the Easter long weekend, but we still need to stay at home as much as possible, so! In lieu of my usual Easter activities (which involves some family get-togethers), I’ve decided to pre-occupy myself with some cooking. Because I love cooking.

I had a thought about ingredients that people might not be buying so much of over the weekend, just to try and minimise the risk of inconveniencing anyone, and… they sort of aligned quite well with homemade Torigara/chicken broth Ramen, so I decided to run with this idea.

I’ve made Tonkotsu/Pork broth before- just once. It was one of those ‘things I want to cook before I die’ type things (I have a weird bucket list?), and while it tasted f***ing amazing, it also took me three days to make and it was very stressful.

Chicken, on the other hand, is way easier, and way quicker, so this is my second attempt at making it. I don’t have any lingering PTSD to worry about in this case!

Day 1: Chashu pork

Every good Ramen has a delicious porky topping, and it turns out this stuff is actually pretty easy to make! I’m just going to write in what I threw into the pot.

  • 2x Pork belly slabs
  • 3 stalks of spring onions
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic
  • A small (2.5 cm^3) bulb of ginger
  • And a make it up as you go along array of soy sauce, mirin, sake, and sugar- I feel like mine is closer to a 2.5:1:1:0.5 ratio.
  • Water to balance (i.e. cover the pork belly)
  • Salt to season pork belly

All you need on top of this is a slow cooker/multi cooker.

So, to prep your own Chashu pork, you start by removing the skin on the pork belly with a very sharp knife.

Be very careful! 🔪

Once this is done, you can just liberally cover all sides of the pork belly with salt, and then let it sit for a while (I feel like if you can leave it overnight it’ll be even better, but I’m not that organised so I only left it for like, 15 minutes). If it’s a bit wet, you can pat it down with paper towel.

At this point you can attempt to clumsily roll up and bind the pork belly. I’m sure you can take your time with this and make it look pretty, but it was like 10:30pm for me and I wanted to have a shower before bed, so… don’t judge.

Once the belly is bound tightly, then you can proceed to sear all sides in a frying pan, or in my case, in my new multi cooker (this is the test run).

After that, all you need to do is just throw everything into a slow cooker (or just chuck the rest of the ingredients into your multi cooker), and let it slow cook on low overnight. You can also throw the skin you removed earlier (because flavour).

You’ll be greeted the following morning with this magnificent product.

You can sift the contents but keep the soup!! It’s essential for Ramen.

All you need to do now is to let it cool, and then chuck it in the fridge.

Day 2: Ajitama/marinaded egg, fragrant oil, and Ramen broth

Once you’ve dealt with your Chashu- do not throw out the marinade. That’s gonna become your Tare/soup base. The final Ramen broth is a combination of fragrant oil, soup base, and broth, so you need to keep this stuff (it’s hella salty so don’t drink it straight- you’ll die).

One of the most popular Ramen toppings is the Ajitama, or the marinaded egg. It’s delicious stuff, but it’s also a bit of a pain to make.

  • Room temperature egg/s
  • Your Tare from earlier (that you made your Chashu in), semi-diluted with water

So, you have to get a needle/tack, and poke a hole through the shell at the bottom of the egg, where there’s a natural air sac- that way you don’t have any eggy bits oozing out. The bottom of the egg is the end that has a gentler curve and looks more flat. The top of the egg is more pointy- don’t stab that end.

Once the hole has been poked in all the eggs you want to marinade, you can gently place them in a pot with some cold water, and let the water come to a boil. Make sure the pot has a lid on it. As soon as the water starts boiling violently, kill the heat, and keep the lid on. Depending on how you like it, you can leave the eggs in there for 3 minutes (for a gentle oozing yolk), 5 minutes (for less ooze but still somewhat translucent), or whatever else you prefer. I’m a fence-sitter when it comes to recipes that have a range, so I just did 4 minutes.

Place the eggs in some ice-cold water, and leave it in there until it is cool to the touch, before gently removing the shell. Hopefully the hole you poked at the start makes it easier to peel off the shell.

Once the eggs have had their shells removed, you can throw them into the Tare/soup base you made earlier, and let it marinade overnight in the fridge.

***

For the fragrant oil, I just use lard (I had some left over cold smoked bacon fat so I just used that). Just throw in a hunk of lard in a pot with a few cloves of garlic, a bit of ginger, and some spring onions, let it heat and cook for a while until the fat smells divine. Let it cool before you extract the oil. It can sit in the fridge for now until you’re about to serve, at which point you can just microwave it and have it super hot.

***

Now the Torigara/chicken broth- I just had a mixture of chicken wings and chicken drumsticks (again, I figured no one really wants to eat those over Easter). You just need bones, because it’s the marrow that gives the broth flavour.

  • ~3 kg (600 g chicken wings, ~2.4 kg chicken drum sticks)
  • 8 small stalks of spring onions (they were super thin)
  • 1 whole bulb of garlic
  • A small (1.5 cm^3) cube of ginger (add more if you want!)
  • 1 red apple
  • 2 small bay leaves
  • However much Sake as you want
  • Water to balance (to cover the chicken)
  • A touch of soy sauce

So, you can simply throw all these ingredients in a pot and let it boil (a ‘rolling boil’) for a minimum of two hours, and it will give you a decent broth.

I had the equipment and the time, so I threw it all in to slow cook overnight instead- because, why not?

Day 3: Bringing it all together

I didn’t really have a lot to do, so I kinda just faffed about with the broth. I had it in the multi cooker (slow cooking overnight), so I tried to saute on high, then low, and realised the temperature was just too high (it kept burning the bottom), so then I sifted the broth and transferred it into a pot to boil more gently on the stove top (I threw some bones back in). Once I was ready to eat, I just sifted it all again to remove any bony bits.

For toppings, I just went with thinly sliced spring onion, sauteed cabbage and bean shoots, alongside the Chashu (sliced) and Ajitama. Pickled ginger is optional.

The easiest way to slice Ajitama is to get a piece of thread (for sewing) and essentially garrote the egg length-ways. Way better at preserving the oozy yolk than using a sharp knife.

You can just adjust the cooking time if you want a runnier yolk- but it’s that translucent colour that’s the best.

Provided the broth, soup base, and fragrant oils are boiling hot, and the bowl you’re putting them in have been warmed, the ingredients should warm up on their own, but… I still give them a quick zap in the microwave (especially the Chashu) beforehand.

The noodles I use are non-fry, meaning they haven’t been deep fried to dry the noodles out. You don’t have to use these- I just have them because my mum can’t eat the normal noodles without feeling ill.

Once the noodles are boiling, it’s go time. Assemble the broth (I think I ended up doing 2.5:0.75:0.1 broth:Tare:oil- but do taste to check), and have it ready to plonk the noodles in, because otherwise the noodles tangle and clump. I undercooked the noodles by a full minute because I eat slow and that way the noodles don’t overcook so quickly. I reckon in hindsight you could undercook it by two minutes.

Once you’ve got the broth and noodles, you can go nuts and put all the toppings on, and enjoy. We certainly did in our household.

It was way too much food, but it was amazing.

Hope you enjoyed my first foray into a cooking post.

Merry Egg-mas, wherever you are. Stay home, stay safe, and take care. 🍜 ☺️

Author:

A former wet-lab based Bacteriology Ph. D student residing in Australia. Now working part time at a secret location as a Communications and Data Officer. 👀 🦠 🧫 🧬

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