While living in NY I spent many a sick winter’s day hunched over a bowl of piping hot ramen at some noodle joint. Even in the middle of the summer when city streets were hot and smelly with the funk of nyc grit… -those were occasions for ramen bowls, too. There I would sit, on a wobbly wooden stool, head down in a bowl of steam, intensely slurping noodles and sweating head to toe. Theoretically, we (one of my best buds, kate), and I believed that if we ate hot bowls of soup we were raising our internal body temperature to match that of the hot heat outside, thereby offering us relief from the scorching sun. Frankly, I’m still not sure if it actually helped. I think more than anything we were beckoned back to ramen bowls because they just feel so good to eat. The art of putting one together properly is not an easy task, however. If you’ve ever seen the awesome movie Tampopo you know what I’m talking about.
The general concept is simple of course; bowl of broth, noodles, some vegetables, an egg, and often meat or other protein for shits and gigs. The challenge is to ensure that the flavor and balance of each component is harmonious.
There are many variaties of ramen; from clear broth to cloudy, from soup with a light/bright flavor to briny salty soy colored soup. Each locality in Japan favors a certain type of ramen and within those styles there exists even more variety. Normally, when I whip together ramen for a quick meal at home, I just throw a bunch of umami heavy flavors in a pot with some water (stock if i have it), cook up some noodles and top with whatever crunchy vegetables are in the fridge. But this time, THIS TIME was different. This was to be my ramen noodle moment of fame.
Part of the inspiration for this Ramen Adventure came from Lucky Peach; a quarterly magazine put out by NYC chef David Chang, (thanks Becky!) I have never met the man personally, but I imagine him to be a pretty sassy guy. And the first issue of his cool, funky (are the kids using ‘funky ‘ these days?) magazine was no less dynamic and engaging than how I imagine him to be. I have flipped through the pages of it 2 dozen times and today was the day I stopped and finally decided to try my hand at interpreting some of its contents.
So there I was having a bit of a Tampopo moment (you have got to see this movie)… I knew that I wanted to take my ramen to the next level – to create a dish so layered and tasty that someone eating it would find themselves savoring individual bites and slurps. I wanted to channel the innovation and complexity of the recipes described by Mr. Chang. I needed to make sure it was the type of noodle bowl that you drink unti the last drop. This, my friends, is my idea of a good time. A perfect way to spend a Saturday. To Be Continued…