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I’ll let you in on a secret. Well, it’s not really a secret but it’s something not a lot of people really remember.
Ramen is street food and simply a vessel for you to empty your leftovers onto. Sure, it can be elegant, elevated and curated the hell out of but… it can also really be what to eat because you’ve got a bunch of bits and pieces of food but nothing to make a whole meal out of.
Remember ONE thing: There are NO RULES in Ramen.
We’re going to need a few things. This is where your fridge and pantry are going to get a workout. Even your freezer. Nothing will be safe! But there’s a checklist and it’s pretty simple. Let’s do a basic ramen.
- Shoyu (soy sauce or tamari)
The first two are must-haves. Everything underneath are options. I’d say the shoyu isn’t an option but that’s how I was raised. Let’s assemble everything on the checklist before we start cooking.
Let’s start with the most disparaged yet most eaten thing on the planet with the exception of perhaps rice itself…
Let’s go with the basic, plain one here. You can get fancier ones but for this, let’s use the starving college student 2 am power snack because there another 5 hours of studying ahead of you. Why are we using this? Because it’s cheap and is easy to get. This is about making do with what you’ve got. Open the package.
Boil the noodles in water but not now. Do this next to last actually because you’re going to want to get your proteins and everything else done first. BUT the noodles are obviously key.
You can definitely level up with fresh noodles or even use rice noodles if you’re GF. In a pinch, spaghetti also works.
Now in this are two things in this package. The noodles and a flavor packet. I’m going to say something very controversial. If you don’t have another soup base available to you, use the packet.
I know. Breathe into a paper bag if you need to but bottom line, it’s no worse than using a bullion cube for stock. It’s a broth maker. That’s it. But let’s say we’ve got other stuff… or you went out to grab a couple of things. Here’s what I suggest for quick easy pantry stuff for ramen broth.
- Shoyu (Soy sauce)
- Instant Miso Packets or fresh miso if you want to mix up a bit of slurry
- Curry powder
- Any type of packaged broth (canned, boxed, fresh)
Making the Broth (which actually is the last thing you do)
There’s a chart below to point you towards different broths but we’re going to go with a simple one using an instant miso packet and water. It’s really easy. Put the instant miso packet into the bottom of the bowl. Add a bit of shoyu to it then ladle in some of the boiling hot noodle water into the bowl to make a slurry. This is going to be the base of your broth because once you add the noodles, you’ll ladle more of the water from the pot on and stir to fully incorporate the broth.
Or you can do this in a sauce pan and make a full broth. Make the soup per the instructions, add some shoyu then put the cooked noodles in the bowl. Carefully ladle your broth over the noodles then assemble your ingredients.
Don’t cook the noodles in your broth.
Variations are easy. Add curry to the mix to make a miso curry or simply blend curry into a cup of broth stock. If you don’t have miso, just use the stock with a bit of shoyu. Whatever stock you have will do. You want something flavourful and filling but not too salty. In a pinch? A vegetable soup or even canned chicken soup will do.
Yes, you can make a pork bone broth that takes hours to simmer… or 120 minutes in the instant pot. But we’re doing this on the fly. But I recommend the bone broth.
Shoyu (Soy Sauce)
The shoyu is key because it’s pretty much the base of so many things and we’ll be using it a couple of ways here. In the broth, as a finish, as well as in the char siu recipe and shoyu egg instructions I’m including at the end of this.
There are a lot of options for shoyu. Gluten-free, low salt, tamari as a substitute. I usually add a bit to the broth as well as some at the end. If you’re using the flavour packet, go easy on it or it’ll go too salty.
Here’s where we start to get interesting. Or at least.. adventurous. You’ll want about half a cup of some kind of protein. Even more if you want. You can go full carnivore or all tofu and seitan. Your choice. You can also skip protein entirely but let’s go over options and what to do with them. Anything can go into ramen. Any meat. Any meat substitute.
- Char Siu (recipe below)
- Spare hot dog
- Piece of Fried Chicken
- Leftover steak
- A couple of shrimp from the freezer
- A chunk of spam
- Lunch meat
- Tofu (squeeze as much water out as possible)
- Eggs (boiled / shoyu egg / tamago / omelette / scrambled or whole)
- Any meat substitute
Prepping the Protein
Cut things into easily managed slices or bites. You are going to want your protein warmed up. Put a good brown on it. Char the meat a bit then slice it thin. For eggs, scramble and pour into a hot skillet then flip over once the sides get an edge. Then take off the heat and let cool before you slice the egg omelette into ribbons. It’s more like an egg pancake but you get the idea. Once warmed up, put it on the side and move onto the veggies.
Shoyu eggs are a staple for most ramen places and here’s a quick and dirty way to make them. Simply boil the eggs to a consistency you like then let them cool, peel then cover in shoyu (you can add hot sauce to this if you want them spicy). Seal the container and let that sit in the fridge for an hour.
Again, whatever you’ve got. Some of the stuff that works might surprise you. The freezer is also a good place to go. Try to avoid canned veggies if possible because they get mushy but let’s face it, if that’s what you’ve got… go for it.
Veggies options include:
- Broccoli (fresh or frozen)
- Cauliflower (fresh or frozen)
- Frozen Peas and Carrots
- Frozen Spinach
- Bean Sprouts (although some people count this as a garnish)
- Lettuce or cabbage
- Snow Peas
- Water chestnuts
- Canned baby corn
Prepping the Veggies
Once again, you’re going to want these at least partially cooked. Blanch or stir fry the veggies if they are fresh. Yes, even the lettuce. Lettuce actually makes a lighter addition to a stir fry or ramen than cabbage. You can char baby bok choy or asparagus. However you want to cook them. Like the meats, make sure everything is cut down for easy handling.
If they are frozen, do not cook them. Well not really. Place the frozen veggies in a strainer and run under hot water or let sit in boiling water for just a bit. You don’t want them mushy. The hot soup will also heat them up.
Once warmed up, put on the side.
Garnishes and Seasonings
I’m going to put this under one header because it’s pretty easy. There’s some suggestions in the charts below but most common garnishes and seasonings are:
- Kimchee (Learn to make your own kimchee here. Very easy.)
- Sesame Seeds
- Minced Green Onions
- Bean Sprouts
- Pickled Ginger
- Roast Garlic Slices
- Garlic Oil
- Chinese Chili Garlic Oil
If you have these then great. If not, don’t worry about it. The green onions are nice to have. You could even use finely minced regular onions but go easy there. Go with what you like.
Assembling the Ramen
Okay, so… start the noodles. Boil them in one pot while you assemble the broth either in the bowl or a saucepan. Once the noodles are done, put the broth together either in the slurry method then add the noodles OR put noodles in bowl then add broth carefully.
Putting the Proteins and Veggies On The Noodles
This is really what’s key to a nice looking ramen. Because you’re gonna want to take a picture of your creation. It’s a fridge ramen and it should look stunning!
Everyone has a different view on how ramen should look. I prefer the pie slices method myself. Mostly because it makes for a pretty presentation and it’s easy enough for a novice to do it.
There’s no right or wrong way but I do suggest laying it down into triangular sections and then…
Garnishes and Seasonings
This is where you want to use a delicate hand. Taste your broth and see if it needs a bit of shoyu. If so, add that first. Then any minced up things like green onions, kimchi or garlic. After that you add your liquids with a quick drizzle to your taste. Add as much as you want. Spicy or not spicy. It’s up to you.
There you go. Ramen. Like I said, you can elevate it using high end ingredients or simply use leftovers. Just… go with what you like and you won’t go wrong.
And now… for the Char Siu Recipe
Char Siu (Hawai‘i Style)
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup shoyu
1/2 tsp Chinese five-spice
1 Tbsp Hawaiian salt or rock salt
2 Tbsp honey or 4 Tbsp brown sugar
4 tsp hoisin sauce
3 lb pork butt cut into thick strips. (Can use chops or country style ribs Even pork belly)
To prepare the marinade add the sugar, soy sauce, Chinese five-spice, Hawaiian salt, honey, and hoisin sauce into a mixing bowl and mix well. Once you’ve prepared the marinade, rub well onto the pork. Allow the pork to marinate overnight in the refrigerator.
After allowing the pork to marinate overnight, remove from the marinade and place the pork into a covered roasting pan. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Roast the pork for 2 to 3 hours, until tender.
Cut the pork and serve over rice or noodles. Can slice and freeze to use in ramen later.