A Cure for the Common Ramen: Four Pork Ramen

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At least once a year I do a multi-day cooking project.  The past couple of years I’ve chosen dishes from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc.  This year inspiration came from David Chang’s Lucky Peach magazine and his Momofuku cookbook:  Homemade ramen soup.

While instant ramen is known as one of the quickest and cheapest meals a person can prepare, homemade ramen is the total opposite. This turned out to be an amazing cooking adventure!

Ramen is made of up many components and the variations are endless. I chose to make the ramen broth, tare, roasted pork belly, and roasted pork shoulder.

David Chang’s broth recipe is a moving target, so I ended up combining two or three different versions. This included 5 pounds of roasted meaty pork bones, kombu (dried sea kelp), four pounds of chicken, and a pound of bacon. I  had a “scare” when I dumped out the raw pork bones into the roasting pan and found a mysterious appendage pointing up at me. On closer inspection it turned out to be a pig tail. Whew. The broth was the biggest time commitment:  I started the broth at 11 am and at 10 pm that night I finished reducing it. Next time I will make it in my pressure cooker to save time.

The tare is a kind of seasoning sauce to add to the broth when it’s served.  This was easier to throw together, but still started with roasting chicken necks until they’re mahogany-colored and then simmering with mirin, sake and soy sauce. It makes a delicious sweet/savory addition to the soup.

Both the pork belly and shoulder were rubbed with salt and sugar and cured overnight in the refrigerator.  Roasting times were largely unattended and pretty straight forward. I had made char siu (barbequed pork) last year and still had some in the freezer. I reheated it in a saute pan, glazing it with honey.

It felt wrong not to make the noodles but I ran out of time and energy.  Making noodles is a lot of work in itself.  Now that I have quarts of ramen broth and tare in the freezer I will have more time to make noodles the next round.

I decided to get fancy with the poached egg garnish and cooked them in cute little cling-wrapped pouches.  Next time I will be more mindful of not leaving air in the packages, as they had an annoying tendency to float on top of the simmering water.

We invited friends over and had a cozy dinner where everyone built their own bowl of soup.  Even their dog scored a little pork shoulder.

A couple of days later when the broth ran out, I made homemade Chinese steamed buns to spread with hoison sauce and stuff with pork and pickle. The buns are incredibly easy to make and the recipe makes about 50 buns.  They  supposedly freeze well and can be reheated in the steamer.  So I have a stockpile of those in the freezer too.

I’m trying something new with my photos this time. Enjoy the slideshow.

2 responses to “A Cure for the Common Ramen: Four Pork Ramen”

  1. Omigod, I want this! Very inspiring post. Thanks!
    I love the slideshow, too.

  2. What an adventure! Now you must see “The Ramen Girl”, it’s on Netflix. Try not to get bummed out by the fact that Brittany Murphy is in it. It really is a sweet and interesting food movie.

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