This year's Boston winter has been a particularly cold one. Think cold, blustery nights with temperatures below zero with wind chill. On these dark, frigid evenings, I can think of nothing better than a hot bowl of authentic ramen noodle soup. We are lucky to be surrounded by a lot of delicious, authentic noodle shops in Cambridge, but I wanted to try my hand at an authentic ramen broth at home.
Traditional ramen broth takes many ingredients, many hours of time and much patience. A ramen stock's complexity comes from the long simmering of meat parts and aromatics. There are many varieties of ramen and many approaches to cooking the ingredients. Chefs spend years perfecting their particular techniques. In general, during the cooking process, the collagen and cartilage in the meat parts break down as you boil the stock. In one category of ramen (paitan), the fats and collagens are extracted by boiling at high temperature and the fats contribute body and cloudiness to the soup broth. In the other type of ramen (chintan), you heat the ingredients at sub-boiling temperature over time so that the fats separate cleanly from the broth; you can skim them off the top. In both ramen varieties, it is common for chefs to use bone-heavy cuts of pork or chicken such as the back bones, ribs, wingtips, feet and femur bones. For my paitan-style ramen recipe featured here, I bought chicken feet for the first time from the local Asian market!
In addition to the animal parts that you need to create the ramen broth, you also will need to track down a few traditional ingredients including Japanese kombu (dried seaweed), dried shiitake mushrooms for a punch of umami flavor, scallions, ginger, and garlic. Some recipes also call for additional onion varieties for extra sweetness including leeks and white onion.
Once your ingredients have marinated together in the hot water bath for many hours (I only had the patience to wait six, but you could go for as long as ten or twelve!), you should strain and reserve for when you are ready to serve. You can pour reheated hot broth over cooked ramen noodles and garnish with a soft-boiled egg, cilantro, bean sprouts, and extra chopped scallions. Hope that you enjoy a hot bowl of ramen this winter - whether from the local shop or your own kitchen!