Ultimate Ramen Guide

THE BASICS

 

COMPOSITION

 

Ramen has a basic composition of 5 things (in this order):

  • A flavored oil

  • A Tare (flavoring, it defines the ramen type)

  • A broth

  • Noodles

  • Toppings

 

You layer these 5 things from bottom to top of the bowl (without mixing them) to make a ramen bowl. There are different types of each, and some go well with others and some do not. I will go into more detail about it in flavor theory.

 

Presentation

 

Presentation is a HUGE part of making ramen. If your bowl doesn’t look good then you’re missing out on the experience. First of all, to make a good bowl of ramen you would preferably want something with a deep and curved shape. Something that follows this shape:

 

If you do not have exactly this kind of a shape, that’s perfectly fine. Any large bowl should do. Luckily, you can find a bowl like this at Walmart or your largest local store for $10 USD or so. Worst case you can just use any large bowl, it will have to do.

 

The principles of ramen design lie on 2 things: the color of your broth compared to your toppings, and the arrangement of your toppings. Broth color you can not change, it depends on the type of Ramen you are making. So it is best to just work with changing your toppings. You want to go for medium contrast, if your bowl has too high of a contrast of colors it won’t go easy on the eyes. Usually this isn’t the problem, it’s more often an issue that everything looks brown or dull in color. This can easily be fixed by incorporating green and orange through carrots, bok-choy or chopped spring onions. Red can be incorporated using a spoon of chili-flakes, but obviously you would only do this if you were going to make a spicy bowl. You have to explore and reason it out for yourself.

 

Ramen making is relatively new in the age of global cuisine, and stores all across Japan and the U.S.A experiment with a variety of topping combinations, and I encourage you to do so too!

TOPPING ARRANGEMENT

 

When you make your bowl of ramen, you generally want thing to be in this shape:

 

The “Misc.” Arrow points to a place where you can put multiple different things, it all depends on what you have at your disposal. Personally, I like to put a small sheet of seaweed, chilli flakes, pickled shiitake or pickled ginger, deep-fried shrimp, or fish cakes. The “Meat” section is reserved for chicken, pork or beef. Greens can include bok-choy, spinach, chopped green onions, etc. Eggs are almost in every single ramen bowl imaginable, they are usually differentiated by cook times but they are all marinated in a soy-mirin broth. This may seem all very complicated but remember that you always have to make do with what you have and compromise on things, it will not make a huge difference. Half of the toppings on a ramen are just “nice to have'' and are not mandatory. The only things I would strongly suggest adding are the eggs and meat.

Flavored Oils

 

Now to be honest, flavored oil doesn’t have any rules or recipes that you HAVE to follow. It’s pretty much up to you what kind of flavors you want to infuse. But regardless of what flavors you want, the process is the same. One thing is for sure, if you haven’t been using flavored oils in your cooking (apart from ramen, talking about everything) then you’re severely limiting yourself. Almost all top-class restaurants and chefs use a combination of flavored oils in their dishes.

 

Choose your flavoring of choice, you want something with a strong flavor otherwise it won’t seep into the oil. Things like spices and fresh herbs work really well, especially a mixture of both. What you want to do is:

 

  • Chop your material into the smallest possible size with the greatest surface area, but still big enough to be strained out using a sieve. You don’t want it to pass through the oil and ruin the consistency.

 

  • Heat your oil up just so that you can start to see some convection happening inside (ripples will form and the oil will start swirling). Then turn off the stove and add your flavorings. Remember to dry off your flavorings to the oil doesn’t explode or something.

 

  • Cover it up with something and let it sit for at least a few hours before using it.

 

  • For easy use over a long period of time in larger batches, fill up a glass jar with your flavoring and pour the warm oil into it, then seal it up and leave it in your pantry.

 

  •  It will never have to be refrigerated, just leave it at room temperature up to a few months at a time for maximum freshness. It doesn’t taste as good after that period of time depending on what you are using, some things taste even better, some don’t.

 

Some basic ingredients / styles

 

I almost always use a 1:1 ratio of flavoring and oil, unless I’m making pure hot oil where I use chilli flakes and hot peppers, then I use a 1:2 of flavoring to oil. Here are some good combinations to use. Wherever it says sesame oil you can replace it with canola or sunflower, just don’t use olive. Sesame always just tastes the best though, I highly recommend it.

 

  • Sesame oil, Springs onions, chopper garlic

  • Sesame oil, Red chilli flakes (Italian ones from the pizza store work!)

  • Sesame oil, chopper ginger, garlic, leeks

  • Sesame oil, hot peppers of your choosing, garlic

  • Sesame oil, basil, chili flakes / hot peppers (or both)

  • Sesame oil, chili flakes, cashews.

  • Sesame oil, assorted vegetables of your choosing (onions, carrots, celery recommended)

 

Taros

 

This stuff is the good stuff, the essence of it all. It’s what mainly differentiates types of ramen, it’s what gives you the pack of the flavor. You add these bad boys to the bottom of the bowl with the boil and add in the stock. All of these you can store in the fridge for a week or two at least, if not more. I wouldn’t mind keeping them in my fridge for a month myself. There are a bunch of fancy ingredients in here, but you can substitute them for more basic types. Only thing you can’t substitute is the sesame oil, you use it so much in other parts of ramen so you might as well just buy it anyway.

 

Shio (Salt) Tare

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 oz Salt

  • 4 oz (1/2 cup) Mirin (rice wine of any kind will do)

  • 2 tbsp rice wine vinegar (rice vinegar works too)

  • ½ cup water

 

Mix all ingredients together at room temperature, store excess tare in the fridge.

 

Shoyu Tare

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup shoyu

  • 3 tbsp dark soy sauce

  • 3 tbsp mushroom soya sauce

  • ½ cup mirin

  • ¼ cup rice wine vinegar (rice vinegar will do)

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil

  • ¼ cup water

Mix all ingredients at room temp, store in the fridge. There are many different types of soya sauce in here which may turn some of you away, but honestly just use one type that you have for all of them and it tastes good anyway to me.

 

Miso Tare

 

Ingredients:

  • 2/3 cup Aka Miso

  • 1/3 cup Shiro Miso

  • ¾ Cup Mirin

  • 6 tbsp rice wine vinegar

  • 3 tbsp sesame oil

Just like in Shoyu, if you don’t have the fancy stuff like the different types of miso, just use plain old miso you buy at your local Asian market. Add up the proportions of the 2 types of miso and just use that much miso.

 

Stocks

 

For the stocks you can honestly use any of these 3 types of stocks:

 

-Meat stocks made from bones

-Sea food stocks made from shells or bones

-Veg stocks made from onions, celery, etc. (any strong tasting vegetables).

 

Why I love ramen so much is that you can mix and match and experiment. Try using one stock this time and compare it to using a different stock to see what tastes better, etc. The most important thing to take away here is that you can just use a bullion to make your stocks, there’s nothing wrong with that. Only if you’re truly dedicated and have hours on your hand will you make a stock from scratch. In light of that, I’m only going to include the 2 most popular stock recipes here, chicken and pork. Ramen stocks are plain old stocks most of the time so you can search up the stocks you want to use on google too.

 

Chicken Stock

 

5 lbs / 2.2 kg chicken bones / carcass

1 lbs / 0.45 kg chicken feet

1 bunch of green onions

2 apples, honey crisp, fuji or gala work. Chop into quarters or slices

½ lb / 0.2 kg fresh ginger

1 bulb garlic

1tbsp salt

6 quarts / 5.6 liters water

 

Chop everything up and throw it together and set your flame on high until it comes to a simmer, then lower it to medium and simmer for 4 hours. Keep a lid 3/4th on, add more water if more than ¾ of it boils away at any point. You could go longer than 4 hours, but I’ve never seen the difference.

 

Pork Stock

 

5 lbs / 2.2 kg pork bones

1 lbs / 0.45 kg chicken feet

1 bunch green onions

2 apples (same as chicken stock)

½ lbs / 0.2 kg fresh ginger

1 bulb garlic cloves

1 tbsp salt.

6 quarts / 5.6 liters water

 

Blanch the pork bones, then wash, drain, and add to the stock pot. You won’t lose flavor, you’re cleaning away the dirty part. Simmer for 6 hours, ¾ lid on, replace lost water whenever you lose a quarter of your original quantity.

 

Dashi

 

Dashi is essential to Japanese cooking. It’s a fish stock you can either make on your own or buy an instant powder that makes it for you. It’s extremely light and a subtle flavor in all ramen. The instant type is called “Hondashi”, it’s a company but they are pretty much the ONLY option I recommend for instant dashi. You can buy it off amazon and freeze it, using how much ever you need each time. I highly recommend this because it lasts forever this way and you can buy a big pack and forget about it.

 

Homemade Dashi

 

Ingredients: 5 cups / 6 ounces dried shiitake mushrooms

1 oz kombu (dried seaweed, you can use dried kelp)

1 cup katsuobushi (dried bonito fish flakes)

10 pieces of niboshi (small whole dried fish)

 

Add ingredients to a pot, add 25-10 cups water (depends on how much dashi you need) and bring to a simmer. Boil mushrooms in there for 30 minutes, then turn off and add everything else. Let them seep for 15 minutes, then strain. Discard everything except for mushrooms, you can use those again to make pickled shiitake mushrooms as a topping.

 

Broth Combinations

 

Broth is made out of all the liquids and flavorings I’ve listed so far: a little bit of tare, stock and dashi go into making it. In some of these the recipe uses multiple different types of stock in one broth, but you can just use only one, and I highly recommend you do unless you are just making stocks with bullions. The broth is what gives the name of the ramen, so it’s the most important and fundamental part.

 

Shoyu Broth

 

Mix these to get your broth:

½ cup chicken stock

½ cup pork stock

½ cup dashi

¼ cup shoyu tare

2 tbsp fat (can use flavored oils or pork fat)

 

If choosing between chicken and pork stocks, pork is more fatty and flavorful and chicken is lighter and leaner. Makes enough for 1 bowl of Ramen, scale it up for more.

 

Miso Broth

 

Mix these to get your broth:

½ cup chicken stock

½ cup pork stock

½ cup dashi

¼ cup miso tare

2 tsp fat (flavored oil or pork fat)

 

If choosing between chicken or pork stocks, miso benefits from a lighter flavor so chicken is ideal in my opinions. Miso already has a very strong flavor. Makes enough for 1 bowl of Ramen, scale it up for more.

 

Other Broths

 

I’m sure you’ve figured out by now that the broths are pretty much all the same, ½ cup of each type of stock (or 1 cup of one type), ½ cup of dashi, ¼ cup of your favorite tare and 1-2 tbsp of your preferred fat.

 

Use what you have, and also reason out what you’re going to put with what and why. For example, like I said with the miso broth, miso is already a very strong-tasting thing so I don’t want to put pork broth as much if I had to choose. On the other hand, for a shio broth (salt) it’s not very elaborate or strong, so I’d like to choose a pork broth (if I had to choose one) because it will enhance the missing flavor.

 

Noodles

 

Do yourself a favor, buy instant ramen, throw away everything and keep the noodles. It’s cheaper than buying ramen by itself, and it’s tastier and more ramen-like than anything you could possibly make at your house. I’m telling you, it’s just not worth it making it at home. However, for those adventurous souls, here you go:

 

1 cup and 2 tbsp (cold) water

1 tsp baked baking soda (bake it at 275 degrees F for 1 hour, careful it itches if you touch it)

1 tsp salt

A pinch of riboflavin or turmeric for color

3 tbsp + 1 tsp whole wheat flour

3 ½ cups bread flour

Lots of cornstarch to dust.

 

Mix all your ingredients together until even but no more. I recommend using your hand, mixers tend to over-do it for this part. Cover air-tight and let it rest for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, remove and knead until firm and smooth, only for a minute or so, it shouldn’t look like a fully kneaded dough. Here you have 2 options, either use a pasta maker to turn it into noodles using the spaghetti setting. Or if you don’t have that, make it into thin sheets and meet me in the sections starting with a “***”

For those poor souls like me without a pasta roller, you got to do this by hand. Take a piece of dough, about fist-sized, and press it on your palm into a thick disk. Dust it generously, and then using a rolling pin roll it out into a giant rectangular sheet. It’s going to be VERY tough, and you’re going to half to put your body weight behind the roller. But eventually it’s going to turn into a firm hard sheet of dough.

*** Then dust the top side generously again and roll it up into a loose cylinder. Take a sharp knife and cut it vertically into ½ inch (about 1.2 cm) pieces in length. When you’re done, ruffle them up and unroll them. You should be holding noodles in your hand if all went well. Drop them into boiling water and cook them until they are right to the taste. DO NOT SALT YOUR BOILING WATER. The broth is salty enough, don’t salt your water.

 

Or you could just use the noodles from instant ramen packets…

 

Toppings

 

It’s 10:30 PM and I have class at 8 in the morning so I’m just going to link recipes to my recommended toppings. I will probably come write in my own recipes in the future. Luckily these recipes work just fine so don’t worry about a thing.

 

 

 

 

  • Shredded pork / chicken (no recipe because there are 100 different kinds, you can choose your own)

 

 

 

  • Onsen Tamago   (A rarer version of the ramen egg, less cooked)

 

style, no need for a recipe)

 

  • Rayu   (Hot chili oil)

 

  • Pickled Shiitake (HIGHLY recommended since you have the mushrooms left over from the dashi, you wouldn’t want them to go to waste. You can skip the step where you boil them since you already boiled them).

 

 

 

  • Chopped Green Onions (Mate do you really need a recipe for that?)

 

 

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