Feasting at Home : Smoked Shiitake Ramen

November 29, 2012

Smoked Shiitake Ramen

Vegan Ramen Recipe




Sumptuous, unctuous and oozing with flavor, a good bowl of Ramen is the ultimate in comfort food. Put away old ideas of packaged 29 cent ramen you used to eat in the dorm. This ramen is from a completely different world. In Japan, ramen is taken very seriously. There are thousands and thousands of ramen shops, with styles varying from region to region, each taking on the character of the people and ingredients around it.



David Chang, of Momofuku, an award winning group of restaurants in NY, put ramen in the spotlight several years ago, elevating it into one of the fastest growing food trends in America. His cookbook, Momofuku, now a few years old, is both the story and recipes behind his rise to superstardom.  It is an hilarious account of his trials and tribulations which make for a very entertaining read. He writes with such candor, you can't help but love the guy. And after reading the book, you can't help but love ramen.



David Chang's detailed, step by step, recipe (in his Momofuku Cookbook) for making ramen, in the end is nothing short of brilliance. It involves roasting pork bones for several hours and making a rich broth, adding bacon and chicken, and reducing it for hours and hours, making pulled pork out of pork shoulder and making the tare.  The tare is said to be the "soul" of a bowl of ramen. Tare is used to season the broth and is usually soy-sauce based, with cooking juices from pork and chicken, cooked down with sake, sugar, mirin and dashi, ginger, garlic, and onion. He also instructs on how to make homemade noodles from scratch.  If you are up for it, I highly recommend it. It's not difficult, but is a whole day affair, most likely two, and requires a lot of ingredients. That said, it is completely worth it,  because it truly is one of the most comforting flavorful bowls of food ever. Here and here are a couple step by step guides.

Or try this vegan version which is simpler and less time consuming. It is made with a Shiitake Mushroom broth. Truthfully, it doesn't compare with pork bones, chicken and bacon, as far as richness and depth. But it is healthier, and after my Thanksgiving gorge, on top of which there were a few too many Cheetos consumed, this is a welcome reprieve. The stove top smoked shiitakes add dimension and depth to the ramen and are surprisingly easy and fun to make. Stove top smoking is also a good technique to learn in general, and you don't need any special equipment.  Depending on your taste, you can customize your ramen it with different toppings to create your own version. This vegan version has  roasted butternut, baby chard, a soft boiled egg and smoked shiitakes.

There are three basic components to ramen. The broth, the noodles and the toppings. The most important component, of any ramen, though, is the broth, because this is where the flavor is.

The most popular styles of ramen, to name a few are, Shio ramen with its clear, light-bodied salty chicken broth, Shoyu Ramen, a soy sauce flavored chicken broth, Tonkotsu ramen, a rich pork based broth, which is fatty and milky white in color, and lastly Miso ramen, which is miso based.




























This ramen begins with a rich shiitake broth. Shiitake mushrooms have been used medicinally by the Chinese for more than 6,000 years.  Their rich, smoky flavor has endeared them to American taste buds and today they can be found in most grocery stores. Health benefits are numerous, including reducing cholesterol, supporting the immune system and cardiovascular system, preventing cancer and Shiitakes very high in iron. When I drink this broth, it feels deeply healing.

Use dried ground shiitakes in the broth. Start with about 3 cups dried ( 3 oz) , and grind into a fine powder, using a food processor or coffee grinder. This should make about 1 C of shiitake powder. You could also use other dried mushrooms instead. Place the powder in 12 Cups of water in a large stock pot along with one sheet of Kombu, a dried seaweed found in Asian markets.




Make sure to rinse the Kombu first before placing in the stock pot. Bring to a boil and turn heat down to medium, and simmer  30 minutes (uncovered), remove kombu and continue simmering for another 30 minutes. Broth will reduce by half.



When I have a little extra time, sometimes I'll add roasted vegetables to the stock pot, which produces an even richer broth. But this is not necessary.


Onions, carrots and celery are tossed in a little olive oil and roasted for an hour in a 450F oven, until they are brown and caramelized.  This adds depth to the broth.


Once the broth is going, work on your toppings. For one of the toppings, I made smoked shiitake mushrooms. This is surprisingly easy and fun to do at home and this technique can be used to smoke other ingredients as well.

Line a medium sized pot with foil. Place 2 T finely shredded DRY wood chips in a pile in the middle. I used apple wood. Place a strainer basket over top.



Fill the basket with sliced shiitakes that have been tossed with a little olive oil and a pinch salt. I have found that if I don't toss with a little oil beforehand, they come out overly smoked and dry.

Place pot uncovered on your stove top, on high heat. Leave uncovered until you begin to see smoke. On my gas stove this takes about 4 minutes. Once you see a good amount of smoke, cover with foil and a tight lid. Turn heat down to med-low. Let smoke 10-15 minutes. Do not open. Turn off heat and leave covered another 15 minutes or until ready to use. 

You could use these smoked mushrooms in pasta, or place on top of fish or beef. 



Another topping I chose was left over butternut squash. Dice it into small 1/2 in cubes, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a hot oven until tender, about 20 minutes.





Toppings are fully customizable. Typical toppings include pork, beef, seafood, tofu, bamboo shoots, a soft-boiled egg, seaweed (nori), fish cakes, corn, cabbage, bok choy, mushrooms, spinach, scallions, pickled vegetables, or anything else that appeals to you.

A while ago, to celebrate a friends birthday, we had a ramen party. The hostess asked us all to bring a topping. She undertook the laborious task of the Momofuku broth, the meat and the noodles and we each brought various toppings. We each made our own bowl of ramen, customizing it to our own tastes. It was a blast.




Enoki mushrooms (also referred to as the velvet shank) are the delicate and tasteful mushrooms that grow on tree trunks, roots and branches mostly found in Japan. They grow in a cluster and have stems that are up to 4 inches tall.  Their aroma is slightly fruity and they are mild in flavor. Generally I use them raw as a garnish.


There are two main types of noodles used for ramen, yellow egg noodles, and white flour noodles. In the past, yellow egg noodles were the most common – these are the type found in most dried ramen packages. Recently, the flour noodles have been gaining in popularity. The two types differ in size and texture. Egg noodles are fairly thin, firm to the palate, and slightly curly. Flour noodles are soft and wide.

Many Japanese express that the ramen noodles found in the United States lack depth of flavor because the absence of kansui, a highly alkaline mineral water found in Asia. Some chefs use baking soda in their noodles to approximate the flavor.

These are a freshly made, vegan, all flour noodles, available in the refrigerated section at the Asian market. To cook, follow the directions on the package. You could also use gluten free rice noodles.




Begin filling your bowls with noodles and toppings.


When ready, ladle hot broth over top. Traditionally, ramen is served with chopsticks and Chinese style porcelain spoons.






Some Typical condiments include: soy sauce, rice vinegar, siracha, chili paste, fish sauce, ponzu, chili bean sauce, seame oil, chili oil.





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Smoked Shiitake Ramen
A rich comforting bowl of umami goodness. Vegan Ramen Version, plus a fast chicken ramen version and a couple little tips on creating richness and depth.

RICH SHIITAKE RAMEN BROTH

Bring the following to a boil in a large pot.
Simmer for 30 minutes uncovered on med heat, and remove Kombu.
Simmer another 30 minutes. Strain. Keep warm.

3 Quarts water ( 12 Cups)
3 cups ( 3 oz.) dried Shiitake Mushrooms (or other dried mushrooms), ground in a food processor or coffee grinder into a fine powder. Should have about 1 C finely ground mushrooms.
1 sheet Kombu seaweed (available at Asian markets)
5 crushed cloves garlic
1 whole bunch green onions, rough chopped
3 whole cloves or a pinch of ground cloves
8 peppercorns or ground pepper
1/4 c mirin
1/3 c soy sauce

This will reduce and you will end up with 6-8 cups. Taste for salt. If this reduces by more than half, it may become too salty.... so add a little water to taste.


FAST AND EASY CHICKEN RAMEN BROTH

4 cups rich chicken stock
2 tablespoons shiro miso (white miso)
1 cup scallions
slice ginger
Bring to a simmer, check for salt, adding if necessary.


SMOKED SHIITAKES- ON YOUR STOVE

4 oz fresh shiitake mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced.
Place in a small bowl and toss with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt.
Line the bottom or a med size pot with foil.
Place 2 T finely shredded smoking wood, DRY, not wet, ( I use apple wood, but you could use hickory, cedar, alder or even tea leaves) in a pile in the middle.
Place a strainer basket over and cover with mushrooms. Place the pot on a burner, on high heat, uncovered, until you begin to see smoke ( on my gas burner this usually takes about 4 minutes.) One you see a good amount of smoke, cover with foil and a lid, turn heat down to medium low, and smoke for 10-15 minutes. Obviously the longer, the smokier. Turn off heat and leave covered until ready to use, this way mushrooms will continue to cook.


Toppings 

Tofu
Steamed bok choy, baby chard, or kale
Hard or Soft boiled egg
Roasted butternut, roasted cauliflower,
Mushroom
Enoke mushrooms
Corn
Bamboo shoots
Bean sprouts
Scallions
Cilantro


Details
Prep time: Cook time: Total time: Yield: 6


16 comments :

  1. This looks delicious! I can't wait to make it this weekend, we are having the perfect weather for a steaming hot bowl of slurptastic soup! Mmmmmmmm.

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  2. You are a saliva conjurer - we have ramen houses by the handful here in Santa Clara/Cupertino/San Jose and they are each different and wonderful. I hope to
    someday soon try the ramen houses in Japan. Keep on cooking!

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  3. You make food look so beautiful!I may have to try this. xo

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  4. You describe food so beautifully- I may have to try this recipe this week. xo

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Leslie! Let me now how it turns out!

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  5. I am so glad I found it.. I would love to add this to this to my asian themed party :)with all asian inspired dishes :)I really hope i get it all right esp the broth! it seems to be oozing with flavour!

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  6. Beautiful pictures! Lovely recipe!

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  7. How many bowls, or people, would you say this serves? I have most of the ingredients but I need to go to my Asian Market for a few little extras.

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  8. How many people would you say this serves? I have most of these ingredients and want to make this dish in the next couple of days. Where did you get wood chips?

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  9. Serves 4-6 if making the vegan broth recipe. The grocery store usually has wood chips…the finer the better.

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  10. Creative and clever way to smoke food INSIDE the house. I haven't heard of this method before. Is it from your own experiments? Or? - Very cool. Thank you for sharing!

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    Replies
    1. Deanna, we smoke a lot of food in our catering business ( and at my old restaurant) and so I wanted to be able to do it at home too, but more quickly and simply, and on a smaller scale. I hope you try it, it's fun!!

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