The word “ramen” no longer conjures images of foam cups, dried noodles, and powdered broth. Now entire books, blogs, and bars are dedicated to authentic Japanese ramen, so consider these recipes merely an introduction. Besides the familiar springy noodles, ramen’s crucial components are broth, including intense bone-based versions and umami-laden dashi; tare (tah-reh), a salty seasoning mixture incorporating soy sauce or miso, sake, and mirin; and toppings — often animal protein and sometimes vegetables. Finally, fat or oil adds another dimension. Experimenting with different combinations will bring out your inner ramen artist.
PORK/CHICKEN BROTH (TONKOTSU)
Makes about 3 quarts (1½ quarts to serve 6 now, 1½ quarts to freeze)
4 pounds split pig feet and/or pork neck bones
4 pounds chicken bones (wings, backs, and/or carcasses)
¼ cup canola oil
2 large onions, peeled and cut into ¾-inch dice
10 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 4-inch knob of ginger, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
4 leeks, white and light green parts only, roughly chopped, well rinsed, and dried
8 ounces shiitake mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
2 bunches scallions (about 14), whites roughly chopped, greens thinly sliced on the bias and reserved for later use as a garnish
Place the pork and chicken bones in a large (16-quart) stockpot and fill with cold water to cover. Bring to a boil, remove from heat, and drain. Rinse bones well, and use a skewer or chopstick to remove and discard as much dark marrow and coagulated blood as possible. Reserve bones.
Set pot over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil and when it is just below smoking, add the onions, garlic, ginger, leeks, mushrooms, and scallion whites. Saute the aromatics until they are translucent and just beginning to color, about 15 minutes. Return the bones to the pot.
Add 9½ quarts of water and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to a low simmer, with scant bubbles breaking the surface. Using a large metal spoon, skim the impurities that come to the surface during the early cooking hours and discard. Cook 10 to 12 hours, until the mixture is reduced by about two-thirds. Ensure that your simmer isn’t too high or low — you don’t want to reduce too much or let the broth enter the food safety danger zone of 41 to 135 degrees.
Strain the broth and, if not using immediately, cool using an ice bath. Reserve half to freeze for your next batch of ramen.
Makes about 1 quart
Kombu is a variety of seaweed that comes packaged in random sizes. Using slightly less or more than the amount called for here won’t harm the flavor of the finished dish.
1 4-by-4-inch piece kombu, about 1/5 ounce
¾ cup bonito flakes
Wipe the kombu with damp cloth on both sides. In a small pot, combine kombu and 1 quart water and place over medium heat. As soon as the water reaches a simmer, remove the pot from the heat. Allow to stand for 5 minutes, then remove kombu.
Place pan over medium-high heat. Just before the liquid boils, remove from the heat and sprinkle the bonito flakes on the surface. As soon as the flakes sink to the bottom of the pot (about 5 minutes), strain the mixture through a fine-mesh sieve or cheesecloth. Reserve the broth.
BRAISED PORK BELLY (CHASHU)
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup sake
¾ cup mirin
1/3 cup dark brown sugar
1 bunch scallions (about 7), coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled
1 3-inch knob of ginger, peeled and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices
1 leek, white and light green parts only, sliced and well rinsed
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla or nuoc mam)
2 pounds pork belly, bones removed; if in a single slab, rolled, skin side out, and tied with butcher’s twine
Heat the oven to 300 degrees with a rack placed in the center position.
In an ovenproof stockpot or Dutch oven, bring ½ cup of soy sauce, ¾ cup water, the sake, mirin, brown sugar, scallions, garlic, ginger, leek, and fish sauce to a simmer. Add the pork belly to the braising liquid, cover the pan with lid slightly ajar and place in the oven for 2½ to 3 hours, until meat is fork tender. Remove the pork belly from the braising liquid and allow it to cool slightly before slicing about ½ inch thick. Reserve. You should have about 2 cups of braising liquid, including the rendered fat. Add the remaining ½ cup of soy sauce and reserve the mixture to use as the tare.
MARINATED SOFT-BOILED EGG (AJI TAMAGO)
This recipe is from Mark O’Leary, chef of Ruckus Noodles, scheduled to open next month in Boston’s Chinatown. It’s next to Shojo, which has the same owners and offers several varieties of soft-boiled eggs to accompany its fabulous house-made ramen noodles.
Hint: Using older eggs makes for easier peeling.
6 large eggs
1 cup soy sauce
½ cup rice wine vinegar
In a medium saucepan, bring 8 cups of water to a boil. Carefully add the eggs. Boil for exactly 6 minutes. Remove the eggs and place in an ice bath for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and ½ cup water.
Carefully peel the eggs and place them in the soy mixture for 1 hour, turning occasionally for even coloring. Halve the eggs, using a cheese wire or something similar to keep the yolks intact, and reserve.
TIP: SHOPPING FOR RAMEN
TO BUILD YOUR RAMEN BOWLS:
20 ounces fresh ramen noodles
6 nori seaweed squares, each about 2 by 2 inches
6 soft-boiled eggs
Add about 2 cups (or to taste) of Dashi Broth to the 1½ quarts hot Pork/Chicken Broth in the stockpot. Add about 2 cups (or to taste) of the reserved tare. Bring to a simmer, and adjust seasoning if necessary. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the noodles following package directions. The noodles overcook easily, so begin checking for doneness 30 seconds before the directions recommend. Drain the noodles well. Divide the noodles into 6 bowls, then ladle 1/6 — about 1½ cups — of the finished broth into each bowl. Garnish each bowl with 1/6 of the pork belly slices and reserved scallion greens, a soft-boiled egg, halved, and a nori square. Serve immediately with chopsticks and a spoon — and a willingness to slurp!Denise Drower Swidey is a frequent Globe Magazine contributor. Send comments to email@example.com.