Kimchi Ramyeon

Kimchi Ramyeon

While ramen, a descendant of Chinese la mian, has been in Japan for over a century, it wasn’t until Momofuku Andō developed the curly flash-fried “instant” noodles that ramen became the ubiquitous fast food that it is today. Andō, a Taiwanese-Japanese businessman saw the poverty in post-war Japan and aspired to create a cheap quick-cook ramen that could be prepared in minutes.

After months of failed experimentation, Andō was beside himself and decided to go out drinking. On his way home he saw a street vendor frying fishcakes in oil. That’s when it occurred to him that if the noodles were flash-fried first, they might cook faster when added to the soup.

While studying in Japan in the early 1960’s Jeon Jong-Yeun noticed the prevalence of Andō’s Nissin instant ramen. Upon returning to his native Korea and witnessing his countrymen lining up to eat gruel at a market, Jeon was reminded of the inexpensive instant noodles he’d eaten in Japan. In 1963, Jeon borrowed Andō’s flash-fry method and started selling ramyeon (라면, also spelled ramyun) in Korea under the brand name Samyang.

Today, there are dozens of brands of packaged and cup ramyeons like Neoguri, Nong Shim, and Shin. Everyone has their favorite brand, but they all come with a red hot soup packet, some dried vegetables, and the trademark curly flash-fried noodles. Since the instant variety of ramen arrived in Korea first, there isn’t a culture of ramyeon shops that make the soup and noodles from scratch like they do in China or Japan. This means that colorful packages of instant ramyeon are the real deal. Even restaurants serve up packets of instant ramyeon, gussied up with home-made toppings.

Instant ramyeon is great for a good cheap bite on the run and can be oh-so-satisfying after a long night tossing back shots of soju, but like their instant Japanese counterparts, you have to wonder if there’s a better from-scratch alternative. That’s where the idea for this ramyeon from scratch started.

Drawing inspiration from Korean soups like gamjatang, yukgaejang, and budae jjigae, I created a rich earthy soup, redolent of garlic and tinted vermillion with the hue of chili. Rather than try and reinterpret traditional ramen toppings like chashu or menma, I decided to crown my ramyeon with a stir-fry of pork belly, well fermented kimchi and beansprouts. The noodles are thin and toothsome thanks to the kansui in them that reacts with the flour to give the noodles an extra chewy texture. Finally, I finished off the bowl with a spoonful of mayu, a black garlic oil that’s traditionally used in bowls of Kagoshima style ramen. It adds another layer of nutty complexity to the broth and looks stunning, floating atop the scarlet soup.

I know this is a lot more work than most dishes I post, but it can be done in one day, and with the cold winter descending upon us, I promise it’s worth the effort. The home-made noodles are still a work in progress so I’ll post a link to the recipe as soon as it’s perfected.

Kimchi Ramyeon

makes 2 bowls

for soup
3 cups tonkotsu stock
1 tablespoon Korean soy sauce for soup (국간장 – gukganjang)
1 tablespoon Korean chili flakes (고추가루 – gochugaru)
2 teaspoon Korean soybean paste (된장 – doenjang)
1 teaspoon Korean chili paste (고추장 – gochujang)
2 shiitake mushrooms sliced
2 cloves of garlic finely grated

for kimchi stir fry
1 teaspoon sesame oil
2 ounces thinly sliced pork belly
1/2 cup well-fermented kimchi, chopped
2 handful bean spouts
2 teaspoons gochujang
1 teaspoon soy sauce

for black garlic oil (make ahead)
1/4 cup sesame oil
5 cloves of garlic grated

for serving
1 teaspoon cripsy shallots (deep fried minced shallots)
3 scallions (shredded and soaked in a large bowl of ice water for 30 minutes before being drained)
1/2 batch homemade ramen noodles

To make the black garlic oil, add the sesame oil into a small saucepan along with the grated garlic. Put the pan over medium low heat and let the garlic cook stirring occasionally until it is very dark brown. When the garlic is very dark, turn the heat down to low and let it cook until it is black. As soon as it hits black, turn off the heat and transfer the hot oil and garlic to a heatproof bowl. Let this mixture cool down completely. Add the cooled oil to a blender or food processor and blitz until there are no visible garlic particles left and the oil is uniformly black. It will taste burnt and slightly bitter, but this is okay as you only add a little bit to each bowl. Put it the oil in a container and refrigerate until you are ready to use it.

To make the ramyeon soup, add the tonkotsu stock, gukganjang, gochugaru, doenjang, gochujang, shitake mushrooms and garlic into a saucepan and heat over medium heat. Aside from the mushrooms, you don’t really need cook anything in the soup, so after it comes to a simmer turn down the heat until the noodles and kimchi stir-fry are ready.

Heat a frying pan over medium high heat. Add the sesame oil and the pork belly and fry until the pork is browned. Add the kimchi and bean sprouts and stir-fry until the bean sprouts are cooked and the kimchi is heated through. Add the gochujang and soy sauce and continue frying until the sauce has coated the kimchi and pork.

To serve, put a serving of cooked noodles into 2 bowls. Split the soup between the two bowl. Sprinkle each bowl of ramyeon with the crispy shallots. Top with the kimchi stir-fry. Put a mound of shredded scallions on top, and drizzle a teaspoon of black garlic oil onto each bowl. Eat immediately or the noodles will get soft.

  • http://www.dinnersanddreams.net Nmerzouki

    It looks like a flavorful stew. Yum!

  • http://limecake.net LimeCake

    i didn’t know that about these noodles. that’s edible history right there in the bowl. these look very homey. and delicious!

  • http://kalisasorexi.com Maria

    I love the layers of flavor here. Great post!

  • Lemons and Anchovies

    So this is where the tonkotsu stock went! Oh, my. I would bet that this is 1000 times better than the tonkotsu ramen I eat here in the bay area. I have never prepared ramen at home but this has me drooling at 8 am. I could take the different elements of this dish (the soup or the kimchi stir fry) and enjoy them just by themselves. Thanks for sharing this must-try recipe and for that piece of Korean history.

  • Anonymous

    i’m feeling inspired

  • Darlene

    What a beautiful looking soup! Love kimchi and love(!) pork belly. I also like to stir-fry kimchi with prawns…good in ramen or with eggs over rice.

  • http://weareneverfull.com Jonny

    i love myself some kimchi ramen at menkui tei on 56th and 6th, and love budae jigae too – but what is kansui? and what role does it play in the noodles? must return soon for the next installment!

  • http://smalltownoven.wordpress.com/ Sharlene

    Wow! Fascinating history and beautiful ramyeon! Thank you for the wonderful post!

  • http://bonvivant.wordpress.com/ Danielle

    Nissin cup noodles are my absolute fave and the best thing to have on a long flight back to Singapore :) Have been thinking about making my own ramen for a really really long time, so I’m looking forward to reading your post about the noodles. Thanks for the backstory on the history of ramen!

  • Myboys

    That looks just amazing

  • Unjapark

    Drool… that looks so richly delicious & spicy. Lovely!

  • http://www.pastrychefonline.com/ onlinepastrychef

    Lovely, Marc–as always! :)

  • http://www.vulcanmold.com injection mold

    That is a gorgeous dish! Lovely flavors. Great post!

  • the constant hunger

    I love ramen soup. There’s a place in the East Village (NYC) that I go to as often as possible. Hot and spicy broth with noodles is the best meal when it’s cold out.

  • Michael [KyotoFoodie]

    Only a true foodie rockstar would make ramen noodles from scratch. I am in awe.

  • http://www.realepicurean.com/ Scott

    I feel like I live such a sheltered life here in England! Pretty much, we have only a handful of noodle types available in most shops.

  • http://www.yinhomemade.blogspot.com Yin

    Didn’t know the story of instant noodles, thanks so much in sharing.
    Just love all you photo in your blog, you are so good at in taking them.
    Thanks for adding me hope you advance again in your next challenge.
    Btw, I have voted :-P

  • Susan

    Thanks for the history lesson. I will pass it on.
    Kim chee with pork is one of my favorite dishes. In fact I just ate it for dinner last night. Placing that wonderfulness over a bowl of hot noodle soup makes it magnificent. I will definitely make this. Thanks for the recipe.

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  • Chlewiotka

     Today I have found Your page. I`m art historian from Poland and since 1991 chef in polish restaurants, with only chinese and japanese food. I wrote 4 cookbooks about asian cooking. Your page is the best I`ve ever found in net, I have 101 questions to You… My name is Pawel Albrzykowski. Greetings !
    Paul

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  • koreansushi

    YUMMY!!!

  • Ana S.

    Just got done making this. Spent most of the afternoon indoors to finish the broth. Omitted the meat, and added a little cilantro and nori. Amazing! Perfect recipe. Oh, and I used fresh Chinese noodles that added the perfect, fresh chewiness. Thanks for the recipe!

  • Rua

    Again.. I do not believe Tonkotsu soup base is at all common for Korean “Ramyeon.” Ramyeon if Koreans call it is just simply instant noodles, not Japanese’s heavy sophisticated customized Ramen. And Kimchi Ramen is just simply Kimchi added at any various time, at cook’s preferable timing, in any commercial instant noodle. In fact, when I was a quest in a tv show and told the producer my hobby was making a ramen, and by that I meant precisely cooking it in the style of your sophisticated recipe; guess what happened: I was laughed at. For the majority of Koreans, the concept of ramyeon is a simple instant commercial noodle. So … my point would be the title and the photo and the recipe is not really in harmony, detracting from your deep insight of the knowledge of history of it.

    • http://norecipes.com Marc Matsumoto

      Perhaps you didn’t read the full post but I explained that and said this was a concept recipe I created if instant ramyeon had a from-scratch counterpart…

  • Tristan Leterrier

    l definitely need to try this recipe !! looks so tasty !

  • Danos

    Honestly…. Udon noodles are by far best when pairing with any kimchi soup concoction… something about the soft gooey texture and mild flavor makes it an awesome pairing… I ordered something similar to this once a week when I lived in japan

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