Most people would say that food and fun are two things that are impossible to overindulge in. Having just returned from an extended weekend in Vegas, I can say that it is not only possible, but rather highly probably in the City of Sin. I arrived home to a cold and gloomy New York early Monday morning with a haggard liver and an extra fold in my gut. After a day in the office, my body screamed “comfort me” while my mind raced with thoughts of butter poached lobster and marbled kobe beef.
I found my solace in a steaming bowl of miso ramen with long chewy noodes swimming alongside crispy bok choy, piquant chili garlic chives and a small mound of sweet pulled pork. This magical bowl of noodle soup coddled my stomach, quieted my mind, while warming me from the inside out.
Ramen is really quite a humble food and yet it takes hours of care to make. It’s rich, complex and unctuous, and yet in Japan, it’s a comfort food much like mac and cheese is here. It’s by no stretch of the imagination healthy, and yet it manages to strike a soul-satisfying truce between protein, vegetables and carbs. Put simply, ramen is a bowlful of contradictions.
Miso Ramen, just one of about a dozen different varieties, originated in the northern Hokkaido region of Japan. It’s a beautiful place, but the winter’s can be harsh so it’s not surprising that this hearty ramen originated there. Traditionally made with fish or poultry stock, I’ve upped the ante with a southern Japanese Tonkotsu stock made with a combination of pork and chicken. I started this one with my Tonkotsu Base (which I now make in large quantities and freeze), then layered on the nutty flavours of miso and tahini. To finish it off, I grated a dried scallop on top of each bowl imbuing each bite with just a bit more umami paired with the briny sweetness of the sea.
One of my favourite toppings for miso ramen is garlic chive mixed with some sesame oil and tobanjan (spicy bean paste), but it’s also very good with buttered corn, as well as some of the more traditional ramen toppings such as pork, menma, and eggs.
Tonkotsu Miso Ramen
2 1/2 C Tonkotsu Base
2 Tbs white miso
1 Tbs tahini
2 tsp sesame seed oil
2 cloves garlic grated or pressed
1/2 C water
2 Tbs pork fat minced (it’s easier to mince when it’s cold)
1 Tbs ground sesame seeds
In a medium saucepan, heat the Tonkotsu Base. Combine the miso, tahini, sesame oil, and garlic in small bowl, then whisk in the water. Pour this mixture into the hot Tonkotsu Base and whisk together. When it is smooth and creamy and there are no chunks left, add the minced pork fat and whisk it in. Taste for salt and add salt to taste. If the broth is too concentrated for your tastes, you can thin it out with water.
Split the cooked noodles between two bowls. Add the ground sesame seeds to the tonkotsu soup and whisk one last time before pouring over the noodles. Top with desired toppings and grate some dried scallop over each bowl using a microplane.