Monday, December 28, 2009

A Ramen A Day

Brittany dropped me off at Winco today before she went to work, actually she dropped me off at the free clinic which turned out to not be free, so I went shopping for ingredients instead. I spent about nine dollars on pork and six dollars on vegetables. With all the pork bones I bought, I decided a bigger batch of broth was in order, I brought out my biggest pot. The one I use to brew beer. This was taken about halfway through the boil, I could tell early on that this broth was going to be good. I decided to simmer my pork loin too, although I think its supposed to be completely covered.

A few hours later and we have a Ramen.

The avocados are an experiment, they weren't ripe but they still tasted delicious. Especially after they'd had a chance to soak. I think soft avocados will work well in my Ramen. A premium topping ;)

I like taking pictures of Ramen during the day when the sun is shining through. Artificial lights don't do Ramen justice. But this bowl was exceptionally good. At least the broth was anyway, I'm still using prepackaged noodles. I am torn between creating my own, or finding a local noodle maker who has the goods. And I still have to figure out how to cook that pork loin correctly. But the broth! So GOOD!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Secret Ingredients

Ramen Eaters of the World Unite!

I know I should have put that at the end of this post, but why wait? Anyway, I think it is time for an update. My last post was over a week ago.

The other night I was waiting for a train underneath the Burnside bridge when I noticed a sign for noodles. Could it be Ramen? No it was Pho, but I decided to try it anyway. I've never had Pho before but I heard it was a very popular food. It was the stores first day of business so I ordered the number 1, beef soup. It was ok, very fresh tasting. I can't say I'm an instant fan though. What was interesting was some of the garnishes they provided. Two kinds of cilantro I had never seen before and a slice of lime were my favorite. An older lady came over and asked if I worked at a restaurant, perhaps wondering If I was going to steal her secrets. Too late! I already did. I'm not sure if the Cilantro and the lime will work in my Ramen but we shall see.

Making Ramen is an all day affair, it can even stretch into two I think if you like to marinate things a lot. That is 10:49 PM. I should probably get started earlier next time.

That brown stuff on the left is my miso base, this is what it looked like before stirring.

I was using a recipe out of a book I previewed on Amazon, suckers!! The recipe called for hoisin sauce but I didn't have any so I just poured in the pork drippings from the pork roast I cooked. I think next time I will try simmering the pork.

I wasn't all that hungry that night but I did finish my bowl. All I could think about the next day was getting home to try another bowl. I did make and finish another bowl but I think I overdid it with the lime. But this morning, I hadn't planned on making a bowl. Something just came over me, why not I said, it will only take a few minutes. I took out my pots and turned on the heat, a few minutes later I had the first bowl I would definitely have paid for.


There is still a lot of work to be done, but I feel like I am getting closer with every bowl. One day it will be ready.


Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Its all about the broth

Yesterday I picked up some neck bones from Safeway. I hadn't planned to buy them, Safeway normally does not carry bones. At least that's what I was told by the meat department manager whose name escapes me at the moment. But there they were.

3 pounds of pork neck bones

I tried cutting these into smaller pieces but I just don't have the knife for it. So I have added a large knife to the list of things I need to obtain. The list is growing and I expect it to get longer the closer I get to opening my Ramen shop. I still haven't decided about working out of a cart or setting up shop in the vacant lot nearby behind the Asian market. I plan to do a few sample nights in my apartment, that's going to be fun. But before I can do that I need to obtain a huge stockpot, propane burner etc.. not to mention keep working on my recipe.

But back to the bones. I boiled them today and was a bit disappointed in the flavor I obtained. The broth I made with a few ham hocks from Winco was much tastier. Those had some added salt and smoke flavoring. I didn't need to add any salt to the ham hocks broth, but I did need to add some to the neckbones. I could tell there was something wrong after a few hours when I wasn't tasting any good flavors. I turned up the heat a little in the hopes of releasing some flavor and let the broth finish.

The fried egg is a recent addition as well as the intact slice of red cabbage. I enjoy the crunch that the cabbage gives to my Ramen. The egg is from a local farmer, we got 2 dozen of them and they are the best eggs we have ever eaten. Its frightening to think what is happening to the chickens at those industrial farms to make them produce the garbage they sell in the supermarkets. Its simply cracked open onto a hot skillet for 3 minutes and then flipped into the Ramen. I like how it looks and tastes, but I am wondering if the egg needs something more to it. Or should I keep things as simple as I can? You might note the absence of sliced pork, don't worry it will be back.

This Ramen was ok, I won't be using those neckbones again though. A few recipes online mention using pork and chicken bones for the broth, but I think I am going to try using ham hocks again. I still need to work on my noodles. I haven't worked with any flour for over a week. It appears that in order to get noodles to the right consistency you have to add a few chemicals to the mix. Namely potassium carbonate and maybe some sodium carbonate. These carbonates were most likely present in the well water the chinese used to first make their noodles all those thousands of years ago. So once I obtain some chemicals I will start working with my dough again. Interestingly though, the noodles I bought at Winco did not list carbonates as an ingredient. They did have eggs though, which I have tried using as well. I think it's going to take a bit of time before my noodles taste how I want them to.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The Ramen Quest

Hi, Yesterday I took a short walk to Uwajiyama because they sell a bowl of Ramen, here is a map of my route and some pictures.

View My Walk in a larger map

I have more pictures on my Facebook site, One day my walks will be uploaded to Facebook in realtime complete with audiovisual narration but for now we do what we can. The last placemark is a picture of the Ramen, made with a prepackaged instant Ramen from the market's shelf. To be fair it was one of those three dollar packages and the Pork was cooked that day (I think). But I still wept a little on the inside as I watched my Ramen being prepared.

The market had an actual restaurant attached, which was closed at the time. But perhaps I should make another trip.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Nom Nom Nom

Yesterday was a good day. I made a decent bowl, which was quickly consumed by me!

I have always been a fan of forks, but after hearing Brittany scrape the bottom of my bowl, I think I will give chopsticks another try. I must say this Ramen tasted better than the bowl I had at Yuzu down the street. They charged 8.50 for their bowl, I was thinking a flat fee of 5 dollars would be fine, but I am getting ahead of myself, as I often do. Those noodles are prepackaged from Winco, they tasted pretty good, but I still need to work on my own.

As this broth was simmering, I would stare at it, trying to understand what the broth was doing. I really liked how the leeks encompassed the pot, surrounding the other vegetables with strong flavors. I am glad I finally added them.

I bought some miso paste that's fermented locally. It was a few extra dollars but I think it is worth it. I did add some of this paste to my latest bowl and am currently trying to think of a way to easily dissolve the paste in the broth. I was trying to avoid a vigorous stirring since that would emulsify the fats and proteins in the broth, but as you can see in the first picture, my broth is quite cloudy. I used a few pounds of ham hocks as my base, even with an extremely quiet boil my broth is quite cloudy. The ham hocks have quite a bit of fat on them, perhaps it is time for me to visit a local butcher to pick up some less meatier bones. In the Ramen films there is often a reference to an entire head of a pig. I wonder if they simply throw the head in the broth or cut it up first. I would most definitely need a larger pot before I even consider this addition however. In the end I might just go with a nice thick cloudy broth.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Journey Begins

Earlier today I left the house, headed towards Winco Foods. I planned on taking the 57 and then the 62. But after getting off the 57 and waiting at the 62 stop for a minute or two I decided to just walk, it was only about a mile more to Winco. I thought I would find some Psilocybe along the way. Which is what I always think when I go out for a walk.

But alas, no magic mushrooms this time. I did make it to Winco and purchased what I thought I would need to make a decent bowl of Ramen. Unfortunately Winco doesn't carry pork bones so I had to make do with ham hocks. I did buy a nice pork loin since I planned to add the quintessential sliced pork to my Bowls from now on. This was definitely the missing ingredient in my bowls, at least one of the missing ingredients anyway. The pork turned out quite good, with a nice glaze.

My broth is still coming along, most recipes call for leeks but I have yet to purchase one of these vegetables. I have just been throwing things into my broth that I think would give the soup a good taste. But I can't tell if my broth is missing something or has too many things. Perhaps its time to try a leek. And maybe a slower boil.

I also liked walking to Winco, now if I can only get You to come along with me. You know who you are :)

P.S. there are some trails along the way.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Random Ramen

The other day I was eating some spaghetti and it occured to me that I was eating Ramen. It started me thinking about how many foods I eat that could be considered Ramen. Basically anything with flour and water I suppose. If I dip my bread into a bowl of water I have created a Ramen. Even the slice of bread itself could be considered a Ramen since it contains at least a few molecules of water.

Spaghetti? Or Ramen?

Ramen In a can! (Only use in case of emergency)

I made a decent bowl today. The noodles still leave something to be desired however. I'm told they taste like spaghetti. I enjoy them for the most part, but if I'm going to sell my Ramen in the street it has to have a wide appeal. Creating things with wide appeal is not something I have ever had much interest in. But I do enjoy learning new things.

A few weeks ago I bought a packet of noodles that looked like they would make a decent Ramen. Yakisoba, apparently they are for stir frying. What I needed was chukasoba. The noodles weren't very good, although they did spur me into making my own noodles. At the moment I'm cutting my noodles by hand, I initially thought I would hand pull my noodles, but that art is going to take some time to learn.

Whenever I cook, I tend to think about how food was prepared thousands or millions of years ago. I like to use my hands and limit the use of machines. So many things in our lives are focused on speed and efficiency, using technology to achieve these things. But our technological civilization is only a small blip in humanity's timespan. There's no way to tell if the rapid adoption of all this tech is going to be good or bad for our species future. The only thing for it is to wait a few thousand years and then reflect on where we are, where we have been, and then consider where to go.

I spent most of my day boiling some chicken bones and digging up my backyard with a shovel. My favorite day this week by far. I plan to plant a few vegetables for my Ramen in the spring, or sooner depending. I have a degree in Botany, a little snow shouldn't deter me from attempting to grow some food. Anyway here's a neat video I found while doing some Ramen research.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A trip to the market

I've started work on my broth. It appears that its going to be a pork based broth, but I am a huge fan of miso soup so I might switch over soon if I get my hands on some good miso paste. Perhaps my broth will be a combination of the two. Or perhaps it will be something completely different and westernized, I'm not quite sure yet. I did find a recipe online that I wanted to try out, but it called for quite a few things that I didn't currently have.

So I wrote down some of the ingredients I needed and went to the Asian market near my apartment. The man behind the counter said he had never heard of those before, but he did tell me about an Asian supermarket, just a few miles away! He started explaining to me how to get there, but I never seem to understand people when they attempt to do this. Luckily he gave me the newspaper he was reading that had an ad for this market!

The next day Brittany and I ran some errands, including going to the DMV YAY! We also decided to hit up the Asian supermarket so I could pick up a few things. The place looked bigger than I expected. Brittany wasn't even going to go in, but I told her it would be fun and she got out of the car.

This place had a gift section near the front entrance and I spotted some Ramen bowls, unfortunately they were forty five dollars a piece! I think I'll need to pick up a few cheap bowls from somewhere, I just hope they don't have lead in them lol! We spent some time checking out their selection of lucky cats and put a small one in our basket. In the end we wouldn't purchase him, but I suppose he brought us luck while he was with us.

When we got back from our excursion I started my first broth. It called for a very long simmering time, while keeping the pot covered. I thought that might make the broth a little strong and I was right. I looked over the recipe again and noticed a comment about "This is how I prepare Ramen to suit my particular tastes." Yeah that sounds about right. I dumped the broth down the sink and went back to the drawing board.

The next day I took the rest of the pork bones, an onion, and some celery and simmered them for a few hours uncovered. I thought it tasted much better. Now I'm going to think about some other things to put in the pot!

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Ramen in Film!

Yesterday after doing some Ramen research, I came across the names of two films about our delicious noodles. Tampopo, and The Ramen Girl. Both movies were quite good in my opinion, with similar themes, being the search for the perfect bowl of Ramen. But the movies take quite different approaches in exploring this theme.

At first I tried placing Tampopo in the fragmented sketch comedy genre, but after a few minutes it quickly went far beyond this limited description. The film is funny, and you should probably watch it for that reason alone. My favorite two characters are the food lovers, who are never named but are quite memorable and very odd.

Anyway here's links to torrents that I downloaded and am currently seeding.
The Ramen Girl Torrent
Tampopo Torrent

The funniest thing about these movies is that I learned quite a bit about making Ramen. Notably that good Ramen is hard to make! I quite enjoy a simple bowl of noodles and a nice miso broth, but I have accepted the Ramen quest for the perfect bowl. To make this bowl and have others consume it! I can see myself spending a lifetime on this task.

I'm currently waiting on some dough to settle while I write this post, and will make some noodles later this afternoon. My broth at the moment contains a beef bouillon base, shudder I know, but it must suffice for the moment. Until I can obtain some pork loins and bones and start work on a decent broth.

Good fortunes for everyone!

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Fast, Cheap, and Good!

Greetings fellow space travelers! Herein will be a chronicle of my Adventures in Ramen. I have been a huge fan of Ramen for many years. There was a brief time in my life when I was known to eat 2 or 3 packages of Top Ramen a day.

Of course, that kind of Ramen consumption could not last, but for the past few months I have been partaking of the Nissin companies Oriental flavored Top Ramen. Which is the best of their bunch in my opinion.

And then a few weeks ago, A revelation! Why not open my own Ramen cart! I currently live in the Portland area and if you are familiar with this city, you know that there are food carts practically on every corner. Sounds exciting doesn't it?

The good news is there's a decently sized Asian market a block from my apartment with an assortment of vegetables and leafy greens, noodles, sauces and oils, as well as some black fungus which I don't think I'm going to try. Actually I don't know how something called black fungus would even make it past customs but there it was. Other than the unnamed fungus, this market is perfect for experiments in Ramen making.

So I have started work on a few Ramens. I expect it will be some time before these Ramens are cart ready. It will also take some time to procure the actual cart. I dream of a custom built Ramen cart, but in the beginning I imagine I will obtain a cheap prebuilt cart.

So, this blog will be a written account of my journey from the idea of standing by the side of the road selling hot Ramen from a cart to actually doing just that! In the beginning this site will mostly be a collection of links, recipes, and photos of my delicious Ramen!

Have a nice day!