And is Annie a big enough of an egomaniac to talk about herself in third person? Yes.
My inspiration to set out on this attempt to make homemade ramen comes from pillaging the pages of the inaugural copy of Lucky Peach, a new quarterly publication put out by David Chang and Peter Meehan, for its recipes (and frankly to look at food porn—the articles are good as well). The symphonic scene from Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations whereby the elderly noodle maker in China painstakingly uses the brute strength of his entire body on a bamboo pole to knead the noodle dough that nearly brought me to tears several years ago also comes to mind. You should check out the video clip above, totally bad-ass and, yes, Bourdain-approved. Replaced by machines, the artisan skill of making noodles is slowly disappearing. But not today, today I am going to resurrect it (at least I hope so).
Making ramen from scratch has a couple of critical parts. Noodles, broth and all the accouterments that are placed on top. Now, no sane person would ever try to make ramen at home to save money since it’s crazy expensive and time consuming, but since this experiment is just for fun, let’s begin with mastering the first step: the noodles.
PART I. THE NOODLES
1. Buy ingredients.
To make homemade ramen, you will need three key ingredients: bread flour , warm water, and kansui. What is kansui you ask? It’s essentially a concoction of Potassium Carbonate and Sodium Bi-Carbonate. On the label, it warns not to ingest on its own, but I’m guessing it’s a-okay mixed with some H20 and bread flour. And if I die making noodles, well at least I went down with a satisfied belly.
Kansui can be had at your local Asian grocer for a couple of bucks. I bought a huge bottle of the stuff at Cary’s Grand Asia Market for a mere $3.49, and with the recipe only calling for 1/2 teaspoon, I’m guessing it will last me until 2075. In case you are wondering what kansui looks like, here it is in all its chemically-balanced glory alongside a signed copy of David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook (thanks Lisa!):
2. Prepare equipment.
You will also need a mixer with dough hooks, a bowl, and a pasta maker. For the very purpose of making ramen, I went on Amazon.com and bought the Marcato Atlas Wellness stainless steel Italian pasta maker for about $60. Got decent reviews so I bit the bullet and considered it an investment for good eating in the future.
3. Start mixin’.
The recipe for a batch of ramen is as follows:
- 2 cups bread flour
- 1/2 cup warm water
- 1 teaspoon kansui (Koon Chun label)
In a bowl, throw in the 2 cups of bread flour. In a separate bowl, mix warm water with the teaspoon of kansui. Be careful with the kansui, it will burn off your hand if you come in direct contact with it (just kidding).
After you pour the liquid into the bread flour, use the mixer with dough hook(s) attachment and mix for approximately 10 minutes. You should see that the mixture becomes crumbly and yellow-ish in color. No worries, you are on the right path.
After mixing, you will have to split the dough into half and mold each half into two balls and then roll out the dough with a nightstick or a french rolling pin to prepare for the pasta maker to look like this:
4. Pasta Maker Time
After you’ve flattened the dough, it’s time to run it through the pasta maker. Using your pasta maker on the lowest setting (level 1 on mine), run each piece through the pasta maker several times to flatten the dough and to ensure each piece achieves a smooth consistency.
The dough will start to look like this (excuse Mario the cookie jar chef in the background):
Refrigerate the dough overnight in plastic wrap. Pull the dough out the next day, strap in and get ready for some oodles of noodles. Get some salted water boiling on the stove and put the pasta maker on level 3.
Slide the dough into the pasta maker to flatten it out to preferred thickness and cut into 1 feet strips.
Then, run the dough through the spaghetti attachment. It should look a little like this:
Take in that beauty! Let’s look at it again!
After you’ve churned out enough noodles with enough hand cranks to power a small country, you should be able to have enough noodles for about 2-3 servings.
Here’s what two cups of bread flour looks like in noodle-y form:
The water should be all set by now. Place noodles into boiling water and let it cook for only about 1 minute—not too long because you want to noodles to have the right amount of chewiness. The noodles will continue to cook a bit longer while in the broth. Leave the noodles in too long and it will result in a soggy mess.
Now, because I haven’t experimented with the broth yet, I cheated and used the seasoning packet from my Nong Shim noodles to flavor them for the purpose of just giving the homemade noodles a try. I also created some impromptu toppings for the noodles with leftover steak and grilled asparagus and it didn’t turn out half-bad. Maybe call this creation “Half-Assed Ramen”?
Take a look at the results:
Just pretend that’s there’s pork belly, scallions, bean sprouts, a poached egg, bamboo shoots and spinach in there instead of what you actually see, okay?
After three minutes, I completely devastated the soup bowl:
All done! The noodles were wonderful—perfect springiness to the noodle, wonderful bite and soaked up the seasoning well. There really is a vast, noticeable difference in a fresh noodle compared to the flash-fried versions in Asian markets.
Ok, now that I’ve gotten a handle on making the noodles for the bowl of ramen, the hardest part is up next: the broth.
The broth is going to be tough and there’s a lot of ingredients including pig feet. How will I handle this? Coming up next…
PART II. THE BROTH