A love story starring our brand-new small serving bowl and our personal ramen guru, the brilliant Peter J. Kim.
Your favorite ramen restaurant gets those noodles and meaty broth so right. Sitting on your sofa binge-watching Netflix’s finest feels so right. And as much as your want to combine the thrills, delivery ramen always feels so wrong. Luckily, inspired by the hefty size and perfect proportions of our new small serving bowl, we set our sights on preparing the world’s most perfect homemade ramen. So we tapped Peter J. Kim, the Executive Director of the Museum of Food and Drink, as well as the museum’s gallery space, MOFAD Lab in Brooklyn. Just as notably, he’s also a self-proclaimed amateur ramen maker. (Though we say he’s closer to guru-level based on his must-try advice.) Read on for Kim’s tips for making your own perfect ramen, with a few of our tried-and-true tips sprinkled in like fine-cut scallions.
Q: Assuming most of us aren't David Chang, is there a straightforward way to make broth at home?
A: Remember: the heart and soul of ramen is in the broth. If you're making ramen broth from scratch, don't skip the kombu – it's a key ingredient that provides an umami foundation to the dish. Another easy trick is to make a chicken stock out of chicken bones – as you’re cooking, grind the bones and continue simmering. This helps maximize flavor and gelatin extraction. Strain out the bone bits and you end up with an incredibly rich broth.
Now, If you're using the instant stuff – which I am unabashedly a fan of – I like dropping an American cheese slice in at the end. This adds a nice creaminess to the broth. I know this sounds like stoner food, but you have to try it.
Q: Top Ramen aside — what noodles should we use? Or in other words — what should we do differently now that we're out of college?
A: The clear choice is anything by Sun Noodle. Most top ramen shops use their products (including Momofuku) because those guys have it down to a science. I'm a huge fan. Check out your local Asian market to see if they have it in stock.
If you don't have access to Sun Noodle look for a yellowish noodle that contains "mineral salts," "sodium carbonate," or "potassium carbonate." It's not a ramen noodle unless it has one of these alkaline components, which allows the noodles to stay springy even while sitting in broth. Otherwise, ain't no shame in using the fried noodles that come in instant ramen packs.
Q: Let’s get to the meat of it. Pork belly, pork shoulder, shredded chicken — what do you recommend?
A: I try to minimize my meat consumption so my go-to is actually baked tofu. I like to cover cubes of firm tofu with salt and pepper and let it ride out in a 375 degree oven until they brown and take on a meat-like chewy texture.
PRO TIP/SNOWE TIP: Trader Joe’s has an awesome pre-cooked pork belly that you can quickly pan sear if you want the porky goodness but aren’t committed enough to pull out the slow-cooker.
Q: Any secrets to achieving that perfect soft boiled egg?
A: The best way to go is to use an immersion circulator set to 62.5 C. You can do this ahead of time and do a big batch of eggs. Or when I'm feeling lazy (which is often the case), I'll just drop an egg into the simmering broth a few minutes before I'm ready to eat.
PRO TIP/SNOWE TIP: For the perfect medium-boiled egg, bring water to boil before lowering to simmer; drop in your egg and wait 6-7 minutes. Then, transfer to ice bath.
Q: Time to top this baby off. Final words of wisdom?
A: When it comes to adding toppings, I don't recommend any particular assembly order. But there is one thing to keep in mind: once the noodles are in the broth, imagine a timer starting, with the noodles getting softer and softer with each passing minute. So when you are making ramen for people, make sure everyone is ready to eat before you take that step. I usually yell at people to start eating immediately! Clearly, I'm a very laid-back guy.
PRO TIP/SNOWE TIP: Hit the frozen aisle to pick up corn and small-cut veggies. Other A+ toppings include chopped scallions, dried seaweed (nori), fish cakes, kimchi, and sausage. For sauces, go for a bright flavor with yuzukosho, or go deep with miso paste or sesame oil. And don’t forget the sriracha (or maybe gochujang?)
Ready to go? Just remember the all-important final step (yes, after shouting at your guests). Bring the bowl to your mouth and ssssllllluuurrpp. It’s not rude, it’s a key part of enjoying your ramen and properly savoring the flavors. Bottom’s up!