After a few years of mental preparation, I have decided to go for it.My life goal for the next 10 years is among other things, to create a perfect bowl of ramen from scratch. Not the instant stuff that college students eat dry. No, not even the fast-food stuff that people slurp down in train stations in Tokyo. This is the real deal -stuff made from the heart and soul. I am Ramen Man -and this is my first try.
The noodles have been a riddle for a while because reports on the internet are that the package ramen noodles are fried before they are cooked. I created a basic egg noodle dough ball of flour, eggs, and water with the addition of an ingredient taken from the KBS documentary Noodle Road. Turns out, the Central Asian heartland from when ramen (lo-mein, laghman) came had very alkaline water. This and the arrival of wheat cultivation created the noodle over five millenia ago.
Though the water here in Iowa is already pretty hard, I added some baking soda to raise the pH. This causes the gluten proteins to bond into long, tenacious strands.
The noodles were pressed out using an old Atlas pasta maker from Italy. I had grown up making kal-guk-soo from the age of 10, so getting the noodles out on the finer setting was no big deal. The picture above shows the work -a softball sized dough ball makes enough for 4 people.
The noodles are boiled then quickly rinsed in cold water, and over this the broth is added.
Ahh -the broth. This is where the journey begins. My first effort is with a basic da-shi-ma (seaweed and dried anchovy broth) added 2:1 to pork/ginger broth. Some pork cutlet was added, as was thin cut green onions, but for this effort, I wanted just naked noodles and broth.
The noodles were in fact perfect. The baking soda -a reflection of the hard desert spring water of Central Asia, allowed the noodles to have a perfect springiness.
The broth itself was without distinction and this is where all the hard work will go -it was clear and clean, but better suited for a mushroom soup or a fish soup than for ramen. And the ramen I am stalking is hakata ramen -the clear white broth the result of days of boiling pork (could it be the head?).
I did get a thumbs up from my critics.