Anatomy of a Recipe
I met Chef Mamie Nashide in May of 2015 after enrolling in a ramen cooking class hosted by the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance, an organization of professional women in the food industry. I’ve always been captivated by ramen, and when the opportunity arose to take the class, I was very excited. A handful of us arrived at Japanese Cooking Studio, Mamie’s facility in New York City, and we participated in an excellent learning experience: The art of preparing ramen.
Fast-forward: Two years later, at an editorial planning meeting in the offices of Fine Cooking Magazine, our team was searching for an immersive feature for the upcoming February/March issue. I immediately suggested ramen as an option. After some discussion, everyone gave it a thumbs-up, and I went to work.
Mamie told me she had been working on streamlining the recipe since she taught the class back in 2015, making it much more accessible to the home cook while still allowing any cook to experience and enjoy the ritual of the process. This was beginning to unfold as if it were meant to be! Now, instead of calling for pork bones, chicken feet, and breast bones to create the ramen broth, it was made from pork broth reserved from the chashu (Japanese for simmered, braised pork belly) and fortified with chicken and vegetable stock, as well as a few other ingredients. Pork marinade was added to taste at the end, which was an ingenious way to add lots of umami-rich flavors without additional effort. To date, I’ve made the ramen broth both ways, and although the longer, slower way is wonderful, the abbreviated recipe appearing in Fine Cooking Magazine is quite luxurious.
One of the best things about this ramen recipe is that the ingredients are used thoughtfully and economically. There’s no waste. The marinade used to tenderize and flavor the cooked pork belly is used again in the ramen broth and to marinate the jammy, soft-boiled eggs. I distinctly remember that Mamie was adamant about pricking the wide end of the eggs with a pin before boiling, then boiling the eggs for exactly 6 minutes. You’ll want to listen to her because once you’ve had eggs this way, there’s just no going back! The eggs are peeled and immersed in some pork marinade for several hours to absorb flavor. The resulting yolks are dense enough to hold their shape yet live in some ethereal semi-runny state. The egg whites become firm, golden, and slightly salty. I always marinate extra eggs because my guests shyly ask for more and because, truthfully, I find myself craving them the day after. They make a great breakfast or light lunch served sliced on top of a simple piece of toast.
Mamie made fresh ramen noodles for the class back in 2015, which was a real treat. I fondly remember watching her transfer the dough to a zip-top bag and kneading it on the floor in her stocking feet, which was efficient and much less laborious than hand-kneading but was a lot of fun, too. I thought this would be a great kitchen tip to include in the story, but the “powers that be” (at that time) disagreed, so I thought I’d share it here.
Although you can opt for using dried or frozen store-bought ramen noodles, which are absolutely acceptable, you should try preparing them fresh. What makes ramen noodles different from other noodles is the kansui water. This ingredient adds a pleasant chewiness, color, tang, and distinctive wave to the noodle. The recipe comes together quickly, and once the dough is rolled flat by the pasta machine, you can cut the noodles by hand or pass them through a spaghetti cutter. The crank-style pasta maker that attaches to the edge of a countertop works just fine. Still, I decided to invest in the pasta maker attachment for me Kitchen Aid, especially after being spoiled by having one in the Fine Cooking test kitchens.
If you have a kitchen torch (and I know many former Fine Cooking subscribers do), you can use it to char the pork (as we did in Mamie’s class) and skip the broiling step. If you choose this method, be sure to put the pork on a rimmed baking sheet on a heat-proof pad to protect your kitchen surfaces.
All you need is a bit of planning to manage this recipe so it doesn’t overwhelm you. Just make the pork and pork broth, marinade, ramen broth, fresh ramen noodles, and marinated eggs several days in advance. I always make a double batch and freeze the components separately (except for the eggs), so I can have ramen on hand whenever I want. Everything, including the cooked pork belly, freezes quite well.
I’ve made this recipe about 15 to 20 times over the years, and I never get tired of it. A lot is going on in this one-bowl meal. The ingredients are distinct and complex but meld together and combine beautifully. The flavors are simultaneously soft yet rich. The charred, melt-in-your-mouth pork, chewy noodles, and marinated, creamy egg yolk permeate the broth to add even more depth of flavor. Finish the soup by adding sliced scallions, roasted nori strips, and seasoned bamboo shoots. You’ll find yourself slurping the noodles and drinking the broth to the very bottom of the bowl — I promise!
I’d love to hear more about your experiences making this recipe. Remember that I’m here to answer any questions you might have. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!
Giving credit where credit is due:
Food Styling (magazine excerpts and header image) by Ronne Day
Photography (magazine excerpts and header image) by Scott Philips