Give the People What They Want: Mix and Match Ramen Party
January 22, 2019
I am definitely an “on the side” person. I know how I want to eat a dish and no other way will do. While harder for chefs and kitchens, when I can craft my own dish, I am a lot happier. I am sure many people feel this way. Giving them a choice takes the pressure off and lets them enjoy the meal “their way.” In addition, a table arrayed with small dishes of brightly colored and delicious ingredients from which you can “create your own” dish is not only visually-appealing, but just plain fun. Other than the extra work of washing more serving bowls, this seems to be a win-win.
Ramen lends itself well to this concept as every region in Japan has its own variation. This popular soup always consists of wheat noodles served in a steaming broth. The names are based on how the ramen is seasoned. Classic flavorings include miso (miso ramen), sea salt (shio ramen) and soy (shoyu ramen.) Classic toppings include sliced pork or chicken, dried seaweed, and scallions. Variations can include spinach, eggs, mushrooms, baby bok choy, mushrooms, scallion, and really whatever your imagination can conjure.
So this week we are making ramen this way. The broth is standard and can be served in individual steaming bowls, but the toppings provide a rainbow of options for customizing your soup.
Secrets for Success:
The key thing: keep the noodles separate from the soup until just before serving.
For leftovers, store the broth and noodles separately.
Try to provide toppings with different colors and textures.
Make sure to cut the vegetables into small pieces so that the hot broth will “cook” them.
Pay attention to the sodium content of your broth and noodles. Both can really vary in saltiness. Add half or less of the soy and taste before adding the other half.
I always use Marukan Rice Vinegar and Kikkoman Soy Sauce.
Homemade stock is always the best but Pacific Chicken Broth and Imagine Vegetable Stock, both sold at Whole Foods and Amazon, are excellent store-bought alternatives.
Mix and Match Ramen
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
a 11/4-inch piece of ginger, wiped with a damp paper towel (unpeeled) and sliced
1 tablespoon and 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
2-3 teaspoons soy sauce
Noodles: 1 9.5-ounce package of ramen noodles, cooked
Additional soy sauce
Additional rice vinegar
Toasted sesame oil, to taste Dried red chili flakes, to taste
Toppings can include all or some of the following:
2 heads baby bok choy, very thinly-sliced
6 shiitake mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 bell pepper, cut into thin julienne
1-2 Persian cucumbers, halved longwise and sliced crosswise into half-moons
1 avocado, thinly-sliced
Grated or julienned carrots
Shredded green or purple cabbage
Julienne snow peas
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Fresno chilis, thinly sliced
Julienned basil or mint leaves
grilled or roasted chicken
sliced, grilled steak
steamed or sauteed shrimp
6 hard cooked eggs
Black or white sesame seeds
Make the broth:
Place the stock and ginger in a large stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Turn off the heat and allow to steep for 15 minutes. Discard ginger. Stir in ½ of the soy sauce, all of the rice vinegar, and taste, adding the remaining soy if the broth isn’t too salty. (If using sodium-free chicken stock, use the entire quantity.)
Broth can be held at this point for 1-3 days in the refrigerator.
Serve the soup:
In a large pot, bring the broth to a boil and lower to a simmer. Simmer until quite hot. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired.
Arrange the seasoning and toppings in small bowls nearby.
Give each guest a serving of the steaming broth/noodles and let them play with the seasonings and toppings.
Serves 4 generously, 6 moderately. Recipe can be easily doubled.
Hard Cook Eggs:
Gently place the eggs in a saucepan with water to cover by an inch or so and bring to a boil, over medium-high heat. Immediately turn off the heat, cover, move to a cool burner, and let sit for 10 minutes (7 for still creamy eggs.) Transfer the eggs to a bowl of ice water and allow to rest for 7 minutes. Once cool, peel and slice.
Hard cooked eggs can be held for up to 5 days in the refrigerator if unpeeled. Peeled eggs last for only 3 days.