Knitting with ramen noodles
No sooner had we Costcoed up on boxes of Clif Bars and Sweet ‘N Saltys, cases of Talking Rain and V8, and bags of frozen shrimp and naan bread when construction problems delayed Sutter’s EHR Go-Live from May to August and pushed Sweetie out of a job. So now the clock is ticking on my Sacramento bus hopping, lunch hunting, and Gift Shop browsing. I would definitely enjoy another Pupusa, more Kimchi quesadillas, and at least one more In-N-Out burger.
But instead of a repeat, I spent Monday searching for a Japanese pancake, the elusive okonomiyaki. Yelp rumors narrowed the search to mid-town Sacramento and Izakaya Daikoku on 1901 S Street, so I jingled to the bus stop, with iPhone camera and Google Maps at the ready. Dumped off at a downtown bus stop, I wandered a bit trying to get oriented. Maybe it was my confident demeanor or it could have been the open-mouthed, stopped-in-the-middle-of-the-sidewalk confusion, but a pleasant hipster asked me, “Which way to 19th?”, so we joined phones and forces, then wandered on.
He lives in nearby Placerville, comes to Sacramento every week to take his Mom to the doctor and and her cat to the vet. They watch old movies, fold clothes, and eat restaurant take-out. He knew of Izakaya Daikoku, but was pretty sure it closed on Mondays. Fortunately, Ryujin Ramen House, just down the block, had a line out the door. Hipster walked on to his Mom’s and I joined the line of mostly young Asians, all with heads bent and thumbs busy. (Does anyone talk on their phone?)
Service was brisk and efficient; I sat at the counter, slurping my bowl of Spicy Red Ramen, vowing (as I always do when in the thrall of ramen) to make this soul-satisfying soup part of my repertoire.
Steppy but worth the effort.
SPICY RED RAMEN (4 servings)
1 lb. ground pork
2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked and chopped
4 cups unsalted chicken or pork stock
2 cup unsweetened, unflavored soy milk (Asian brand, if possible)
1 cup + 1/2 cup of Spicy Miso Paste
Shoyu Soft Boiled Eggs
4 servings of fresh ramen noodles
4 tablespoons finely diced scallions
2 sheets of nori/Japanese sushi seaweed, cut into rectangular sheets
In a large soup pot, heat 1 tbsp of toasted sesame oil on high heat and brown the ground pork with salt and pepper. Once the pork is broken up and browned, add 1/2 cup of the spicy miso paste and cook for another min until fragrant. Add the chopped shiitakes, unsalted stock, unsweetened soy milk and bring to a simmer.
Place 1 cup spicy miso paste on top of a fine sieve. Lower the sieve half-way into the simmering soup and use a spoon to slowly dissolve the paste into the soup. Discard the solids in the sieve and let the soup simmer for another 10 minutes.
Cook the fresh ramen noodles according to package instructions, and drain well.
Divide the noodles into bowls and ladle the soup on top. For each serving, place 1 shoyu egg (cut into half), 2 tbsp of finely diced scallions, several nori pieces, and 2 tsp of garlic/togarashi oil. Slurp away.
SPICY MISO PASTE:
1/2 cup white miso paste
1/2 cup red miso paste
1/3 cup sichuan douban chili paste
1 small onion, cut into chunks
6 cloves of garlic, smashed
2″ ginger, cut into chunks
3 tablespoons mirin
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon dashi granules
2 teaspoons tahini
Combine all of the ingredients in a blender and blend until smoothly pureed. Simmer for 10 min. Let it cool completely.
SHOYU SOFT-BOILED EGGS:
1 cup water
1 cup sake
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup sugar
Combine water, sake, soy sauce, mirin, and sugar and water and stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
Place the eggs in a small pot and fill it with water until the eggs are covered by 1″. Bring the water to a simmer on medium-high heat, then immediately lower the heat to low and cook for 4 1/2 minutes. Transfer the eggs to cold water.
Peel the eggs then submerge them in the soy sauce mixture. Turn them occasionally, while marinating for 2-3 hours.
2 small shallots, finely minced
2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon sesame seeds
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Japanese chili powder (togarashi)
Combine minced shallots, minced garlic, sesame seeds, salt and vegetable oil in a small pot and set over low heat. Slowly cook/stir until the garlics are crispy and lightly browned, approx. 5 min. Turn off the heat and add the Japanese chili powder/togarashi.