At the beginning of this project, my goal was to cook five times a week. That didn’t last very long because I quickly realized I don’t like cooking that much. I enjoy making food and putting meals together but I’m also a little lazy and often times (always) that laziness overpowers my joy. Well, it’s not so much I’m lazy as it is I don’t like working hard. That doesn’t make me sound any better…so anyway, depending on the difficulty of the cuisine, I make between two and four meals a week. There have been a few times I’ve made five, like Chinese and Indian weeks, but for the most part, I take the easy route. Technically Japanese week was an easy week with only two meals, however, this ramen took three days to make so I wouldn’t say it was super easy.
Okay, I’m kind of stretching the truth. It was pretty easy; at least the first two days were. The first day involved placing sheets of seaweed in water (kombu dashi) and making a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine, and sake (tare). The seaweed used wasn’t your typical paper-thin nori seaweed, instead I used kombu seaweed, which is thicker. I would like to say it’s like bark but not exactly that thick. These two items form the basis of the stock, which was made the second day.
Again, this part wasn’t too hard because all I did was boil pork shoulder and some veggies. Oh, and chicken necks. I can’t forget the necks. The recipe said to also use spareribs but I didn’t want to, so I didn’t. I think my stock came out just fine without it. What was interesting about making the stock was using bonito flakes, which is just dried, fermented fish. This, along with the kombu dashi and tare, give the stock the umami flavor that is coveted in Japanese cuisine. Umami has become a big deal in the culinary world the past few years, so much so that it is now considered one of the basic tastes, along with sweetness, saltiness, bitterness, and sourness. The short answer is that it is the taste of savory, the long answer can be found in this great podcast by Stuff You Should Know.
The third day shouldn’t have been that difficult because all it involved was boiling eggs, reheating the stock, slicing the pork shoulder, and boiling the ramen noodles. The recipe said to use prepared ramen noodles but that was way too easy and as much as I enjoy taking shortcuts, every once in a while I get a hankering for the long, winding road. *sings “The long and winding road, the leads to insanity”* Those aren’t the correct lyrics but that’s where this long and winding road lead me because instead of taking the Insta-Noodles Road, I decided to take the Make Your Own Ramen Noodles Freeway. Unfortunately it’s a freeway and filled with all kinds of fast and crazy drivers. Drivers like Making Dough is Dumb and I’m Pretty Sure I’m Going to Get My Hair Stuck in this Noodle Maker and OMFG I Will Never Get All of This Flour Out of My Kitchen. Oh, and who could forget the best driver of them all, The Complete Fucking Fail of Ramen Noodle Making? I’m not bitter.
So yeah, noodle making was not fun. It’s really time consuming, it’s messy, and stressful. I’m just going to show you a picture. (Sorry for the big picture, Squarespace is being difficult)
Thankfully when I bought groceries for this meal, I bought some packets of instant ramen noodles just in case my noodle making didn’t work out. The top bowl are the instant noodles, the bottom is what I made. This was what came out of the colander when I tried to drain my noodles. They came out of the pot of boiling water as individual noodles but sometime between pouring them into the colander and then flipping the colander over, they turned in a big ball of mush. Yeah. Yeah. I don’t know anything about noodle making and I haven’t bothered looking up what went wrong but my initial guess is that I didn’t let the noodles dry out enough before boiling them. I was supposed to let them dry for at least ten minutes but our guests were already on their way and I didn’t think it would make too big of a deal. Clearly it did.
So whatever, my noodle making was a disaster BUT if there’s one thing I’ve learned from this project it’s to have a back up plan so thankfully I bought those instant noodles!
And the ramen turned out great! The pork shoulder I bought was in pieces, not one big piece, so instead of nice round slices, we got bits and pieces but it was still good. It was delicious and I think everyone had more than one bowl so that’s always good. The kids ate cheese sticks, some noodles, and I think a fruit snack pack. You know, something very nutritious.
And that was Japanese week. I’ll make ramen again and I might even try making noodles but not any time soon. No, for now I’ll stay on North Lamar Boulevard, which takes me straight to Chinatown and all the easy ramen I can eat.