This might sound strange, but I have always thought they food in animation looks amazing. If you don't know what I am talking about watch Spirited Away. It is a Japanese animation and the food looks phenomenal. I remember growing up and seeing ramen in these animated shows and movies and wondering why the ramen I had in the pantry wasn't that appealing. It was just noodles and broth. Nothing too exciting about that. Since my parents never did anything else with it I never did anything else with it. I remember always being amazed that ramen was always pictured with an egg in it, and I really wanted to try it.
Like nearly all college kids in America I am familiar with instant ramen. It is cheap, quick, and can be eaten anywhere if you get it in the fancy cups. Ramen was never my go to meal, but when the weather was bad or the dinning halls were closed it was the best option I had. And let me tell you, where I went to school it rained a lot and when it rained campus flooded. Given the choice between soaking your last dry pair of shoes to go out to the dining hall for dinner or ramen most of us chose the ramen.
Fast forward a few years and I am still familiar with ramen. I make sure that I have a supply on hand at home just in case funds are tight for the month. However, now I have experienced real ramen. A few months ago my boyfriend, some of our friends, and I traveled to a ramen bar in DC. Thats right we drove four hours one way for ramen. It changed my life. I had never experienced such flavors before. It was everything that I had hoped it would be. I started to crave those flavors at home. And let me tell you, store bought instant ramen was not cutting it.
RamenClick thumbnail to view full-size
Perfecting the Recipe
I found a simple recipe for chicken ramen on line. It was easy enough and only called for two ingredients I had never used: mirin and ginger. Luckily, my local grocery store had both of these times in stock and I was able to make the dish. It was very nice, but I knew that I could make improvements. I could get it closer to the ramen I had in DC. (I did write an article on that experience at Toki Underground if you would like to read more about it)
I tweaked the recipe until I felt it better suited what I was craving. I added fresh greens. I am a fan of spinach and kale. I added veggies. Fresh mushrooms and thinly sliced carrots add both flavor and nutrition to the meal. I substituted regular soy sauce and chicken broth for low sodium. And honestly, I didn't even notice a difference. I added more of the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, and mirin. I also added a splash of rice vinegar, the same that I use to make sushi.
I am very proud of my final product. I feel that it has a lot of flavor to offer and brings nutrition to the meal. I like to think of it as being closer to authentic ramen.
What You Will Need
How Long Will it Take?
If you would like to save on your prep time get a rotisserie chicken from your local grocery store. Remove the skin (you can keep it if you want, but it will add more fat to the dish) and pull the meat from the bone. You will have a lot more chicken that you would from just two chicken breasts. You will also get a variety of light and dark meat, which will add different flavors.
When I made the ramen I used for the pictures I used chicken breasts. Every other time I made this recipe I have used a rotisserie chicken. The price was the same. I feel like I got more bang for my buck from the rotisserie chicken, and it was less work for me in the end. I also really liked having all the extra meat in the final dish. But, if you already have chicken breasts at home I would save your money and just use them. Remember, if you are going to use frozen chicken breasts that they take a while to thaw so plan accordingly.
I add shredded carrots, fresh greens (kale and spinach) and mushrooms to my ramen. You do not have to. I usually add a hand full of the carrots and the greens to the bowl when I add the noodles and broth. I typically just use a carton of sliced mushrooms right to the broth before I add the chicken, that way the mushrooms will absorb the flavor of the broth.
I also take fresh chives from my window garden and chop them right over the finished ramen.
- 2 Chicken breasts, Or 1 rotisserie chicken
- 4 Ramen noodle packs, ignore the flavor pouch
- 4 Quarts Chicken broth, Low sodium
- 2 Tbsp Mirin
- 1 tsp Rice Vinegar
- 4 Tbsp Soy sauce, Low sodium
- 2 Tbsp Ginger, fresh and minced
- 2 Tbsp Garlic, fresh and minced
- Egg, Sof boiled, 1 per person
- 1 Tbsp Sesame or Olive Oil
Preparing the BrothClick thumbnail to view full-size
Putting It All Together
- In a nonstick skillet brown the chicken (lightly salt and peppered if you desire) for 5 minutes on both sides. Then move the chicken to an oven safe dish and bake at 375 for about 15 minutes. Remember to add an extra five minutes of bake time if you still have bones. If you are using a rotisserie chicken, remove the skin and pull the meat from the bones in chunks the size of your finger and set aside in a bowl.
- Mince the garlic and the ginger. Add the oil to a large stock pot and set to medium heat. When hot add the garlic and ginger. Stirring frequently.
- Once the garlic and ginger are soft add the soy sauce, mirin, and rice vinegar. Stir frequently. After a minute add the chicken stock. Before to add the stock slowly to avoid splashing.
- Bring the stock to a simmer and add the mushrooms (if using) and chicken. Bring to a boil.
- Add the Noodles and cook until they are soft. About 5 minutes.
- To make the soft boiled egg bring a pot of water to a boil. Use just enough water to cover the eggs. Once the water is boiling add the eggs (still cold from the refrigerator) and boil for 7 minutes. For a more set yolk set your timer to 8 minutes. Then promptly move the eggs to a bowl filled with cold water. allow to cool before removing the shell.
- Once the noodles are done add them to a bowl and then cover with broth. Now you can add the greens or any veggies you are using. (you could also add the veggies and greens first and then cover with noodles and broth).
- Slice the sole boiled egg in half and place on top of ramen. Add fresh chopped chives if desired.
Putting Everything TogetherClick thumbnail to view full-size
For the noodles I have tried pad thai noodles, rice noodles, and the noodles that come in the packs of instant ramen. Honestly, the noodles from the instant ramen packs were the most satisfying. They can be slurped and hold up well in the dish. The others were fine, but they just didn't say ramen quite like the instant noodles.
These packs are cheap, you can get a bag of 6 packs for around a dollar. I use one pack per quart of chicken broth. Just disregard the little flavor packet that comes with the noodles, the broth you just made will have more and better flavor. If you wanted to make your own noodles you can do that. It will add perp time to the meal and would require a trip to your local asian market. Making my own noodles for my ramen is on my bucket list, but for now I am happy with the store bought instant noodles.
I would like to continue to work with my ramen recipe. I have a list of things I would like to add or substitute:
- Sesame Seeds (roasted, like what I use in my sushi)
- Nori (just like what is used in sushi)
- Bean Sprouts
- Sriracha (only a little)
RamenClick thumbnail to view full-size
I hope that I have inspired you to try your hand at making ramen at home. I think you will be pleasantly surprised by what you create. Even when I don't have time to make this full recipe and I want ramen I now know how to add a little flair to the store bought instant ramen. I simply add a little soy sauce and mirin to the noodles when I pour on the flavor pouch before I add the hot water. I also will add a handful of spinach and shredded carrot. You would hardly know that it started out as regular store bought ramen.
Best of luck! Enjoy!
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