David Chang’s Ramen from Lucky Peach
Maybe you’ve heard of charismatic Korean-American chef, David Chang. You might be accused of living under a rock if you haven’t. His much-hyped Momofuku (translation = Lucky Peach) restaurants in New York are notoriously difficult to secure a reservation at. His first restaurant Momofuku Noodle Bar opened in 2003. Chang took exclusivity to new heights in 2008 with Momofuku Ko, a 12-seat 2-Michelin starred eatery with an online-only reservation system that allows bookings only six days in advance. Momofuku Ssam Bar and Momofuku Milk Bar (whose ‘Crack Pie’ is currently being trademarked) opened within the same year. After publishing the Momofuku cookbook in 2009 he established Má Pêche and another two Milk Bar outposts followed. More locally and most recently he appeared in this year’s Masterchef.
Inspired by visits to Australia, Chang will be opening a Sydney restaurant in the revamped Star Casino called Momofuku Seiōbo (pronounced say-oh-boh, being the Japanese queen goddess of the west) at the end of the year. Another two restaurants in Toronto are scheduled to open in 2012.
A lover of noodles, pork buns and expletives, Chang’s enthusiasm for understanding and making the most of our senses while cooking and eating sees him on endless journeys of experimentation and scientific discovery.
Chang has made ramen, a Japanese noodle dish which is the equivalent of our Westernised chicken noodle soup, his personal Holy Grail, with extended trips to Japan to taste and understand the properties and techniques behind the best bowls. Chinese in origin, the Japanese really own ramen. Varieties differ not just region by region, but store to store within cities and villages.
Lucky for us, Chang put everything he knows about ramen in the first issue of a quarterly magazine he conceived called Lucky Peach. Yes, a whole magazine pretty much about one dish. Only someone as self-assured, passionate and enthusiastic for sharing stories and knowledge as David Chang could really pull off something so indulgent.
My experience cooking Japanese food starts and ends with sushi. At least until this week when I set myself the challenge to make David Chang’s ramen from Lucky Peach.
After having put the pork shoulder in the fridge to marinate the evening before, I woke from a deep slumber with a rather nasty case of the flu. Determined to make the most of a day at home I soldiered on and made every element from scratch (hardly a stretch with most elements cooking themselves). I was rewarded with a soup of ultimate strength. Not in terms of flavours, which were subtle and supremely satisfying, but in terms of fortifying goodness. I woke the next day completely devoid of any flu symptoms. This ramen is a miracle in a bowl. Truly a chicken noodle soup x 1,000.
David Chang’s Ramen from Lucky Peach
Pork Shoulder – start night before + 7 hours
1.25kg boneless pork shoulder with skin on
Freshly ground black pepper
Place the pork in a baking tray. Season the shoulder with the salt, sugar and some freshly ground black pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight in the fridge.
Seven hours before you plan to serve, preheat the oven to 120C. Place the seasoned pork in the oven to cook for a total of 6 hours. After 3 hours start basting the pork occasionally with the pan juices.
After 6 hours, take it out of the oven and leave it to rest on the bench for at least half an hour. Take off the pork crackle and either discard or share the spoils amongst the household (as if I would ever throw away crackle!). Using two forks, pull apart the meat into fringes of meat, known as pulled pork. Use at once in ramen or place in a container and store in the fridge or freezer until you are ready to use. Leftover pulled pork is great on sandwiches or bahn mi, so use the opportunity to cook extra.
Ramen Broth – 7 hours
55g kombu (or wakame)
40g dried shitake mushrooms, ground to powder
2.25kg chicken necks
1 bunch spring onions, roots and whites only (reserve the green for final dish)
In a large stockpot, heat the water to 65C. Turn off the heat and steep the kombu (or wakame) for 1 hour (I used wakame. Kombu is difficult to come by due to import restrictions amid investigations into adverse health effects for people with thyroid disease who consume large quantities of iodine-rich seaweed).
Remove and discard the kombu (or wakame – I dug mine into the vegie patch) and add the chicken necks. Bring to a gentle simmer and skim off the scum that rises to the top during the first 15 minutes of simmering. Add the shiitakes and adjust the heat so the broth simmers gently as an occasional bubble rising to the top, but nothing violent. Let it simmer for 5 hours.
Skim back the stock and strain through a fine sieve. Add 2.5L of tap water to the stock to bring it back up to about 4.5L in total. Place in a fridge to chill.
If you want to freeze the stock you can reduce the broth by half after skimming and straining. Then when it comes time to serve, mix 3 parts reduced stock with 7 parts tap water.
Wakame before and after || Making alkaline baking soda for the noodles
Pulverising the shiitakes
Tare – 2 hours
Makes just under 2 cups
1 chicken back (I used 6 chicken necks)
½ cup sake
½ cup mirin
1 cup usukuchi (light) soy sauce
150g smoked bacon (I used regular bacon cut into large pieces)
Roast the chicken back (or necks) in the saucepan you’ll later make the tare in. Start it out in the low oven at 120C, so it renders out some of the fat to cook in, or add a tiny bit of oil to the pan and cook over a medium high burner until it just starts to go brown. Increase the oven to 200C after 3 minutes and bake until you have a deep brown chicken back/necks to work with (about 20 minutes).
Remove the chicken back from the pan and add the sake. Scrape the pan to get all the tasty bits off the bottom. Return the chicken, set it over a medium-hot stove and add the remaining ingredients.
Lower the heat to get the contents of the pot to reach the barest of simmers. Keep it there for an 30 minutes to let the flavour infuse – you don’t want to reduce the liquid.
Strain the meat and bone out of the tare and discard them; put the tare in the fridge to chill. The fat solidifies and rises to the top, which can then be added by the teaspoon to finish off bowls of soup.
The tare on slow simmer || The final result
Alkaline Noodles – 2 hours
Makes 6 portions
3 cups (440g) plain flour
4 tsp baked soda (see first step below)
½ cup (100g) warm tap water
½ cup (100g) cold tap water
Preheat oven to 130C. Spread a half-cup baking soda on a foil-lined baking tray and place in the oven for 1 hour. This process turns the baking soda into baked soda which will make the noodles alkaline. This alkalinity will give the noodles a smooth mouthfeel and unique flavour. Store the extra baked soda in a jar with a lid indefinitely.
Put the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Dissolve the baked soda in it then add the cold water. Add the flour, stirring and mixing to form a crumbly dough.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface. Knead it together for a full five minutes – you will get a good arm workout. Wrap the dough in plastic and let it rest on the bench for 20 minutes, then knead for another 5 minutes (another good workout opportunity). Rewrap the dough and put it in the fridge for at least an hour.
Divide the dough into six portions. Roll each portion out using a pasta machine. Start at the thickest setting, refolding the dough on itself several times before passing through at the same setting several times. Then move onto the next setting, repeating the process. The final thickness of the noodle is up to you, as far as width and shape into which you cut them, I only went to the second setting on my pasta machine. Then either finely hand cut them or use a spaghetti cutter or better still, an angel hair cutter. Keep the noodles well-floured to prevent them from sticking.
When you are ready to serve your ramen, cook the noodles in a deep pot with plenty of water. Thin noodles will only need two and half minutes to cook. Check the noodles regularly while they are cooking; if they stick together strain them from the post and rinse them under cold water immediately to stop cooking and allow you rinse off any excess starch.
1 batch ramen broth
1 batch alkaline noodles
1 batch pulled pork
1 bunch shallot greens, sliced finely
½ cup tare (reserving the solidified bacon fat)
Place the broth in a large pot and season it with tare and salt to taste. Divide the seasoned broth between six warmed bowls.
Spoon a little of the bacon fat from the tare into each bowl and stir. Into each bowl add a portion of fresh alkaline noodles, a pile of pulled pork and a heap of green shallot. Enjoy!Share this on: