My love for ramen started precociously, sitting at my third-grade desk in Phoenix, breaking up the deep-fried-and-freeze-dried once-were-noodles in their little cellophane bags, sprinkling the MSG-laden powdered flavor packet (this was, of course, before they were used as currency in Litchfield prison) on top of the little crunchy bits, shoving them in my face and shivering maniacally from a sodium high. I’m pretty sure I wrote a poem about it.. almost positive.
This David Chang. That’s right, people. On my “list”, sandwiched in between Clay Matthews and Benedict Cumberbatch (I had to super white-girl in there somewhere, you knew that.). Comfortingly–or not so comfortingly–I don’t thing I’m alone, though, seeing as how “david chang wife” is what Google suggests I search next.
Anyway, as I blew through episode of episode of The Mind of a Chef a few years back, I fell madly in love–with my eyes and ears–with steaming bowls of rich tonkatsu, chewy noodles, perfectly creamy soft-boiled eggs, meltingly tender chashu pork. We live in Memphis, so we were without any real ramen joints at the time, and I waited with little patience as one of our favorite restauranteurs here built and opened a izakaya. So I decided to make tonkatsu from scratch, having never actually tasted it before, and $30 in pork bones and 12 hours later, I had my first bowl of the perfect broth–ah! So rich, a little salty, full-bodied, it was love at first slurp. A loaded bowl of tonkatsu sounds good to me for just about any meal and was actually what I requested for dinner the day Leo was born! But making it at home is such a process.. one for which I have little patience anymore. And besides, if it doesn’t turn out amazingly well, you’re already so invested, you might just shed a couple tears (in theory……).
So I decided to combine two concepts gleaned from Chef Chang–the emulsification of fat in water that essentially makes a tonkatsu broth (and why it’s milky and not clear) and the use of bacon in infusing flavor to broths. Chang makes a rowdy bacon dashi, but I decided to take it one step further and essentially emulsify the bacon fat in water to mimic the richness of a tonkatsu in a fraction of the time.
The resulting broth is rich and smoky and salty, but not overly so on any of those profiles. The noodles absorb the flavor, the soft-boiled egg yolk offers a creaminess that I simply can’t (and won’t!) get over, the sautéed used bacon is surprisingly tender. It comes together quickly and is so, so satisfying. Don’t think that it’s too “bacony” either–it really isn’t! You can really dooty (yep) it up here, too, adding whatever sounds good and that you have on hand. At our ramen joint, I often load my bowl up with kimchi, spinach, bamboo shoots, pickled ginger, shiitake mushrooms, corn.. and at home with tofu, fresh mushrooms, and any veggies we have on hand.
- 4 cups water
- 2 cloves garlic , peeled and smashed
- 3 1/4 " slices ginger
- 6 slices bacon
- oil , to fry
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- salt , to taste
- 2 servings ramen noodles , from dry, fresh, or frozen, cooked according to package
- chopped fresh spinach , to serve
- togarashi , Japanese spice blend, to serve
- green onions , sliced, to serve
- soft-boiled eggs , to serve - <a href="http://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-peel-eggs-fastest-easiest-article" target="_blank" data-mce-href="http://www.epicurious.com/expert-advice/how-to-peel-eggs-fastest-easiest-article">this is the *best* method</a>. I follow this method but cook about 6 minutes instead of 9.
- black sesame seeds , to serve
Combine water, garlic, ginger, and bacon in a medium saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a strong simmer/low boil. Let cook together for 30 minutes.
Strain out aromatics and bacon and separate boiled bacon. Discard ginger and garlic. In a skillet over medium heat, add a glug of oil (vegetable, if you're into that; olive; coconut--whatever, really, as long as it doesn't have a very strong taste) and fry bacon until browned. Add salt to re-flavor your bacon. Remove from heat and slice into bite-size pieces.
Add soy sauce and mirin to broth then salt to taste. Place noodles in serving bowl and ladle broth over. Garnish with desired toppings and serve.