If you think ramen is that dried cup-of-noodle stuff that you used to stock up on in your college days of yore, well, you'd be partially right. But in Japan, ramen is whole nother animal and literally a national obsession with many regional iterations in terms of the type of noodles used (could be egg or wheat, but always fresh) and the underlying soup stock (soy/shoyu, Shio, miso, curry, etc., etc.). Luckily, there are a number of really good and authentic ramen noodle joints from CA to NY, so we're not exactly deprived of this delectable Japanese street/home-style offering. I used to buy ramen from 99 Ranch Market which came prepackaged with the egg noodles and soup base, and it was pretty good. But, it wasn't until I came across the cookbook Japanese Soul Cooking: Ramen, Tonkatsu, and More from the Streets and Kitchens of Tokyo and Beyond by Tadashi Ono (a New York-based chef) and Harris Salat that I was inspired to try my hand at making a basic shoyu (soy sauce-based) ramen soup from scratch. It wasn't as daunting as I thought it would be and the end result was simply delicious! You just have to do this dish in steps: first make the soy sauce eggs, then the master broth, then the soy sauce tare, cook the noodles, and finally assemble the dish. I made just some minor adaptations to the cookbook's recipes, but otherwise they're essentially the same.
Soy Sauce Eggs:
1 cup water
1 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup sake
1/4 cup mirin
2 cloves garlic
2 pcs. ginger
1 star anise
2 scallions, cut into 1" sections
1. Bring a medium pan of water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium.
2. Prick the bottom of each egg carefully with a pin to make a small hole.
3. Place the eggs into the boiling water and cook for approximately 7 minutes (for a soft-boiled egg). Using a spoon or other utensil, swirl the eggs around the pan for the first couple of minutes of cooking to help the yolks stay centered inside the eggs.
4. Remove the pan from the heat and immediately place under cold running tap water to stop the cooking. Let the eggs cool completely and then peel.
5. Combine the water, soy sauce, sake, mirin, garlic, ginger, star anise and scallions into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
6. Pour the soy marinade into a bowl and add the peeled eggs (make sure the eggs are covered with the marinade). Cover and refrigerate for 10-12 hours (no longer, or else the eggs will be too salty). Remove the eggs from the marinade. If not using right away, place in a container, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Ramen Soup Base:
7 quarts of water
2 lbs. chicken parts (or wings, drumettes, etc.), rinsed under cold water
2 pcs. of ginger, lightly smashed with flat of knife blade
2 cloves garlic, smashed
1 scallion, cut into 2" sections
1 medium carrot, cut into large dice
1 lb. pork shoulder (pork butt), tied with kitchen twine
1. Add all ingredients into a large pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered for 2 hours or until stock is reduced by about 1/3. Skim off any scum that forms on top during this time.
2. Remove the pork shoulder to a cutting board and let cool completely. Strain the broth through a sieve (discard the chicken parts & veggies) and let cool. If not using the pork and stock right away, cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Soy Sauce Tare:
1 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup sake
2 tbsp. mirin
1 pc. ginger, lightly smashed with flat of knife blade
1 scallion, cut into 1" pieces
1 clove garlic, smashed
1. Place all the ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat.
2. Turn off the heat and set aside.
1 lb. fresh ramen noodles (egg or wheat) or 2 17-oz. pkgs. Yakisoba noodles (blanched 20 seconds)
1 lb. spinach, blanched in boiling water about 1 minute, then rinsed under cold water
3 scallions, thinly sliced for garnish
Menma (pickled bamboo), optional
1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Blanch the spinach 1 minute, then remove to a colander and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking. Squeeze or blot dry with paper towels, remove to a chopping board and cut into 2" sections.
2. In the meantime, slice the boiled pork shoulder (Chasu) into thin slices and cut each soy sauce egg in half; set aside.
3. Place the ramen soup base in a pot and bring up to a boil, then reduce heat and keep on a low simmer.
4. Bring the water for the spinach back up to a boil, add the noodles and cook 2-3 minutes or according to package instructions. Turn off heat and drain the noodles into a colander.
5. Place 1 cup of the Soy Sauce Tare and 2 cups of hot ramen soup base into each serving bowl (should make 4 servings). Divide the noodles between the 4 bowls and top with several slices of the pork chase, some spinach, 1 soy sauce egg (halved), sliced scallions and pickled bamboo (optional). Serve immediately while it's piping hot!