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Momofuku-ish Ramen in St. Louis

January 24, 2010

Like most food nerds, I jumped on the Momofuku bandwagon and bought the cookbook as soon as it was released.

But, I have a confession. I hadn’t heard of Momofuku & didn’t know who David Chang was before I read the book. Since everyone else seemed to know about him, I felt like a huge foodie failure. In an effort to redeem myself, I diligently read the cookbook cover to cover and even made Chang’s infamous pork belly buns at home. Now, I can see why people are obsessed over this book.

The Momofuku cookbook makes for a good read, with long narratives introducing the different sections (named after Chang’s restaurants: Noodle Bar, Ssam Bar, & Ko) and a casual, tongue-in-cheek—sometimes profane—writing style. The recipes, however, are fairly intimidating. I honestly don’t see many home cooks making some of these dishes, considering many of the unusual ingredients Chang calls for (yet, there is one couple who is attemping to cook all the recipes & blogging about it at Momofuku For 2). Then again, I can probably safely assume that only professional chefs and adventurous home cooks are the ones buying this book in the first place.

Chang’s “Momofuku ramen” is described on his menu simply: pork belly, pork shoulder, poached egg. In the cookbook, Chang writes: “Ramen = broth + noodles + meat + toppings and garnishes. It’s that simple and that complex, because the variations are endless. Ramen broth is usually made with pig bones and seaweed. Most places add seafood. We add bacon.”

Anyway, when I heard that Josh Galliano, executive chef at Monarch in Maplewood, was offering Momofuku style ramen as a special this weekend, I knew I had to try it. Galliano’s dish consists of a rich broth with noodles, a slice of crispy pork belly, and a poached egg.

I’d also heard that Sidney Street Café had a ramen dish on the menu, so I decided to be spontaneous and try it last night as well. Executive chef Kevin Nashan’s version is presented as a serving of noodles topped with a generous portion of roasted pork belly–sliced into several pieces–& a poached egg. Your server will pour a small amount of bacon dashi around your bowl at your table.

While both ramens had essentially the same four ingredients—broth, noodles, pork, egg—they were very different dishes. Monarch’s was soupier, as I think ramen should be, while Sidney Street’s was meatier, more like a meal by itself.

The Momofuku version consists of house-made noodles, broth made with shitakes/chicken/pork/bacon, sliced pork belly, shredded pork shoulder, and a slow-poached egg that is served topped with pieces of nori, sliced scallions, marinated bamboo shoots, store-bought fish cakes, & seasonal vegetables (peas in spring, corn in summer, and collard greens the rest of the year).

photo by Kenneth Chen from New York Magazine

If you’re so inclined to try this fancy version of ramen (I mean, we are not talking 10 cent packages of noodles with too salty broth), here is the Momofuku broth recipe…because a robust broth that is meaty, sweet, & salty is the key to delicious ramen.

Momofuku’s Ramen Broth

Makes 5 quarts

INGREDIENTS:

Two 3 by 6 inch pieces of Konbu

6 quarts water

2 cups dried shitakes, rinsed

4 pounds chicken, either a whole bird or legs

5 pounds meaty pork bones (Neck bones are best; shoulder & leg bones are very good. Ribs used alone is not recommended.)

1 pound smoky bacon

1 bunch scallions

1 medium onion, cut in half

2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped

Tare or kosher salt, soy sauce, & mirin

DIRECTIONS:

1. Rinse the konbu under running water, then combine it with the water in an 8-quart stockpot. Bring the water to a simmer over high heat and turn off the heat. Let steep for ten minutes.

2. Remove the konbu from the pot and add the shitakes. Turn the heat back up to high and bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat down so the liquid simmers gently. Simmer for 30 minutes, until the mushrooms are plumped and rehydrated and have lent the broth their color and aroma.

3. Heat the oven to 400F

4. Remove the mushrooms from the pot with a spider or slotted spoon. Add the chicken to the pot. Keep the liquid at a gentle simmer. Skim and discard any froth, foam or fat that rises to the surface of the broth with the chicken is simmering and replenish the water as necessary to keep the chicken covered. After about 1 hour, test the chicken: the meat should pull away from the bones easily. If it doesn’t, simmer until that’s the case and then remove the chicken from the pot with a spider or slotted spoon.

5. While the chicken is simmering, put the pork bones on a baking sheet or in a roasting pan and slide them into the oven to brown for an hour; turn them over after about 30 minutes to ensure even browning.

6. Remove the chicken from the pot and add the roasted bones to the broth, along with the bacon. Adjust the heat as necessary to keep the broth at a steady simmer; skim the scum and replenish the water as needed. After 45 minutes, fish out the bacon and discard it. Then gently simmer the pork bones for 6 or 7 hours—as much time as your schedule allows. Stop adding water to replenish the pot after hour 5 or so.

7. Add the scallions, onion and carrots to the pot and simmer for the final 45 minutes.

8. Remove and discard the spent bones and vegetables. Pass the broth through a strainer lined with cheesecloth. You can use the broth at this point or freeze it.

9. Finish the broth before serving by seasoning it to taste with tare (or use salt, soy sauce, & mirin). You want the finished broth to be “very seasoned” but not too salty. According to Chang, “under-seasoned broth is a crime.”

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 12, 2010 11:45 pm

    I loved soft boiled and poached eggs, but think both cooking techniques are not infallible. I saw this method today and decided to give it a try. It takes more time, but the outcome was amazing. Perfect soft eggs that just rolled out of the shell. How cool!! Thanks.

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