Sunday, March 01, 2009

rachel ramen

I was always remember the day I came up with the concept of rachel-ramen. pebbles, the Scotsman and i had spent a week traipsing round Hokkaido in a little rented Suzuki hatchback, driving to furano to see the lavender fields (and to eat some dodge tasting lavender ice-cream, and forgettable Japanese cheddar), cape erimo for the scotsman’s virgin experience with the atlantic ocean (where we kipped out in our sleeping bags beneath a lighthouse, and pebbles went stalking a fox), detouring to obihiro to eat buta-don, and asahidake where the two of them made me sleep in a tent and where I kept them up with my snoring. the snoring was payback for the tent.

we had started and ended the trip in Sapporo, and there we were, sitting on our backpacks, waiting for the train to the airport for the flight back to Tokyo. and as we waited, I wrote in my journal and came up with rachel-ramen.

I had in that week eaten an abundance of ramen. Hokkaido is known for the miso-ramen variant, heaped with crab legs and sweet corn. I absolutely adore miso ramen – the springiness of the noodles, the comforting earthiness of miso, the heady nuttiness of sesame oil, the bite of bamboo shoots, the freshness of a sprinkling of chopped scallions. sometimes you got cha-siew -slips of fatty rolled pork stewed in shoyu and mirin. I loved it when there was ni-tamago, with its set white, but quivering yolk. each ramen-ya had a different stock base, formulated through years of experience and hours of dedicated simmering. I always felt a slight tinge of melancholy as I came to the inevitable end of a ramen meal and as my soup spoon scraped the bottom of the bowl. it was as I was bidding adieu. it wasn’t just a bowl of noodles.

af had given me the worst insult by having french toast at hubbub just before he came to lunch. his excuse was that when I said I was making ramen for lunch, he assumed it was going to be pot-noodles-esque. pot noodles from my kitchen? and how long has he known me? only since we were seventeen.

the concept of rachel-ramen wasn’t complicated – I was just going to put things i liked rather than the usual ramen toppings of bamboo shoots, beansprouts, sweetcorn and cha-siew. and besides I hate sweetcorn. I’ve never seen the point.

I made the stock base by roasting a kilo of pork ribs till they achieved a somewhat honeyed hue, browned a couple of chicken thighs in the pan, and boiled/simmered the ribs and the chicken with carrots and half an onion for almost 12 hours. the end result was a thick, deeply brown and happily gelatinous stock which was then thinned with a little water and heaped tablesppons of shiro-miso to form the soup base. I wish I had time to get better ramen noodles, but had to do with the ones from the local oriental supermarket, which were adequate to a point and relatively springy. and to these noodles doused in soup, I topped the bowl with a handful of baby spinach which wilted in the hot soup, a panko-ed pork katsu loin fillet, a prawn and pork wanton, firm tofu slices, a sprinkling of chopped scallions and an extra tiny drizzle of sesame oil. I also added half an attempted ni-tamago. I had followed the promptings of various food blogs but when I cracked the eggs open to check on their progress, my heart sank when they turned out overcooked.

af was ultimately forgiven. he did after all eat the entire bowl of ramen. and we have been mates for a long time. I dug out my old japan journal and looked for the page with my rachel ramen ramblings on it and we had a little chuckle – save for a couple of extra ingredients, I almost got it exactly as I planned all those years ago.


Post a Comment

<< Home