Lucky Peach ramen part 2: Broth and garnish
If the noodles are the body of a bowl of ramen, the broth is its soul. There are lots of different styles of broths, from basic dashi to chicken stock to intense, pork-based tonkotsu, or any blend of the above. These are then seasoned with a tare or kaeshi sauce concentrate, which roughly determines the “style” of the ramen: soy sauce, salt or miso.
Lucky Peach offers a sampling of different broths (chicken-and-shiitake, bacon dashi, tonkotsu) as well as a soy sauce tare infused with chicken and bacon. I used the magazine’s tare, though I kludged it a bit with chicken wings instead of a chicken back, but I ignored all the broths in favour of a simple iriko (aka niboshi) dashi. I did borrow Momofuku’s trick of powdering the dried shiitake mushrooms to infuse them into the broth, however. Dried shiitakes are a lot easier to grind to powder than I would’ve thought! As it turned out, my iriko dashi, while tasty, didn’t quite have the boldness or body I was looking for, so experimentation on that front will have to continue. Once I’ve nailed a broth I’m happy with, I’ll start tweaking the tare as well.
And if I can carry my metaphor to its logical overextension, garnishes are the ramen’s clothes: they can be serviceable prêt à porter touches to add a little extra flavour and colour to the dish, or they can be sophisticated couture that elevates the dish. I split the difference, piling on some basics like green onions, beni-shouga, narutomaki, and some leftover sliced pork tenderloin, but also taking the opportunity to gussy it up a bit with an Ideas in Food 13-minute onsen egg. Chang and Meehan go on at length in Lucky Peach about the importance of eggs in a bowl of ramen, and offer a technique for making slow-poached eggs even if you don’t have an immersion circulator.
I’m fortunate enough to have one, though, and I’ve been wanting to try the 13-minute onsen egg for a while, because it takes a different approach to egg cookery than I’ve used in the past. Instead of setting a target temperature and holding the egg there for an hour, you set a higher temperature (75°C) and cook your (58g to 62g) eggs for a mere 13 minutes. The result? An absolutely luscious, silken egg with a better texture and shorter cooking time than other slow-cooked eggs I’ve had. It doesn’t get any better than that.
How do you like to dress up your ramen?