A couple of Saturday’s back (26 March 2011), my wife and I wandered over to Sapporo Ramen at Porter Square in Cambridge. We had looked up the restaurant and decided to give it a try (especially given my wife’s fondness for noodles in soup). I was aware that the original driving force behind the restaurant, Chef Ken Kojima had headed home to Japan (http://www.boston.com/ae/food/restaurants/articles/2011/01/19/restaurant_owner_ken_kojima_is_using_his_noodle_and_going_home/ ), so I was a little leery about the quality of the food. I did notice after doing some research that most reviews strongly reccomended the house ramen or the miso ramen. So when my wife and I got there, we chose to go with the house ramen (since we thought that that is what they did best). It was a pleasant meal, but my wife and I both noticed that the broth was cloudy yellow and that the broth had a muddy aftertaste – the latter was something neither of us were expecting. I’d done Morimoto’s Chicken noodle soup twice before (once for myself before I got married and once for my wife, for a lunch, just before we got married). So I thought last Saturday, I’d do a ramen soup using Morimoto’s chicken noodle soup recipe. The online variation of this recipe can be found here –
I should point out that the broth in the online recipe is not the shanton broth as used in the original recipe and is very beef-heavy.
The thing about Morimoto’s recipe is that, in some regards, it’s reasonably simple to prepare. It’s basically shredded chicken, on top of soup noodles in a shanton broth (see https://tastingmenu.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/on-chinese-superior-broth-%E9%AB%98%E6%B9%AF%E4%B8%8A%E6%B9%AF/). The extra item is the mencha – noodle soup seasoning. When I want ramen noodles, I’ll actually go to Morimoto’s recipe instead of buying that cup-of-noodles like market item and make mine from scratch. Probably the only concession I’ll make is buying the plain dry ramen pasta (like buying dry italian pasta) for the dish. Morimoto recomends using inaniwa udon, but I will periodically buy the plain dry ramen noodles. Probably the only difficulty in doing this dish is sourcing the shiro shoya (white soy sauce). Fortunately I’d gotten a hold of some bottles of shiro shoyu from the late Kotobukiya before it closed. Once I run out of this, I’ll need to try and find another supplier of this item. So here’s what the ingredient I used looks like –
Arguably, I’m not quite making the same dish, since I chose to use the boneless skinless chicken thighs as the chicken for this dish, rather than making another batch of chicken cooked with szechuan peppercorns and sake. In any event, I decided to make a half-order of the mencha recipe; instead of the peeled/crushed garlic and ginger, I chose the grate them.
After prepping the garlic, ginger and scallions, I sauteed them with 3/4 teaspoons of white peppercorns and once they were fragrant, I added in shiro soy/sake/sugar/salt mix with 1/4 cup of water. I brought the mencha to a boil, reduced the heat to 50% power to simmer. It actually took me about 25 minutes or so to reduce by half as specified in the recipe. While Morimoto’s recipe calls for inaniwa udon, I wanted to use ramen noodles here with Sapporo Ramen’s dish in mind. Now, I suppose I could have used Sapporo Ichiban, but my wife had found “Wu Mu” ramen made in Taiwan that was NOT pre-fried (and so didn’t have that coating of oil on the noodles).
While the mencha was cooling, I went and shredded the boneless skinless chicken thighs I had used to make the shanton broth and then minced up some scallions (green part). I know Morimoto’s recipe called for finishing the dish with hot peanut oil but I thought it would be nicer if I could add that extra scallion flavor/fragrance via heat scallion oil (I had leftovers from the Morimoto lobster soup event).
Once that was all done, it was then just a matter of cooking the pasta, draining it and then assembling the dish…
I remember when I last made this, I found that the mencha to be quite salty, so instead of the tablespoon and a half, I pulled back and used just 1 tablespoon per bowl instead. As it would turn out, that was just the right amount of saltiness.
I went and heated 4 tablespoons of the scallion oil until it just started to smoke, immediately pulled it off the heat and spooned 2 tablespoons atop the minced scallions per bowl and served.
My wife and I both thought about our Sapporo Ramen meal and this offering from Morimoto and agreed that we both liked this recipe better. We both felt that the crucial issue was the quality of the broth used. We both wondered how different the Sapporo ramen dish might have been had they used a clarified version of their broth.
A microbatch of the mencha would be:
- a few small peeled cloves of garlic, grated
- 1/2″ thick thumbnail sized of peeled ginger, grated
- 1 cleaned derooted scallion cut into 1 1/2″ lengths
- 3/4 t white peppercorns
- 1/2 c shiro soy sauce
- 2 T sake
- 1/4 c water
- 1 tablespoons salt
1 t sugar(I personally skip this)
Basically making the sauce is gently sauteeing the garlic, ginger, scallion, peppercorns until fragrant then add the rest of the ingredients, bring to a boil for about 2 minutes and then simmer for about 10 minutes