Riffs On Ramen
Slurp your way to savory bliss.
No matter how popular ramen gets or how celebrated noodle shops become (a nine-seat restaurant in Tokyo earned a Michelin star in 2016), there remains one essential truth about ramen and other noodles served ramen style. Nothing warms the heart like home cooking. Home, in fact, is where the love of noodles reaches its fullest expression. Nourishing, satisfying, welcoming. What’s for dinner? Chicken Miso Ramen, just the way you like it.
When you measure the history of anything in millennium, there’s a lot to talk about. And noodles go back at least 4,000 years. In recent decades, ramen earned a reputation as a budget friendly student staple, but that version is fried and dehydrated for fast cooking. Other options are now available to make fresh and serve in a wider range of settings.
By definition ramen noodles are wheat noodles. You’ll also find noodles in similar shapes and sizes made from rice and buckwheat, as well as other wheat noodles such as udon and somen. But ramen — which originated in China and soared to popularity in Japan after World War II — is a wheat product and is made with kansui, a mineral-rich water that’s alkaline and gives the noodles their golden color.
Much of the mystique ramen enjoys comes from the hearty broths almost always associated with the dish. The recipe for Chicken Miso Ramen outlines the steps, and note that you’ll need 2-4 hours to simmer a whole chicken (removing and refrigerating the meat after an hour and returning the bones to the stockpot). Only at the end, after you’ve strained the broth and are moments away from dinner, do you whisk in the miso along with pre-cooked noodles and shredded chicken.
What’s miso? Miso is made from fermented soybeans, sometimes with toasted barley or rice. It’s a key ingredient in Japanese cooking and exemplifies umami, considered one of the five basic taste perceptions along with sweet, sour, salty and bitter. Parmesan cheese and grilled steaks are other examples of umami. Here, miso gives this dish a rich, savory depth of flavor.
Here’s where a humble bowl of noodles gets all showy. Top it with Napa cabbage, lotus root and corn? Perfect. Or what about carrot slices, mushrooms, hard-boiled eggs and a dash of garlic chile sauce? That’s another great combo, and the options are endless. Friends and family can complete their meals however they like. That’s the beauty of ramen. It’s a versatile backdrop for healthy, great tasting meals everyone loves.
Simple yet infinitely adaptable, ramen opens the mind to all kinds of possibilities. Chicken Miso Ramen is an easy first step towards discovering the joy this age-old noodle brings to today’s favorite meals.