Keep On Ramen In The Free World

The container of bones, a more or less permanent denizen of the fridge, was particularly full recently; I had grilled a couple of chickens on a lovely afternoon when some friends came over and there were also two beef bones from a decadent ribeye dinner a few evenings prior. There aren’t a lot of bones that make better stock than grilled chicken, and the addition of some deep beefiness to that flavor was too tempting to resist. I needed to make ramen.

Lacking kansui, the alkaline salts used to impart a yellow color and characteristic chew to the noodles, I used Harold McGee’s nifty trick: if you bake baking soda (sodium bicarbonate) for an hour or so at around 300˚F, you end up with sodium carbonate, one of the two components of kansui and a stronger alkali than bicarb. I used a teaspoon in two cups of AP flour, plus a handful of gluten, with about a cup of water, and let it knead in the mixer for about ten minutes. Then I wrapped and rested it in the fridge.

The extra gluten and alkali make for a seriously springy dough, much more rubbery than regular pasta dough with or without eggs. It required many more trips than usual through the pasta roller on the thickest setting before it was supple enough to begin cranking the rollers closer together. If you try this, remember that it will look like a shit show for the first few minutes. I stopped at the second-narrowest setting, then rested the sheets for a bit before running them through the spaghetti cutter. I made the noodles into little nests and tossed them in plenty of flour until it was time to cook them.

About 45 seconds is enough at a rolling boil. I had skimmed, strained, and seasoned the stock, soft-boiled some eggs, and chopped some wild chives and mustard greens. The last of the homemade sambal added the perfect punctuation. It’s deeply satisfying to make food this compelling with a minimum of effort. Once the garden really gets going, I’ll revisit this with different greens, fresh peas, and kimchi.

2 comments to Keep On Ramen In The Free World

  • I’m not sure that qualifies in my book as minimum effort. Looks amazing!

  • Whenever I tire of the breathless BS, misinformation and dumbass cookery of ‘mass-appeal’ food blogs, I stop by here – where I know there’s real cooking, plus truth & beauty, and no shortage of genuine wit (and cusswords). Well. I stop by all the time regardless, but I’m always rewarded. Thanks ever so for keeping it real.

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I'm a painter who happens to also spend a lot of time growing, making, and writing about food. I'm particularly interested in the intersection of frugal peasant cooking techniques and haute improvisation. And I have a really great personality.

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