Sunday, January 07, 2007

Momo's-Bastard-Son Ramen

Writing and researching for the post about Momofuku Ando's death, it's obvious my thoughts turned to noodles. It's fitting and expected, and I was sure I could work through it, finish the post, then go make some oatmeal for breakfast.

But it kept nagging me. Louder and louder. Finally, I realized I couldn't brush it off. I needed noodles. Reluctant to step into a restaurant yet again, I took matters into my own hands. Using what I had in the house, supplemented by a couple fresh vegetables I sneaked across the street for (the first 80-cent receipt in the history of Whole Foods, I bet), I put together a bowl of ramen that, while not entirely authentic, more than satisfied the need for rich salty broth and noodles.

Purists would roll their eyes at the concoction, but I managed to approach the rich, complex broth, traditionally reached through long simmers of pork meat and bones, using an unorthodox combination of chicken breast, a touch of corn starch, and a poached egg. Not exactly an innovation of Momofuku proportions, but on this blustering winter day in Los Angeles (it's 70 degrees right now), it hit the spot.

Momo's-Bastard-Son Ramen

The boneless skinless chicken breast was a martyr to the broth -- after it imparted its flavor and whatever richness it could muster, it was thoroughly spent: too dry to eat. But it was a worthy sacrifice. If you have chicken bones or skin, or a fattier cut, you'll end up with a richer broth.

The broth:
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
3-4 1/2 inch slices boneless, skinless chicken breast (about one-third of one breast; see note above)
1 shiitake mushroom, cut into 1/2 inch slices
1 package instant miso soup (I used Mishima red miso soup)
pinch ground ginger
crushed red pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
about 1/2 teaspoon corn starch

The rest:
a one-inch-diameter bunch of long skinny noodles (ramen would be ideal, I won't tell if you use somen or soba or even angel hair!)
1 egg
1 small handful spinach leaves
nori to garnish, optional

In a small pot, heat sesame oil over medium heat. Add garlic, stir to spread oil across bottom of pot. Lay chicken pieces down in pot in a single layer. After about a minute, add 2 cups water and stir, lifting chicken pieces off the bottom of the pot. Bring mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add mushroom slices, miso soup mix, ginger, pepper, and soy sauce. Stir, increase heat to return to a boil, then reduce to a simmer again. Sprinkle half of cornstarch into broth and stir through. Repeat with second half. Continue to simmer broth, stirring occasionally while preparing noodles -- the longer it sits, the better.

Meanwhile, bring 4 cups water to a boil in a medium pot. Add noodles, and boil about 2 minutes less than the package instructions dictate (since they'll be going into hot broth). When they are done cooking, remove them from the water with a pasta server, slotted spoon, forks, or spider, to serving bowl. Keep water boiling over heat.

Poach egg in the noodle water: stir water in a circular motion to create a little vortex in the center. Crack egg into vortex. After about 1 minute use a slotted spoon to remove egg from water and place atop noodles.

Ladle broth over noodles and egg, avoiding chicken pieces. Place spinach leaves atop broth in a corner of the bowl (I know, a circle doesn't have corners, bear with me here, wiseacre), pushing down slightly to start them cooking in the broth. If you've got it, garnish with nori.

Serves 1.


  1. What a noble recipe! Did the poached egg work out? I always think that's the crowning joy of a good bowl of ramen, and I often over cook it (crumbly yolk not as good as runny yolk, clearly!)

  2. the poached egg yolk was runny and fatty and perfect. you know, annie, i saw a tutorial somewhere online once where this guy poached an egg in plastic wrap -- it kept a cute little ball shape, and was damn near perfect. i'll see if i can find it.