|Spicy ramen... there's soup in there somewhere - Photo by Wasabi Prime|
I noodle around with noodle soups now and then, and I think Asian soups like Japanese ramen or Vietnamese pho are the most fun to eat because they're designed to be edible blank canvases. You can customize those noodle bowls to your liking. You get a savory, flavorful broth, some plain noodles, and then have at it, adding a variety of fresh, pickled and cooked ingredients, designing some really great flavor combinations and textural experiences.
|Kukai ramen's ooey-gooey egg, and some dan dan from Szechuan Chef... just because - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
Kukai's soft-boiled eggs get a lot of lip service, but I don't want that to overshadow their broth, which is really well-done and flavorful. And that leads me to this post, which is all about building flavor for a soup base. My at-home version of ramen is completely nontraditional, but the point of home cooking is to make something to your taste, since chances are you're going to be eating it for a few meals.
|The several-day duck stock/spicy ramen experience - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
This version of a ramen broth is somewhere in between a spicy shoyu/tonkatsu soup, with additional flavorings added to the finished stock, so you don't really have to go the extra mile of making a duck-based stock from scratch. Plain chicken or beef broth will do just fine. Plus, making your own stock can be a challenge if you're pressed for time -- it really adds an extra day, since I like letting the stock settle overnight so that I can skim off any excess fat and separate any stock sediment that settles to the bottom. If you like doing everything from-scratch, go for it, but if you're like most people and are so busy you don't know if you should scratch your watch or wind your butt, don't worry about it. The stock's visual clarity isn't crucial, since one of the added ingredients is miso paste, which clouds it up a bit, and then I also add the Almighty Rooster-riffic Sriracha for heat, soy sauce for both color and saltiness, some sugar to balance the savory and some rice wine vinegar to brighten it up a little.
|The soup is one thing, then it's all about the add-ons - Photos by Wasabi Prime|
So along those lines, here's my recipe for the spicy ramen base that says to hell with tradition or eating typical summer foods in June. Be a rebel, eat spicy soup in summer!
Spicy Miso Ramen Soup Base
3 quarts of stock (chicken, beef, whatever you have handy)
1/3 cup of red miso paste
1 tablespoon of rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon Sriracha (more if you like it extra spicy)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon sugar
Get a large soup pot and heat to medium high. Add all the ingredients and some of the stock, using a whisk to break down the miso paste. Pour in the rest of the stock and allow soup to come to a boil before taking it down to a low simmer. Taste and modify to your preference, adding more spice, sugar or soy sauce. It's your soup, make it how you like it!
Keep warm for serving with ingredients of your choice like noodles, vegetables and meat. The soup is just a base, so build as you wish.