Gordon took me on a fancy date to Salaryman at the end of last year. It completely reignited my love of ramen. I’m a woman, obsessed.
The first time I had ramen was with my Japanese exchange family in Nagoya, I was 14. They took me to lots of amazing restaurants, including a sushi place where they served the prawns so fresh the tails were still moving. Yes, I squealed and yes, I ate it out of national pride, because the entire restaurant was looking at me.
Despite all the fancy outings, my favourite meal was the home cooked ramen, although I struggled when they served it to me for breakfast. I’d been raised on Vegemite on toast and I just couldn’t make it through the broth at that hour, but now I’d love someone to make me a fresh steaming ramen for breakfast. How things change…
I returned to Tokyo at 19. I had a job working on a TV show and in a fancy hostess bar at night. The hostessing didn’t last long, because I was a complete failure at being paid to be nice to people and smile. I’d pour drinks, light cigarettes and look up to see my soul be sucked out through the industrial ventilation system.
Even now, twenty years later, my heart folds up at the thought of that job, but it did give me an allergy to soulless jobs and a desire to help women in need and for that I am eternally grateful.
I think the ramen got me through. I’d slurp a bowl as I ran between jobs. It does something magical to my soul. It warms my belly and heart all at the same time, like an appetising hug.
Now, my kids love it too. We call it wiggly worm soup and it always makes us fall about laughing as we all slurp up the worms. But sometimes, we serve it as a grown up meal and don’t mention the worms…
How to make ramen
It’s the dashi that makes this dish, so it’s worth hunting down. You can buy it as a powdered stock from Japanese and Asian supermarkets. Although, I’m going to try Mikko Brand, Dashi Miso (available at Harris Farm, but healthfood stores seem to stock it too) when my dashi supply runs out, because I like the idea of fresher ingredients with less weird stuff.
Once you have the broth the way you want it, you really can play with this recipe. You can add any protein you like. I love the whiting listed, but grilled tofu or left over steak or chicken is good too.
We added some pickled carrot and daikon that we had in the fridge (that’s the white noodle-looking stuff).
Technically, ramen is supposed to have wheat noodles, but I love buckwheat. Apparentlly its a fruit seed relative of rubarb and not technically a grain and people get very excited about how good it is for our health, but mainly I love the earthiness.
2 tablespoon soy sauce/tamari
370 g buckwheat soba noodles
2 ½ cups dashi (made according to instructions)
2 tablespoons white or shiro miso (optional)
1 tablespoon soy sauce/tamari
1 tablespoon of coconut or grape seed oil
2 whiting fillets
1 bunch bok choy or 2 handfuls English spinach
4 spring onions, finely sliced
2 radishes finely chopped (optional)
1 carrot very finely sliced
Eggs: boil eggs by placing eggs in a saucepan of cold water over a medium heat and bring to a simmer and simmer for 4-7 minutes depending on how soft or hard you like your eggs. Peel the eggs and place in a jar with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, shake the jar to coat the eggs in soy sauce and leave to sit while you prepare every thing else.
Noodles: boil the soba noodles according to the directions on the packet, drain and rinse.
Broth: prepare the dashi according to the instructions on the packet for 2 ½ cups water. Bring to boil, stir in miso (if using) and soy sauce. Taste and check if you’d like more soy sauce. Turn heat down to a low simmer.
Fish: heat oil in a skillet over a medium high heat and fry fish 2 minutes on either side. Rest in a warm place while preparing the other ingredients.
Soup: to the broth, add bok choy, carrots, radishes and spring onions. Once the bok choy is soft add cooked noodles, to broth and remove from heat. Divide the soup and noodles between two bowls. Slice eggs in half and place on top of the soup with cooked fish (and pickled vegetables if you have them).