I can’t make ramen without thinking of my dad. As a young adult my dad lived in Korea, and though ramen is a traditional Japanese dish, he still gained a fondness for it over there. Growing up my dad would make packages of instant top ramen and crack an egg into it. I loved the ramen, but the egg disgusted me. I didn’t know eggs could be good any other way than scrambled or hard boiled. So now I’m all grown up and try to avoid packaged foods. So how can I still enjoy the childhood comfort of ramen? Make it myself of course! Ramen shops in Japan are like hamburger joints in the United States. They are everywhere! It’s a staple food. There are all kinds of ramen. I decided to go with a Shio variety of ramen. Shio ramen is the oldest variety and is based off a chicken stock. Can’t go wrong with a classic! All you have to do to make your own ramen is come up with an Asian style chicken stock and go from there. I utilized the slow cooker to make it incredibly easy. Toss it in the crockpot in the morning, come back at night and whip up the noodles (and we know those literally only take a couple minutes to cook). Talk about an easy dinner! And unlike those instant version, you know exactly what went into this stuff and with the many types of veggie add-ins you could use, you know you are getting something much healthier. I decided to add in some chili oil tableside for that extra kick. Wowzers people. You will be amazed by what ramen noodles really can be!
4 carrots, cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1 onion, large dice
1 cup sliced shitake mushrooms
1 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp salt
Leftover Chicken Bones
8 cups water
1/2 cup olive oil
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Veggie and Add-In Options: baby bok choy (pictured), shitake mushrooms (pictured), bamboo shoots, scallions, corn, bean sprouts, boiled egg, chicken
1. In a large slow cooker, combine the carrot chunks, onion chunks, shitakes, ginger, garlic, salt, chicken bones, and water. (If you do not have chicken bones on hand you can replace the chicken bones and water with straight canned chicken stock). Cook on high for 8 hours.
2. To make the chili oil, combine the olive oil and red pepper flakes in a small saucepan. Cook over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat, strain, and let cool. Set aside until ready to serve.
3. When ready to eat, strain the crockpot contents into a large saucepan so you have a nice broth. Bring the broth to a boil and add in your ramen noodles* Cook until noodles are done (somewhere between 2 and 4 minutes depending on the kind of noodles you buy).
4. Remove the noodles from the broth and put them in a bowl to serve. Top with desired add-ins. When ready to eat, spoon the broth into the bowl and drizzle with chili oil.
*Some stores sell packaged ramen noodles in their Asian section. They look very similar to a package of spaghetti noodles. These are preferred over the instant top ramen as those are flash fried. But, if you can’t find better noodles, the instant top ramen will work. Just discard the enclosed MSG spice packet.
What makes ramen noodles so special? Ramen is an alkaline noodle. It is the opposite of acidity which means it has a higher pH. Chemistry! Something about how the high pH interacts with the gluten of the wheat makes the noodles hold up better in liquids than your standard Western style noodle. It makes ramen perfect for soups. It was developed in China, but has become an absolute staple in Japan.