I know a few people who consider a box of macaroni and cheese the perfect comfort food (meaning my two daughters). For me, however, comfort food is usually a packet of ramen. Inevitably it’s either beef or chicken and it is sold in a box of 48 at (surprise!) Costco. I make this particular variety with 1¾ cups of water, as opposed to the 2 cups the package calls for; plus, I like to break up the noodles before cooking them. Yes, we all have our ridiculous rituals. This is my go-to meal when I’ve had surgery, or when there’s nothing much around the house. This doesn’t happen too often, maybe once a month (not surgery, obviously, just the “not having much around the house” bit). So a box of 48 ramen packets lasts a long while.
Sometimes I go nuts and cook two packages and share it with Bob. Or there’s the absolutely crazy times when I add meat and/or vegetables to it for a more substantial meal. But this really doesn’t happen often, since, as you might have guessed, I spend a lot of time cooking REAL food, and not opening packages. And here is a photo from a recent dinner:
For some bizarre reason, my BFF from elementary school sent me a copy of David Chang’s Momofuku for my 50th birthday. I don’t know why, since we haven’t exchanged gifts since mid-school, but I really appreciated it since I had been messing around with all the hobbity comfort food around that time, and I was glad to look at some upscale Asian recipes for a change. It was also refreshing to read about Chang’s struggles getting all of his business ventures off the ground.
The first recipe is actually Momofuku Ramen. Finally, I could make some REAL RAMEN!!!
And then you start reading the recipe—always a good policy before you dash off to the grocery store, half-cocked and desperate for oodles of noodles.
The recipe on page 39 starts with “First, get everything ready.”
Okay—what needs to be ready?
2 cups Ramen Broth (recipe on page 40)
Taré (…page 42…)
5 to 6 ounces fresh ramen noodles (sigh…page 48, though Chang does admit you really don’t need to make these)
2 to 3 slices Pork Belly (page 50)
½ cup Pork Shoulder for Ramen (page 51)
Two 3-by-3-inch sheets nori (oh, this you just have to buy and cut)
¼ cup thinly sliced scallions (again, no page reference, hurray!)
2 thin slices store-bought fish cake (guess I’ll be making a trip to Talin Market, our largest local ethnic grocery…)
4 or 5 pieces Bamboo Shoots (page 54—can’t I just open a can here??? Nope, there’s a whole paragraph on prepping your shoots…)
¼ cup Seasonal Vegetables (another trip to page 54)
1 Slow-Poached Egg (page 52)
And this serves one.
As I look at page 40, I see Ramen Broth. The recipe makes 5 quarts. It has its own list of preparations, although I see Taré again, so that should save some time…and you can substitute some other sort of sodium product for Taré, such as kosher salt, soy sauce, or mirin. Oh dear, I see that the 5 pounds of meaty pork bones alone will require simmering for 6-7 hours, or “as much time as your schedule allows.” Fortunately, you can freeze this stock, although I’m not sure if I have enough containers or even room in the freezer…
Chang suggests using Benton’s smoky bacon for this stock, so that entails a trip to page 147 to read about the curing process for this fabulous bacon. In the end, I am not interested in having to order a pound of bacon that will most likely arrive in Styrofoam and/or dry ice. So, my ramen broth might be inferior if I end up using Hormel. I’ll just have to be content with that.
I read the entire book and found many recipes that sound great and a just a few that don’t sound so great. I thought perhaps I’d make it a long-term goal/project to try most everything and occasionally blog about the experiences. And maybe I will actually do this—I’ll place these posts under the category called “Momofuku Musings.”
Now, I’m a bit tired from reading about all these ingredients and their preparations. Time to head to the pantry and cook up some ramen. I think it’ll be chicken tonight…