I am embarrassed to admit that up until about three months ago the only Ramen I had ever eaten was the cheap instant variety that is found in every grocery store. What's even more embarrassing is that I lived in Japan for two years when I was in the Navy. Ramen seems to be very popular lately and is getting a lot of attention both locally and across the country. I figured it was time I got in on the craze so I started looking around for places that serve Ramen so that I could start sampling a few different varieties.
I tried a Tonkatsu Ramen with a curry broth at Masa, in Minneapolis that was my favorite by far, until I made my own. I also tried two different Shoyu Ramens one at Moto-I in Minneapolis and the other at United Noodles in Minneapolis. Both were very good and the thing I like most about these bowls of Ramen, was the noodles. The Ramen noodles from the instant packages are horrible in comparison to the noodles that I had in all three of the Ramens I tried. After a little research I found out that I needed to find fresh Ramen noodles and try cooking them. I checked all the Asian food stores in my area and had no luck finding fresh ramen. When I was up at United Noodles however I did find fresh ramen noodles called Kaedama made by Sun. They come in a two pack and can be frozen for up to 3 months so I stocked up. You can buy the noodles by themselves or with soup packet very similar to the instant variety.
The noodles don't take long to cook, the instructions on the back give time frames based on what texture you want your noodles. I cooked the noodles for 3 minutes and the firm chewy texture was exactly what I wanted. The noodles actually had a spring to them that you just can't get with instant ramen.
For this bowl of ramen I kind of used a mash up of several different recipes but if you had to classify this as a certain type of ramen I suppose it would be a Shoyu Ramen. A proper bowl of ramen is not a quick lunch time meal. It requires many different steps and if you are going to make this at home it is kind of an involved process.
I should throw out a disclaimer here, I am not a ramen expert. In fact when I started reading about ramen I was shocked at how many different kinds of ramen there are and how very little I actually new about ramen. There are terms and techniques that I have never heard of and even after looking them up I'm still not sure what they mean. So this recipe for ramen may not be as complete as it should be but it is still very good.
When I decided to make a bowl of ramen I knew one thing, I wanted to make a duck focused bowl of ramen and incorporate a few other wild ingredients into the meal. Ideally I would have used some type of wild mushroom that I foraged but when I made this there was still 6 inches of snow on the ground so I bought enoki mushroom at the store. When I read about ramen broth there were an endless amount of recipes on the Internet and in my cookbooks at home. All of them start with bones or carcasses of some sort. I felt that I could skip that step because I had already make duck stock from last years ducks that I shot. All I would need to do is add the other flavors to the stock. For the Duck Ramen Broth I used:
2 quarts of duck stock
1 thumb sized knob of ginger
1 head of garlic
10 knots of kombu
I simmered all the ingredients together and reduced the stock down to about 1 quart. When the stock is finished it has a very pleasant flavor of duck and ginger with a hint of garlic and some earthiness from the kombu.
The next step is to make the Tare, the Tare is where you are going to get that umami flavor in your ramen. It is a combination of:
1 cup soy sauce
5 grams of bonito flakes
1/4 cup sake
1 tablespoon of mirin
a thumb sized knob of ginger
half a head of garlic
2 green onions (roughly chopped)
Bring all this to a boil and then let sit until room temperature then pour through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth to get all the little flakes out. This is what you will put in the bowl first to flavor the broth. You add 2-3 tablespoons to each 8 ounces of broth depending on how flavorful you want your ramen. To add just a bit more flavor and add some fat I combined
2 tablespoons of duck fat
2 cloves of minced garlic
pinch of salt
Then I added 2 teaspoons of that mixture to the bowl. At this point I poured in the piping hot broth and added the noodles right out of the boiling water and gave it a quick stir then it was time to garnish. For my Garnish I used some hard boiled eggs that were soaked in some soy sauce and sake. I also simmered some duck breasts using 1/2 a cup of the tare to flavor the water. Place the duck breasts in a pan add the tare and then cover with water and simmer for about 45 minutes then slice the duck breast about a 1/4 inch thick. I added the enoki mushrooms and some chopped green onions but to add a little kick of flavor I had some wild ramps that I had fermented. I added about a tablespoon of that and a 1/4 sheet of Nori .
There you have it, my version of a Duck Ramen. It might not be the most traditional bowl of ramen out there but it was absolutely the best bowl of ramen I have ever eaten.