leave your inhibitions at the door
I recently participated in the 2013 Cover to Cover Challenge hosted by The Bitten Word where their readers collectively made all 47 recipes in the September issue of Bon Appétit. Those who signed up for the challenge were assigned to one of the dishes to make as faithfully to the recipe as possible and then reported back to the site.
I actually thought of a funner cover-to-cover challenge for all my readers to participate in – The Kama Sutra. I won’t post any of the pictures because this is a family site. But feel free to send them to me anyway.
When I signed up for the food challenge, I was asked if I had any dietary restrictions or allergies that needed to be considered in the assignment process. My response –
Don’t you dare give me no fool vegan recipe or I’ll go over there and shove a trussing needle through your nipples!
OK, I was a little nicer but that’s pretty much the spirit of what I said.
I know that veganism isn’t really something you can be allergic to. And it probably makes sense from a health perspective to adopt elements of veganism. But I’d rather eat construction-grade 1×6 pine boards than a seitan Sloppy Joe or Tofurkey. And I’d be damned if I’m going to go out and BUY the ingredients to make that shit and have it take up precious fridge space.
Luckily they gave me Shoyu Ramen, a complex, multi-layered noodle soup. This was right up my alley because I love me some good REAL ramen. This isn’t the $0.35 packaged ramen that, along with beer, is the staple of a college student’s existence. While college ramen takes about 2-3 minutes to make, the real stuff is a three-day process and has a lot of ingredients. It sounds daunting, but each step was REALLY easy and almost effortless.
The toughest part for me was finding all the ingredients at the Asian market. It’s funny, the Chinese make every conceivable consumer good known to man but they don’t know jack about product labeling. And forget about asking the owner if “fermented bamboo shoots” is the same as “salined bamboo shoots.” Once you do find everything and spend the three days making this, you’lll be rewarded with a terrific soup with many distinct flavors and textures all shining through.
For more on the challenge, check out the Cover to Cover 2013 Kickoff post.
There a lot of steps and ingredients to this thing, so I’m going to through the major steps. The full recipe can be found here.
Day 1 – Make the tare (soy sauce, sake, and mirin) that gets mixed in the soup at the last minute. I’m sure the individual ingredients can be added straight to the soup, but I think someone had a hankering for project management. What’s REALLY has to happen on the first day is to make the Dashi. All that’s needed there is to steep the Kombu (dried kelp) in cold water for 8-12 hours.
Asian soup recipe
When done, you’ll get brown water…
Seriously, I tasted this and was expecting it to be fishy or ocean-like – it wasn’t. The flavor was really subtle and earthy. It’s used to make the stock on…
Day 2 - You roll up some boneless pork shoulder and brown it. Then you add chicken, spareribs, scallions, carrots, garlic, ginger, and bonito flakes along with the Dashi to a pot to make the stock.
Here’s where I strayed from the recipe. It says to discard the spareribs and chicken when the stock is done as it’s not needed in the final product. As I read that I could hear my frugal mom’s voice in my head telling me what a waste that was. And I’m sure that the country-folk on the other side of the globe wouldn’t dare waste that stuff, either. So I pulled the meat off the bones and fried it up with some salt and cayenne pepper for some awesome taco filling.
Day 3 – Cook the noodles in boiling water and then make the 7-minute eggs.
Start getting all the other garnishes in place – the rolled and sliced pork shoulder, bamboo shoots, scallions, and nori sheets. Heat up the stock until really hot and then add the tare.
Assembly – Put the pork and noodles in bowls, ladel the stock on it and then add the garnishes. Have some chili oil, sesame oil, and togarishi (Japanese chili powder) available for further seasoning.
Like I said, it’s a long process with a lot of ingredients and many steps. But the ingredients are cheap and the stuff that gets leftover – the kombu, nori, togarishi – will keep forever. As for all the steps, none of them require a lot of skill or expertise. There’s some temptation to cut corners like skipping the dashi or cooking the noodles in the stock itself. Don’t do it. The beauty of the soup is how all of the individual flavors and textures are there yet harmonize to create the overall flavor.
This was definitely fun and I’m looking forward to the next one.
chinese soup recipe