Friday, January 15, 2010

I Make Broth and I Take Pictures

I gather that noodle bowls are all the rage at Momofuku, or something like that. I've got the Momofuku cookbook now, but haven't had a chance to take a look at it yet. Anyway, I took some pictures the last time I made ramen and they were probably some of the best pictures I've ever taken of anything, so I had to show you the pictures and tell you about one of my favorite lunchtime treats. I took a bunch of other, unrelated pictures that came out pretty well too and have scattered them throughout the post. Hope you like them!

It all started because whenever I eat something that I really like, I want to make it myself at home. I can't just have a favorite place to get pizza. I eat the pizza, and then I want to go home and make my own. And then, of course, once I make the pizza at home, then I need to make the sauce myself, and then the dough. Before long, I'll be trying to figure out if I can manage to make my own cheese (By the way, I haven't made my own cheese yet, but I'm still young and I emphasize the word "yet").

One reason I seem to keep drilling down to make the ingredients is because I think I can make it better myself. Of course my spaghetti sauce is better than something from a jar in the supermarket! Duh! But I find that I've been doing this more and more often now in order to avoid preservatives and all of the other bad stuff that is in almost anything that is not a fresh, raw ingredient.

Lately, for this very reason, I have been obsessively making broth. No, seriously, I've been tending to my broth almost everyday for months now. I have two batches going now, my Chinese pork broth, inspired by Fuchsia Dunlop's recipe for "everyday broth", and my chicken broth, which I use to make chicken soup and as well as flavor a whole slew of dishes, including one of my favorites: roast chicken with gravy.

Dunlop gives us a vivid description of "everyday broth" in her Revolutionary Chinese Cookbook, my favorite cookbook. It is a broth consisting of all sorts of meats, especially pork, which is kept simmering all day everyday. That's right, all day every day. It gets replenished, and it gets used. Street vendors cook street food in their everyday broth, which adds flavor to the meat, and adds some flavor to the broth, sort of a symbiotic relationship between sauce and entree. Dunlop claims that some everyday broths have been sustained for entire lifetimes, up to 50 years of taking some and giving some. And, of course, it is claimed that the older the broth and the longer it has been sustained, the better the flavor.

As for me, I keep mine in the freezer, and I thaw it and give to it and take from it as needed. It is seasoned with a little soy sauce, some fresh ginger, and five spice powder, then I strain it through cheesecloth to keep it nice looking. Add whatever you want though.

One of my favorite things to make with my everyday broth is ramen. Imagine all of the succulent goodness of a Cup Noodles, with none of the MSG and sodium and preservatives and god knows what else. Once you have the broth, it takes about 10 minutes to have a steaming hot bowl of deliciousness.

Freestyle Ramen

2 cups Everyday Broth
1 Leek
Ramen Noodles (any noodles can substitute)
1 Tbsp Soy Sauce per bowl
1 Tbsp Oil
optional: Chili-Garlic Sauce, Radishes, Scallions, Chicken, Pork, Egg, etc.

This recipe should be more inspirational than instructional. The important thing about freestyle ramen is that the broth be homemade. If you haven't already strained your broth, make sure you do so. It really makes the broth look nicer.

Beyond that, all there is to it is heating up your broth to a near boil, cooking your ramen in boiling water (not in the broth!), and slice up your leek. In each bowl, I add a dash of soy sauce, a dash of oil, and a dash of chili-garlic sauce (Sriracha is a fine substitute). Then I put in the leaks and any other fixins that I have lying around that might be good. Then I fill each bowl 3/4 of the way up with cooked ramen noodles. Last, add the broth. You can mix up the bowl a bit then to get the chili sauce and everything evenly distributed. Another way to do it is to add a dollop of Sriracha at the end. This not only flavors the broth, but also makes a nice garnish.

If you are using anything that really needs to be cooked before consuming, make sure you do that before adding it to the bowl. Egg is borderline. If your broth is hot enough, it will probably cook the egg, but it is kind of gross if it doesn't, so better be safe than sorry. If you do add raw egg to it, at least take the egg out of the fridge 20 minutes before using it so that its a little on the warmer side.

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