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Garlic ramen noodles

October 7, 2009

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Serves 4

When hunger strikes, the Japanese turn to a quick, satisfying bowl of ramen. You can find the small shops all over and the dish is usually great, even in subway and train stations. Some of the best ramen is at Ivan Ramen, owned by an American, Ivan Orkin. This recipe is inspired by his garlic ramen, which is my kids’ favorite. Roast the heads of garlic whole sprinkled with a little oil in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until very soft. Instead of ramen noodles, you can use somen, buckwheat, or even angel hair or spaghetti. But nothing gives you the fantastic texture except ramen noodles. For a deeper flavor, instead of chicken stock, use a combination of half chicken and half beef. When you make this, eat it standing up, as the Japanese do (since there aren’t usually seats in most of the shops). I think it adds to the enjoyment. Don’t forget to slurp!

3 heads garlic, roasted
2 tablespoons shiro miso (available at an Asian specialty market)
4 tablespoons grapeseed oil
4 teaspoons sesame oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 pound snow peas
8 ounces plain, dried ramen noodles
1 bunch scallions (white and green parts separated), thinly sliced
4 quarts best-quality chicken stock
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup ichimi togarashi or crushed red pepper (for garnish)

1. Fill a stockpot 2/3 full with water. Bring to a boil. Meanwhile, squeeze out the garlic cloves from the heads. With a mortar and pestle or on a cutting board with a knife, mash garlic until it is a smooth puree. If using knife to mash garlic, transfer garlic to bowl.

2. Whisk in shiro miso, grapeseed oil, sesame oil, salt, and pepper. Whisk until fully incorporated and smooth.

3. Salt the boiling water. Add the snow peas and cook for 2 minutes or just until tender-crisp. With a large slotted spoon, remove the snow peas from the water and transfer to a bowl of ice water. When they are cool, drain them and cut into julienne strips.

4. Return the water to a boil. Add the noodles and stir to prevent sticking. Cook according to package directions or until the noodles are tender but still have some bite. Drain the noodles into a colander. Divide the noodles among 4 large deep, warmed bowls. Add snow peas to each one.

5. In the stockpot over medium-high heat, combine garlic mixture and scallion whites. Cook, stirring constantly, for 2 minutes. Whisk in the stock. Bring to a simmer. Add 1 tablespoon of the soy sauce, taste for seasoning, and add the remaining soy sauce, if you like. Add salt and pepper, if you like. Pour the broth into the bowls. Garnish with scallion greens and a sprinkle of ichimi togarashi or red pepper, if you like.

Ming Tsai