I’m writing this blog post on the heels of our fourth nor’easter in Boston in almost as many weeks. For the past month we’ve been hunkered down indoors, binge-watching The Last Jedi, and eating ourselves stupid — which is the only way to survive a storm, btw. Before each cold front that’s moved in, I, along with a hundred of my closest friends, spent hours at the grocery store clearing the shelves of dry goods and queuing at the register to bag two paychecks worth of food. My goal this winter is not just to stay warm and avoid cabin fever, but to eat well while I’m at it. So I pulled out my crock pot and Dutch Oven, pizza stone and pasta maker, my messy apron, and all of my family’s favorite recipes. First among which was my homemade pork ramen — only I decided to do it a little differently this time. See, I missed the last two Star Wars movies in theaters and I really wanted to catch up and not be stuck in the kitchen slaving over a simmering pot of broth…soooo, I threw everything into the crock pot, and viola! I had a hands-free homemade ramen that tasted almost as good as the bowls they serve at Ruckus (our favorite ramen joint in Boston). It turned out hot and noodley and full of all of the meats and veggies we love, with just the perfect amount of sodium to make your face puffy in the morning. And the best part was, while it cooked, I was able to snuggle on the couch with my family, down a bottle of sake before tucking into a big bowl of deliciousness while (spoiler alert) I watched The Resistance escape the First Order — and never once did I have to change out of my pajamas. I have to say, I’m going to miss all these snow days come summer. Okay, maybe not.
Our many trips to Ruckus in Boston’s Chinatown, Summer & Fall 2017
Don’t let the long-ish list of ingredients deter you, because this is actually quite a simple recipe to pull off and fabulously impressive when you do.
Also, there are a few of items on this list that may be unfamiliar to some of you (indicated with an asterisk*), so I’ve included a handy “Ramen Glossary” at the end of this post for your reference — but honestly, I was able to find everything I needed (with the exception of one item) at Whole Foods Market. If you don’t live near a Whole Foods or a local Asian grocer, Amazon is always a great resource for hard-to-find food items.
Finally, ramen can be as simple or as complicated as you want it to be, so if there’s something in this recipe that you don’t want to add, then don’t add it. No biggie. I’ve made homemade ramen with chicken broth, soy sauce, ground ginger, and whatever meats and vegetables I had in my fridge. Just toss in some ramen noodles (Top Ramen and Maruchan noodles work great in a pinch), and throw a soft boiled egg on top and you’re good. Seriously, no pressure here.
Homemade Crock Pot Ramen
For the Kombu Dashi and Tare (Optional)
1 oz. dried kombu*
3 cups cold water
¾ cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp. dry sake* (reserve the rest of the bottle for drinking with your ramen)
1 Tbsp. mirin*
For the pork and stock
2 lbs. boneless pork shoulder or pork butt
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
8 cups chicken stock (not low sodium)
1 head garlic, sliced in half
1 (2-inch) piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
8 dried mushrooms, such as maitake, shiitake, oyster, or morel
For the ramen and garnishes
3 large eggs
15-20 oz. dried ramen noodles (also called Chinese noodles or Lo Mein noodles)
1 (5 oz.) can of bamboo shoots*
6 scallions, thinly sliced
2-4 cups of your favorite mushroom and thinly sliced vegetable(s), such as maitake, oyster, or enoki mushrooms; bok choy, cabbage, broccoli rabe, corn kernels, baby corn, or cauliflower. (In this recipe I used maitake mushrooms, shredded cabbage and baby corn.)
3 toasted nori sheets,* torn in half
Other optional enhancements and garnishes for serving: soy sauce, chili oil, chili paste, toasted sesame oil, white and/or black sesame seeds, sliced jalapeños, bean sprouts, thinly sliced radishes, fresh cilantro, and shichimi togarashi* (In this recipe I used chili oil, sesame oil, white and black sesame seeds, and shichimi togarashi)
The Day Before
For the Kombu Dashi and Tare (Optional)
Combine kombu and cold water in a bowl, cover, and let set at room temperature for 8-12 hours.
Combine soy sauce, sake, and mirin in a bowl, cover and refrigerate.
*If you want to skip this step, just add soy sauce, with some sake and/or mirin to the crock pot with the pork and stock mixture.
The Day Of
For the Pork and Stock:
If your pork isn’t already trussed, roll up tightly and tie with kitchen twine at 2-inch intervals. This will help it stay together while cooking and make it easier to slice into thin rounds.
Heat vegetable oil in a large high-sided pan set over medium-high heat. Cook pork, turning occasionally, until browned on all sides, about 10-12 minutes total.
Place pork in crock pot along with kombu dashi and tare (if using), chicken stock, garlic, ginger, and dried mushrooms. Cover and set to low heat for 8 hours (of if you’re in a hurry, high heat for 4 hours).
Once cook time has ended (and a thermometer inserted into the center of the pork reads 145° F), transfer pork to a platter and let rest. Strain broth through a fine mesh sieve, pressing on solids to extract as much liquid as possible. Discard solids and return broth to crock pot; turn crock pot to high. Add mushrooms and vegetables and cook until crisp-tender, about 10-15 minutes.
Cut trussing off pork and thinly slice.
Meanwhile, bring two separate pots of water to boil. In the first pot, cook noodles per package instructions, drain and set aside. In the second pot, carefully add eggs and gently boil for 6½ minutes. Exactly. Six. And-a-Half. Minutes. People! No more, no less. Trust me, this will ensure the jammiest, runniest, most beautiful ramen eggs ever. Immediately transfer cooked eggs to a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Once cool, carefully peel eggs and set aside (preferably in a warm bowl of water).
1. Divide noodles among 6 large bowls.
2. Top noodles with sliced pork, placing off to one side.
3. Using a slotted spoon, scoop a spoonful of mushrooms and vegetables from the stock and place on one side of pork.
4. Ladle stock over pork, veggies, and noodles so that the stock just reaches the level of the noodles.
5. Add bamboo shoots on the other side of the pork. Carefully halve eggs and set one half in each bowl next to the bamboo shoots.
6. Place a small pile of scallions next to egg then tuck half sheet of nori at the edge of the bowl so that it’s sticking out slightly.
7. Serve ramen hot with chosen accompaniments (listed in the ingredients section).
DRIED KOMBU: Dried seaweed used to flavor many Japanese dishes. A sheet added to your favorite soup or homemade stock will add a touch of salty, umami flavor to the final product.
SAKE: Japanese rice wine that can be sweet or dry and is served either hot or cold. This recipe calls for a dry variety. Sake can be found at most grocery stores that sell wine or at your local liquor store.
MIRIN: A sweet Japanese rice wine with a much lower alcohol content than sake. It’s used more for cooking than drinking. Mirin can be found in most grocery stores in the Asian section or with the other cooking wines. Mix with soy sauce, sesame oil, and chili paste for a quick dipping sauce for pot stickers and spring rolls, or toss with stir fried vegetables.
BAMBOO SHOOTS: These are the tender baby shoots of certain types of edible bamboo plants. They are sold in cans or jars in the Asian section of most grocery stores. Freeze the remaining shoots and toss them in with your next stir fry for a healthy punch of flavor.
NORI SHEETS: Another type of dried seaweed that’s used in many sushi dishes. This can also be found in the Asian section of most grocery stores. Nori sheets can be crumbled over salads, soups, and veggies for a little extra flavor.
SHICHIMI TOGARASHI: A Japanese spice blend that contains chili peppers, dried orange peel, sesame seeds, ground ginger, poppy seeds, hemp seeds, and dried seaweed. This is the only ingredient that I wasn’t able to find locally, so I ordered a bottle for $2 on Amazon. Sprinkle this spice over popcorn, kettle chips, or add it to anything that could use a little extra heat and flavor.