Japan: Nikuman, Ramen, Miso-Glazed Eggplant, Bok Choy and Mochi Green Tea Ice Cream
My childhood friend, Alison, came to visit me last weekend and we decided to cook together. We figured out that we’ve known each other for about 30 years (!) and when we were young we used to film cooking “shows.” So it was perfect to cook together again for couch cuisine.
We started off by having a lovely breakfast at Rochester’s Public Market and then shopping for our produce there. Alison took some fun pictures of me shopping.
This picture cracks me up because I don’t know what I was looking at or why my face looks like that.
The market is gorgeous in the fall.
After rounding out our shopping adventure at Mega Weg,where we were happy and surprised to find the rest of what we needed, the cooking began.
First up, the ramen. Below I’ve written out the recipe we used, which was adapted from Williams-Sonoma and Lucky Peach cookbook. Given that we’d had a fun day exploring Rochester, we didn’t start cooking until almost 6pm. So, this recipe is a quick version of ramen. It would be have been ideal to cook it at a lower temp for several more hours. But, we were pretty pleased with how our quick version turned out.
12 cups water
5 sheets Kombu
3 handfuls Bonito flakes
3 lb bone-in pork shoulder, cut into about 8 small pieces (note, this was a ton of meat and I think 2 lbs would have been plenty)
2 Tbs Canola or vegetable oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 in piece fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 leek, carefully cleaned and chopped
5 oz crimini mushrooms, chopped
1 1/2 lb fresh ramen noodles (we used fresh noodles that were frozen and available in the Asian Market section at Pittsford Wegmans)
Soy sauce for seasoning
Sesame oil for seasoning
4 green onions, chopped
First, make the Dashi broth. In a large stockpot, bring 12 cups water to a simmer, add the kombu and turn the heat off. Let steep for 10 minutes then remove the kombu and discard. Bring the water back to a simmer and add the bonito flakes. Turn the heat off and steep for 3 minutes. Strain the broth (although my strainer didn’t catch the residue from the bonito flakes, so I just poured the broth slowly into another bowl and discarded the sediment at the bottom). Pour the broth back into the stockpot and set aside.
Season the pork with salt and cut it into smaller pieces (I did about 8, but that was to save time. If you are cooking the soup for more than 2 hours you could cut fewer pieces). In a large saute pan, add oil and once hot add the pork pieces and sear them on both sides until browned, about 3 to 4 minutes per side (work in batches if it doesn’t all fit nicely in one pan). Transfer to a plate and set aside.
In the same saute pan with the pork fat, add yellow onion and cook over medium about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, ginger and 1 cup of dashi to deglaze the plan. Scrape up browned bits from bottom of pan and let simmer for 1 minute. Add the chopped leek and cook for 1 minutes.
In the large stockpot of dashi, add the contents of the saute pan as well as the pork and 4 oz of mushrooms (save 1 oz for garnish). Cover and cook over medium heat for 2 hours (here’s where you can reduce the heat and simmer at a lower temp for longer if you have more time. I would probably do low heat for 4 hours next time).
Transfer the pork to a cutting board and break into bite-size chunks, removing fat. Remove the bone and discard. Strain the broth through a fine-mesh sieve and discard the solids. Return the pork and strained broth to the stockpot and season to taste with soy sauce and sesame oil (if you have more time, cover and cook on low for 30 minutes at this point. We didn’t do this because it was already 9pm and we were hungry!).
Cook the ramen noodles according to the package directions. Cook soft boiled eggs (we did boiling water for 5 minutes) or whatever your preference is for the doneness of the eggs. Cut each in half lengthwise when they’re done and peeled.
To serve, place noodles, broth and meat in individual bowls, sprinkle with green onions, extra mushrooms and sesame seeds, and place two egg halves. Serve immediately. We added sriracha to give it more of a kick. (Also note, I think this would have been good with bok choy in it, so I would add that next time).
This is what I decided was a “handful” of bonito flakes.
We were really happy with how the ramen turned out. It was warm and comforting, tasty and complex.
To accompany our ramen we made Nikuman, steamed pork buns, using this recipe, with two major adjustments. I do not have a bamboo steamer, so I used the a regular pot steamer with the towel wrapped on the lid as recommended in this recipe. It worked great. But since I wasn’t sure how well the steaming would work, I was nervous to put raw pork in the dough before steaming. So, we cooked the pork mixture in a saute pan until it was thoroughly cooked before stuffing the dough.
Alison was a rockstar at kneading the dough and making the buns! Hers turned out much better than mine, so she took the lead on making these beauties.
The big reveal! (yes, it was almost 10pm at this point)
It worked! I whipped up a simple dipping sauce with soy sauce, sesame oil, and rice vinegar to taste. They were delicious.
We made two vegetable dishes from the Lucky Peach cookbook that Alison generously gave me: miso-glazed eggplant and sauteed bok choy. Both were very simple – the eggplant is just roasted with miso and the bok choy was sauteed in whole garlic and oil.
Here was our gorgeous spread, arranged and photographed by talented Alison!
We cheated a bit on dessert by buying mochi green tea ice cream, which was a refreshing finish to the meal.
We had so much fun cooking and eating together! Thanks for a great visit, Alison!