BLACK SESAME & SHIRO MISO RAMEN

Today is one of those bittersweet days…

You remember earlier this week I mentioned Sydney was have a bout of warmer weather? We had suddenly emerged from the chilly depths of winter (“chilly” in Sydney btw is around 3°C at night, around 10°C during the day – that may not seem cold to some of you but, to Sydney siders, that’s arctic conditions) and we were suddenly enjoying sunny, warm weather of around 24°C.

It actually felt warm outside. You know that warmth to the air that heralds the approach of spring; the temperature where you don’t need layers of protection from the cold; the warmth that actually makes you want to go outside…

THAT warmth.

It’s still the middle of winter here in Sydney so we all know it’s not going to last – this winter “heatwave” seems to happen each and every year (directly after an icy chill) but everyone is going to enjoy it for as long as possible. I for one enjoyed getting out of bed this morning without making the mad dash to throw on as many clothes as possible to escape the chill asap.

Because who can’t enjoy warmth and vitamin D of the sun during the middle of winter?

But, today, it sort of came to an end. It’s still warm; I’m currently writing this post sitting in a T-shirt next to my open back door and I’m warm but, since around 10 o’clock last night, it has been consistently raining. I woke up this morning and made the early morning trek to the store to buy food, trapped under thick, bleak and grey clouds that are sending down a steady and continuous shower of rain. It’s not heavy rain, you’re not going to get drenched stepping outside your door; just the slow and steady rainfall that promises to stay around all day; making the couch, Netflix and a bowl of comfort food the ideal solution.

The ONLY solution.

So, yes, it may be a slightly miserable day outside but when its warm and you have a recipe like today’s recipe, things seem pretty ok.

So enough with the detailed explanation of my weather and let me get on with telling you about what I have for you today.

Today we have a steaming bowl of black sesame and shirt miso Ramen: Japanese style noodle soup tweaked in my own little way. Delve into the world of the web for the very traditional, awesomely authentic ramen recipes of the world and you will probably find they are a time-consuming affair – some of them take days to prepare! – but I’m making sure this is a simplified, everyday-person recipe that you can whip up in considerably less time.

Let me break it down for you…

THE BROTH

The heart of this dish is the broth. It all starts with a simple stock which you can make yourself – of which I have included a simple recipe for – or you can buy ready-made from the store. Of course, being the nude-food hero and love making everything from scratch – I would suggest you make your own stock because a) it’s easy b) it tastes better and c) the entire meal will feel just that extra little bit special because you made it all (or most of it) from scratch. But I will leave that up to you (no pressure!)

Whilst the stock is cooking we’re going to make a paste out of black sesame seeds, miso paste, garlic, onions, and ginger. Now, here is where the nude-food hero is going to step away from making things from scratch – the miso paste.

Miso paste is basically fermented soybeans, generally using a koji ( the aspergillus oryzae fungus) starter with the addition of rice, barley, hemp, buckwheat or other such ingredients. Although the making of my own miso paste (and similarly soy sauce) is definitely on my foodie bucket list, the time to make miso paste is considerably long – around 6 to 12 months for a standard paste.

Now, even for the most organized and patient of people, that is a lot of forethought for a single, comforting bowl of ramen so, for now, I would indeed encourage you to buy your miso from the store – I used white (or “Shiro”) miso paste for this recipe – hence the title!

Anyway, once the paste is in with the stock we’re also going to add soy sauce (again store-bought because making soy sauce from scratch also takes a while) and mirin (a Japanese rice wine) and let it simmer for a bit to take on all that delicious flavor.

THE TOPPINGS

The toppings found in Ramen are pretty much limited to your imagination but there is generally sliced the meat of some kind – commonly pork – boiled eggs, with a soft and gooey yolk, and a little greenery such as scallions, cilantro, dried seaweed, etc.

For the meat, this recipe uses pork belly, cut into thin strips and roasted with a very simple spice rub of cinnamon, cloves, black pepper, and nutmeg (my take on a Chinese five-spice kind of deal). And this is is going to be joined with the boiled egg, sautéed enoki mushrooms, a few sliced of red chili (if you like it a little zing!) and a sprinkling of cilantro just to add even more flavor.

And that’s all there is to it. Once the ramen noodles, pork belly, egg, and cilantro are laid out in the bowl, we’re going to pour over the black sesame and miso broth, grab a pair of chopsticks and go to town on this steaming bowl of foodie awesomeness!

And ramen is the perfect food for wet, grey and miserable days; a stomach hugging warmth that will make even the miserable of days seem a little brighter.

So, until next time foodies, enjoy!

BLACK SESAME & SHIRO MISO RAMEN

INGREDIENTS

  • 440 grams Ramen noodles

FOR THE STOCK

  • 600 800g chicken bones
  • two large carrots, chopped into large chunks
  • 2 medium onions, chopped into quarters (skinny left on)
  • 4 sticks of celery, chopped into large chunks
  • 6 whole cloves of garlic
  • 4 liters water
  • 2 teaspoons black peppercorns
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried herbs (I used a simple herb blend)

FOR THE BROTH

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons black sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil (can be replaced with any other oil)
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • a thumb-sized piece of ginger, sliced
  • 4 tablespoons of white (Shiro) miso paste
  • 1/4 cup dark soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons mirin

FOR THE PORK BELLY

  • 1-kilogram Pork belly, sliced into thin, bite-sized strips
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • pinch of salt

OTHER TOPPINGS

  • 4 soft boiled eggs, cut in half
  • 400 grams enoki mushrooms, sautéed with a little oil until soft
  • 15 grams cilantro, roughly chopped
  • 4 large red chili peppers, thinly sliced

INSTRUCTIONS

FOR THE STOCK

  1. Place all the ingredients into a large stockpot and bring to the boil. Rescue the heat and simmer for 2 – 3 hours.

FOR THE BROTH

  1. In a small skillet over medium heat, toast the black sesame seeds for 3 to 5 minutes or until they start to crackle (be careful not to burn them). Remove from heat and allow to cool.
  2. Combine the black sesame seeds, sesame oil, miso paste, shallots, ginger, garlic and 1/4 cup of the cooked stock in your food processor or blender and blitz until a thick paste is formed. Pour the pasta into a large pan and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes or so until it begins to lose moisture and become fragrant. Add the cooked stock, mirin and soy sauce and bring to the boil, reduce to a gentle simmer until required for serving.

FOR THE PORK

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C/ 390°F. In a small bowl combine the sesame oil, ground ginger, fennel seeds, black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt. Pour over and massage into the strips of pork belly. Place the pork on a lined baking sheet and place in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes or until cooked.

ASSEMBLY

  1. Place the ramen noodles in a bowl of boiling water for two minutes or until soft. Drain and share the noodles amongst four bowls. Arrange the pork belly between the four bowls along with the sautéed enoki mushrooms, cilantro, and boiled eggs. Ladle or pour in the black sesame broth until the noodles are completely submerged but the other toppings are still visible. Serve.