Ramen 2.0

My last attempt at making homemade ramen noodles was such an utter failure that I gave up on the idea permanently. Then I read the inaugural issue of Lucky Peach, which was devoted to all things ramen and included a new recipe for alkaline noodles as well as a revised ramen broth (which I had first heard about at David Chang’s Harvard lecture). I already had roasted pork shoulder and belly, and a new batch of broth (made with the new method), so it was time to try the noodles again.

Ramen noodles are made with alkaline salts. I had tried mixing my own for my first attempt, but the same issue of Lucky Peach also had a technique from food scientist Harold McGee for creating the alkaline component from simple baking soda. It couldn’t be simpler: spread half a cup of baking soda on a sheet pan and bake it at 250°F for half an hour. The resulting sodium carbonate is one of the two salts used in noodles, sufficient for home recipes.

I dissolved 12 grams of the baked soda in 100 grams of warm water, added another 100 grams of cold water, then stirred in 400 grams of all-purpose flour.

After five solid minutes of forceful kneading, I wrapped the dough in plastic and let it sit for 20 minutes before kneading it for another five minutes. After an hour in the fridge, I wound up with a smooth ball of dough.

I cut the dough into six pieces, cranked each piece through my pasta machine, and then passed the sheets through the pasta cutter. My cutter makes angel hair pasta, thinner than I’d prefer for noodles, but I was willing to compromise if they cooked properly. I floured the noodles and hung them on a drying rack until needed.

I prepped all of the other ingredients – broth, tare, pork belly and shoulder, naruto, nori, scallions, and slow-poached eggs – while I brought a pot of water to the boil. It was time for the moment of truth:

The noodles held together and didn’t clump into a solid mass. I gave them a quick rinse to wash off the excess starch, then added them to bowls before topping off with broth and the other components.

I’ve already commented on the broth; this was all about the noodles. They were a bit thin, a result of the cutter, so they didn’t have the chewiness I expect from ramen, but they tasted the way they should and held up in the broth. The more astute among you may have noticed that the noodles didn’t have the usual deep yellow color, which I attribute to the lack of potassium carbonate in the mix.

I consider the exercise a success, and am now confident that I can make fresh noodles on demand. I have ordered a larger pasta cutter (for spaghetti) and recently found a bottle of kansui (a solution of the alkaline salts in water), which I hope will help me fine-tune the final product. Stay tuned for ramen 3.0.

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2 Responses to Ramen 2.0

  1. christine says:

    hi david, i love your real-life reenactment of tampopo. i’m sure an investment in a pasta maker that makes thicker pasta will pay off in no time. how long did the noodles have to dry? and do you just have plain, or salted water, on boil?

    • David says:

      I included a Tampopo clip in my original ramen post.

      I didn’t dry the noodles at all, I just used the rack as a way to keep them separated to avoid clumping. I used salted boiling water, just like I would for regular pasta. There’s so much more broth than noodles that the extra salt isn’t noticed.

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