In times like these, it’s easy to get carried away with ready-to-eat and instant food such as ramen. They are convenient and easy to prepare within a few minutes. But like regular instant noodles, (instant) ramen can be bad for your health in the long run. So, why not forget about those mass-produced ramen packets and make your own for a change? Below are the 7 Essential Ingredients You Need For Homecooked Ramen.
1) Ramen Noodles
The obvious ingredient of them all. It doesn’t matter whether you get the fresh or dried varieties. Either way, they work well in ramen soup.
You can easily find them in supermarkets or online stores such as this, this or this. Depending on the brand, some of the ramen noodles contain no added preservatives or artificial colourings.
2) Dashi Stock
You definitely need a base when it comes to making ramen soup. And that base in question happens to be dashi, a type of basic stock typically used for Japanese cooking. Sure, you can use common stock made from chicken or vegetable. But it would defeat its purpose if your aim is to make ramen soup as authentic as possible.
For dashi, there are two ways you can do it. You can either choose to buy ready-made dashi in the form of condensed soup stock or powder such as the popular Japanese brand like Shimaya.
But if you prefer to make your own dashi from scratch, here is one of the simple recipes that require only 3 ingredients: kombu (dried kelp), dry-shaved bonito flakes and water.
Simply add 10g of kombu and 4 1/4 cups of water into a bottle or jar and let everything soak for at least 3 hours. Then, remove the kombu and pour the liquid mixture in a pot to boil.
Next, turn off the heat and add in 15g of dry-shaved bonito flakes. Allow them to steep for 3-4 minutes before straining the dashi using a sieve, strainer or cheesecloth and remove the bonito flakes afterwards. Use it immediately or let the dashi cool thoroughly, where you can refrigerate it for up to 3 days. Otherwise, freeze it in an ice tray since frozen dashi can last up to 3 months.
Tips: Do not squeeze the bonito flakes since it would cause the dashi to turn cloudy and emit a fishy smell.
3) Miso Paste
Adding a few tablespoons of miso paste helps to bring out the umami taste of a ramen soup. Miso, of course, refers to the type of Japanese fermented soybean paste. It also happens to be among the most essential ingredients in Japanese cooking. Here are some of the miso pastes you can buy online (this or this). Both flavours and colours are varied too, depending on how long the soybeans and rice are fermented. In other words, the longer the fermentation, the darker and richer the miso will be. But if you prefer your miso mild and sweeter, opt for white miso (Shiro miso) instead.
Here is another essential ingredient that adds a distinct umami flavour to a ramen soup. Think of mirin as sake, except it has more sweetness in its taste and contains less alcohol. But if you prefer a non-alcohol version, they have some of them available online such as this one from Hinode and Kikkoman.
5) Shoyu (Japanese Soy Sauce)
If you are making shoyu ramen, try to get reputable Japanese soy sauce brands like Kikkoman or Yamasa. Unlike your usual salty Chinese soy sauces, the Japanese varieties combine soy and wheat that has a mildly sweeter flavour by comparison. Shoyu is typically divided into two types: dark (koikuchi) or light (usukuchi).
6) Nori (Dried Seaweed)
To make your ramen soup more appetising, remember to add some nori on top of it. It has that subtle salty taste of seaweed while giving you an added crunch. While nori complements well with ramen soup, do keep in mind they can get soggy quite fast so don’t wait too long to consume them. Unless, of course, if you prefer a softer taste of nori that absorbs the soup.
7) La-Yu (Japanese Chilli Oil) / Nanami Togarashi (Japanese Chilli Pepper)
Need some hot spices in your ramen soup? La-yu is your answer, which actually refers to the type of Japanese chilli oil commonly made from chilli pepper, sesame oil, spring onion and assorted spices. One of the popular Japanese brands that made good la-yu is S&B.
Another alternative an added spicy kick to your ramen soup is Nanami togarashi, which comes in the form of seasoning powder. Popular Japanese brands (again) like S&B carry such a product, where you can use it by sprinkling some of them in your ramen soup before consuming.