ramen and pickles

science, technology, and medicine served up with some tasty noodles

Monthly Archives: December 2013

Kit Ramen

In an effort to try something new, I bought a sort of fresh ramen kit from Mitsuwa.   It was basically two servings, with fresh noodles and a flavor packet, in very helpful “Oriental” flavor.

I also found out that Mitsuwa sells chashu in their prepared food section.  I got a little styrofoam tray with three pieces.   I also bought some kamaboko to add to the ramen.  The kamaboko is mainly because no ramen around here has kamoboko in it any more.  It has sort of fallen out of favor, despite being a common part of many traditional ramen offerings.  Kamaboko is the little fish cake slices, often red and white but sometimes blue and white, often with a red swirl, although I’ve even seen a Hello Kitty kamaboko, which I think I would serve as an add-in or in a special ramen if I ever own a ramen restaurant.

I followed the directions for preparing the broth, which was basically to heat some water and add the packet which sort of had the consistency of miso paste.   As can be seen from the picture I added a a few things, including the chashu and kamaboko.  Overall, as can be seen from the picture, it wasn’t actually super appealing to look at.  The noodles ended up being fairly decent, with nice flavor and consistency.  I didn’t care for the broth very much, and I don’t think I will get the “Oriental” flavor again, I would have even preferred just a regular chicken stock or miso soup.

For my Thanksgiving ramen, I made a vegetable and katsuboshi part of my broth, and the turkey part separately (the turkey part did have some veggies in it), just because it seemed like the right thing to do and more convenient, and I subsequently watched David Chang doing something similar on his TV show, Mind of a Chef.  That reminds me, if I have time I definitely need to write a longer blog post about that wonderful show.

So for now, I’m going to leave the ramen making to the experts, and if I have Japanese soup at home it will be ochazuke, which I suppose is very Japaneasy of me.

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Thanksgiving Ramen

One of my colleagues at the medical school pointed me to this wonderful post on ramen made from Thanksgiving leftovers.   I changed the details a bit, and I was pleased with the results, so I will give some of what I did.

We already made a very delicious thick broth from the turkey bones, so I wanted to make a dashi to mix with it and make it more ramen compliant.  I used celery, Tokyo negi, katsuobushi, seaweed, and dried yuzu, along with some special Japanese salt that a colleague got for me a on recent trip to Japan.  After cooking for several hours and then straining twice, this made a wonderful dashi, which I mixed with an almost equal proportion of the thick (gelatinous in the fridge) turkey stock.  Overall, I was very pleased with the result.  It was very different from the recommended method in blog post, but I took that more as an inspiration, as I wanted a lighter, shio-style broth.

Thanksgiving Dashi

Thanksgiving Dashi

Special Japanese Salt

Special Japanese Salt

Dried Yuzu

Dried Yuzu

Because good, soft-boiled marinated eggs are one of my favorite parts of good ramen, I spent some time trying to figure out how to get them good, as I tried following this recommendation.  We have some wonderful truly free range eggs from the farmers market, totally irregular in shape and color of their very thick shells with fantastic thick very dark golden yolks.  I was able to cook them nicely soft-boiled, but these more free range chickens had very thick eggshells, and I had a hard time shelling them cleanly.  I tried some tricks including adding salt to the water and soaking them in white vinegar (which did seem to start to dissolve layers of the shell), but dinnertime was fast approaching, so I had to go with these somewhat ugly eggs, which I marinated in soy sauce and green tea for a few hours.  They were not pretty, but they were quite good.  I shredded the leftover turkey (white and dark) and stir-fried it in oil, as recommended from the blog post recipe.  Using some fresh noodles from the Japanee market (I ended up overcooking them slightly), I steamed some kale and spinach for greens, sprinkled some green onion on top, added some nori and called it dinner.  I don’t have really great photography, mostly because I was hungry and impatient to dig in.  Verdict: It’s  a great way to have leftover turkey!

Thanksgiving Ramen

Thanksgiving Ramen

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Ramen Shop in Oakland

The Ramen Shop on College Ave in Oakland has been making a big splash in foodie (and ramen) interwebs, and it’s been high time that I made it over there to visit.  It’s probably best characterized as hipster-foodie ramen.  It has varying menu offerings, depending on what’s available locally, as might be expected from Alice Water’s trained veterans of Chez Panisse.

Before going, I was already totally supporting what they are trying to do with this shop.  Similar to the amazing David Chang, they are creating a fusion of American, fresh, local ingredients with Japanese comfort food.  I also had high hopes for the taste and the whole experience.

It’s a great space.  They have a bar in the front, and then an open kitchen, with surrounding counter, and then many tables around the outside.  There is a lot of reclaimed wood around.  Even their wine rack comes from Chez Panisse, showing their roots.   The bar was great, with lots of tasty, well prepared drinks, including some fun non-alcoholic drinks like a lemonade with pink peppercorns.

At the counter, they have a fantastic set of bowls of interesting fresh pickles.

Ramen Shop Pickles

Ramen Shop Pickles

Ramen Shop Pickle Plate

Ramen Shop Pickle Plate

The pickle plate has five offerings.  Interestingly, even though the printed menu had the day’s date on it, we didn’t get exactly same pickles as listed.  There were two kinds of daikon, the first was a traditional yellowish daikon, like Takuan, colored with tumeric.  There was a bright red daikon, very spicy and a little sweet.  I’m not sure how exactly they flavored it, but it was quite good.  The cabbage was good, and the green beans were tasty, but the black Spanish radish was really exceptional.   I have seen these big black radishes have been on sale at local farmers markets in the Bay Area for several years, and they are quite strong in flavor.   Pickled, they were very tasty.  Sliced and pickled, they looked a little bit like scallops, but they had a bright flavor and really nice texture.

We ordered two different kinds of ramen, the shio ramen ($16) with chanterelles, chashu, egg, mustard greens, and nori which is apparently made locally in Mendocino.    The other was a dungeness crab miso ramen ($17)  with ground pork belly, fried eggplant, leeks, and chrysanthemum greens (shungiku).

Ramen Shop Menu

Ramen Shop Menu

Ramen Shop Shio Ramen

Ramen Shop Shio Ramen

Ramen Shop Crab Miso Ramen

Ramen Shop Crab Miso Ramen

Now for the real review of the ramen.  I had very high expectations for this $15+ ramen, so maybe it was inevitable that I was a little disappointed.   Now I understand that the Ramen Shop is doing its own thing, but in most ramen shops, a typical shio broth is quite light in texture.  Shio means salt, so it is definitely salty and it is typically a relatively clear broth.  What I got here was incredibly thick, what would be described as kotteri (thick) instead of assari (light), with a surprising bit of seafood flavor.  The mouth feel was very gluey and fatty, and it felt actually a bit unpleasantly so.  It definitely felt like it was thickened by some sort of surfactant or something, or something gooey.  I understand that thick brothers like a typical tonkotsu broth are very popular, but it is definitely not what I was expecting, and was not subtle.  It was so extreme, I didn’t enjoy the mouthfeel. The noodles were rather blah, maybe not enough alkaline salt to make them chewy, yellow, and flavorful enough. The softboiled egg is really the sign of someone who knows what they are doing, or at least is being precise with their ramen, and the egg here was really superb, very well cooked and flavored.  I wasn’t too excited about the mustard greens for a similar reason to the broth, the mouthfeel was unpleasantly rough, and the chanterelles were gooey and slimy. I have not really loved chanterelles in the past, for that reason (I just generally don’t dig the texture), so there was nothing new there for me, as I was hoping they had discovered something interesting with the mushrooms to make me like them in ramen.  So overall, my summary was that the flavors were okay, but the mouthfeel was not a good fit for me for almost all the components. For something like ramen, where the consistency of the noodles, and the tender pork and soft broth is part of what makes it so good, texture is half of the experience.

The crab miso broth was much better, a seafood umami flavor, a little spicy, not really subtle.  However, they were the same noodles.  The crab was good, nice texture and flavor.  The eggplant and greens were decent.  Again the egg was very good.

They had a vegetarian shoyu yuzu ramen on the menu, and although I usually associate vegetarian ramen as being  a bit bland, given the lack of subtlety of the other two broths, it was probably quite good, and seeing people nearby eating it, it looked quite good.  I could have added the chashu and egg as add-ins.

They had some fun desserts, things like a popsicle made from pluots and ginger, surprisingly strong in ginger, so that it might be called GINGER!  There was also a matcha (green tea) version of the old strawberry shortcake kind of ice cream bars of Good Humor kind.

Overall, I like what this place is doing.  I will come back eventually and see what new flavors have arisen on the menu.  I like that they have what looks like a good vegetarian ramen, as real vegetarian/vegan ramen can be very hard to find.  However, the price is high, and I’m thinking they are maybe trading experimentation for deliciousness, and overcompensating a bit with stronger flavors and textures than necessary.

If anyone has any comments, I’d love to hear your opinions or input.

 

 

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Umami Burger Pickle Plate

Umami Burger in Palo Alto has a delicious pickle plate that is worth mentioning.  As you can see from the picture, there were a few different kinds of pickled cucumbers, some pickled carrot and ginger, okra, and some pickled green beans.  It was all quite good.  In particular, the pickled carrot and ginger was quite good, and it was an interesting combination.  Also, I liked the two styles of cucumbers.  As cukes are just a mainstay of pickles, I always enjoy having them done a few different ways.

Overall, I thought Umami Burger was good.  It wasn’t quite noodles; I was of course planning on heading to ramen that evening, but got dragged along for burgers instead.  However, I’m not sure the flavor of the actual burger was all that, especially given the hype about its particular flavor.  The fries were good too.  I would go again.  It has a more refined ambiance than The Counter, which is something too.

If I remember correctly, they had pickle fries on the menu as well, but I think they were sold out or something when we were there.  I suppose that is another reason to go back.

Umami Burger Pickle Plate

Umami Burger Pickle Plate

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Dohatsuten, menu update

My local ramen joint in Palo Alto, Dohatsuten, recently revised their menu offerings, and I’ve been going there quite a lot lately.  They added two main new types of ramen, Kurobuta style and Taro style.  Kurobuta is the Japanese word for the delicious black Berkshire pigs.  It is very popular kind of pork in Japan, highly prized by gourmet chefs.  The Kurobuta pork is made into normal pieces of chashu.  The Taro style has the thick cubes of pork belly, very fatty and delicious.  Currently, I’m more a fan of the kurobuta chashu, but you can get the other pork as an add-in for your ramen and double your pleasure (which I did only once).   They increased the bowl size and the portion size at  Dohatsuten went up, and after getting both kinds of pork and a bunch of veggie add-ins, I was hard pressed to finish it.  The yakionigiri with a little side of pickles that they serve continues to be delicious, and probably my favorite side order anywhere.

I’ve been really enjoying my ramen at Dohatsuten, and if you’re in the Palo Alto area, I hope you will stop in.

Kurobota Shio Ramen

Kurobota Shio Ramen

Taro and Kurobota, extra veggies

Taro and Kurobota, extra veggies

Yakionigiri with pickles

Yakionigiri with pickles

Dohatsuten Menu

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