JUST a bowl of noodles but ramen is my favourite comfort food. Originally a Chinese noodle soup, the Japanese have made it their own with ubiquitous touches such as nori seaweed and dashi, their bonito-seaweed stock, to flavour the soup.
"Picture provided by SPH"
A popular Japanese fast food, Singaporeans have adopted it wholeheartedly, and you cannot miss the many ramen shops in the city and in the food courts!
I hanker for it regularly, but worry about the monosodium glutamate found in commercial offerings, the fatty meat used and the carbohydrate load found in the bowls.
Rethinking the recipe, I decided that ramen was inherently healthy, provided the stock was not fatty, lean meat was used and there were more vegetables in the bowl.
So to de-fat the stock, I now make it a day ahead, leave it in the fridge overnight, making it easy to remove the layer of solidified fat in the morning.
As for the meat, while the loin, the traditional cut, is relatively lean, there is a layer of fat surrounding the flesh. I decided to use the tenderloin or the fillet instead, because it is lean and yet tender.
I was also concerned about the amount of calories found in the bowl. While I could replace the noodles with a complex carbohydrate such as wholewheat spaghetti, a simpler option would be to up the vegetable-starch ratio found in the bowl.
In such ways, my favourite comfort food becomes healthier!
Lean Ramen (Serves four to six)
- 4-5 cups of water
- 1 large pork soup bone
- 2 cups dashi (Place a 5-gm piece of kombu (giant kelp) in 500 ml water.
- Bring to the boil, switch off heat and add 20 gm of dried bonito flakes to infuse. Strain,)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. light soya sauce
- 1 tsp. sugar
- 1 Tbsp. rice wine
- 1 pork tenderloin, about 400 g
- ½ head Chinese cabbage, cut into pieces
- 2-3 hardboiled eggs, cut into half
- 4-6 dried ramen noodle bundles
- Chopped spring onion
- Bottled seasoned bamboo shoot, found on supermarket shelves
- Bottled chilli-bean paste, found on supermarket shelves
- Shredded nori seaweed
- The day before, place pork bone in a pot. Add water and bring to the boil. Turn down heat and simmer for an hour. Add strained dashi stock. Chill covered in the fridge overnight.
- The next day, remove the layer of fat. Bring stock back to the boil and season with salt, soya sauce, sugar and rice wine
- Place pork into the pot. Cook on gentle heat until cooked, about 15 minutes. (Test with a fork. It should be tender and the juices should run clear.)
- Remove and when cool, slice. Leave aside.
- Bring stock back to the boil and wilt the cabbage leaves. Remove.
- Bring another pot of water to boil and cook noodles according to package instructions.
- To serve, place individual portions of noodles in a bowl, top with cabbage, pork and hardboiled egg. Add bamboo shoot and chilli bean paste. Garnish with spring onion and seaweed.