Raman recipes: From slow braised short ribs to a Thai inspired green curry bowl

With an obsession for ramen, Swedish chef Tove Nilsson has created 50 recipes inspired by her love of the hearty East Asian noodle dish

Tove Nilsson
Friday 19 May 2017 17:48
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Green curry ramen

The original Bassanova Ramen restaurant was in the suburb of Setagaya, just outside central Tokyo, but later the founder brought the concept to the US and it has now become a firm favourite with all ramen-eating New Yorkers. The place is situated in a small basement in Chinatown and they serve both half and whole portions of ramen. This means that you can try two different kinds of ramen or complement with gyoza or pork buns. Instead of traditional Japanese flavours, all the food has a touch of Thailand: spicy curry pastes and coconut.

Serves 4

1.8 litres chicken broth *
6 tbsp coconut cream
4 portions ramen noodles
Green curry paste
6 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp chopped galangal
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 lemongrass stalks
5 dried kaffir lime leaves
10 small green bird’s eye chillies or 5 green chillies
60g fresh coriander, with roots if possible
2 shallots
1½ tbsp fish sauce

Topping

300g boiled chicken, possibly leftovers

For the broth

3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
8 Chinese long beans or 150 green beans
2 carrots, finely shredded
​15cm/6in ginger root, finely shredded
1 bunch Thai basil
1 bunch coriander
1 batch deep-fried shallots

Blend together all the ingredients for the curry paste in a food processor. Tear the warm chicken into shreds and mix together with the vinegar, soy sauce and sesame oil. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Heat the broth in a separate pan. Fill four bowls with hot water to warm them. Discard the water when it’s time to plate up.

Blanch the beans in the boiling water for 1 minute, remove with a sieve and rinse in cold water. Whisk together 1½ tbsp coconut cream and ½ tbsp of the green curry paste with a little of the broth in each of the bowls. Top up with more broth.

Boil the noodles for about 45 seconds in the pan of water on a rolling boil. It’s best to use a noodle basket or a sieve so that you can reuse the water and quickly take out the noodles once done. You only have a window of a few seconds to make sure they’re not under- or overcooked. Drain thoroughly and transfer the noodles to the broth bowls.

Top with the beans, carrots, ginger, herbs, a dollop of green curry paste and the chicken. Sprinkle over the fried shallots.

Tantanmen ramen

Tantanmen is one kind of ramen that retains most if its Chinese roots. The dish is topped with minced pork, and the fermented bean and chilli paste together with the sesame paste makes an extremely flavourful broth. I like the super-thick variety, jam-packed with sesame, but then you have to be prepared for a ramen coma!

serves 4

1.8 litres pork and chicken broth * 
8–12 tbsp Japanese sesame paste (neri goma) or tahini
4 tbsp chilli oil **
4 portions ramen noodles
salt
crispy pork mince
2 tbsp vegetable oil
​400g pork mince
2 spring onions, finely shredded
1½ tbsp finely grated ginger root
1 garlic clove, finely grated
2 tbsp fermented bean and chilli paste (tobanjan)
1 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce

Topping

2 small pak choi, leaves picked
​180g fresh beansprouts
4 spring onions, finely shredded
4 soy sauce pickled eggs
4 tbsp toasted sesame seeds, crushed

Bring the broth to the boil in a pan and simmer over a low heat. Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Blanch the pak choi in the boiling water for about 30 seconds, then dip in the beansprouts quickly. Remove the vegetables with a sieve so that you don’t have to drain all the water and boil new for the noodles. Rinse the vegetables immediately in cold water, they should still be very crunchy.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the mince together with the spring onions, ginger and garlic. Add the fermented bean and chilli paste, sesame oil and soy sauce. Fry until the mince has coloured nicely and is crispy. Fill four bowls with hot water to warm them. Discard the water when it’s time to plate up.

Whisk a quarter of the sesame paste and chilli oil together in each bowl. Add the broth and stir. Boil the noodles for approximately 45 seconds in the pan of water on a rolling boil. It’s best to use a noodle basket or a sieve so that you can reuse the water and quickly take out the noodles once done. You only have a window of a few seconds to make sure they’re not under- or overcooked. Drain thoroughly and transfer the noodles to the broth bowls.

Top with the mince, pak choi, beansprouts, spring onion and pickled eggs. Serve sprinkled with the sesame seeds.

Chicken broth *

It might seem a bit odd to make a broth from only chicken and water when you’re used to the classic recipes with celery, carrot, bay leaf, parsley and onion, but here it’s about total simplicity. You want a broth that tastes purely of chicken and that has been boiled for a long time to allow the fat from the skin and meat to melt into the liquid. The most important thing is to choose the best quality organic chicken for superior fat and flavour. When the broth is done it may seem bland, but once it meets salt, soy sauce, spice paste or other tare in the bowl with the noodles, you understand how a really good broth should taste. Many ramen chefs work with double broths, where they mix two types of broth to get an even more complex flavour. The most common combinations are dashi/chicken and tonkotsu/chicken.

Makes approximately 5 litres

1 whole chicken (approximately 1.5kg)
5 litres water
Salt

Place the whole chicken in a large pan that holds 6 litres. Add the water and bring to the boil on a low heat. Skim off the foam. Simmer for approximately 5–6 hours covered with a lid. Remove the chicken and save for a topping or another recipe. Strain the broth and store in the fridge. Before serving, the broth can be salted and flavoured with tare (flavouring) of your choice.

Chilli oil **

To get the right heat for your ramen you should always have a bottle of this chilli oil at the ready. It can be used as a flavouring for broth, together with miso, or drizzled over any ramen as a topping. It’s also incredibly tasty drizzled over a freshly baked pizza – just sayin’.

Makes approximately 250ml

200ml vegetable oil
2 tbsp sesame oil
3 tbsp Korean chilli powder (gochugaru)
1½ tbsp crushed small dried red Asian chillies
2 garlic cloves, crushed

Gently heat all the ingredients in a pan. Remove from the heat and leave to cool. Leave to infuse for approximately 1 hour. Remove one of the garlic cloves and blend the oil.

Pour the oil into a thoroughly cleaned bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Store in the fridge. Keeps for up to 6 months.

Short rib ramen

This ramen dish really packs a punch. Beef short ribs are slowly braised in the oven with five-spice – a mix of cinnamon, star anise, cloves, fennel and Sichuan pepper.

Makes 4 portions

1.8 litres beef bone broth *
8 tbsp five-spice chilli paste ** 
4 portions ramen noodles 
Five-spice short ribs
1kg/2lb 4oz short ribs or chuck
​100ml Chinese black vinegar
100ml Japanese soy sauce
3 tbsp Chinese mushroom soy sauce
4 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1½ tsp Sichuan pepper, crushed 
3 whole cloves
1 tsp fennel seeds
​10cm ginger root, sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp demerara sugar

Topping

2 fresh corn on the cob or 80g frozen sweetcorn kernels
2 tbsp vegetable oil
8 padrón peppers
2 jalapeño peppers, sliced
80g mizuna leaves or fresh spinach
8 lemon slices

Preheat the oven to 130°C/250°F/Gas 1. Place the meat in a deep ovenproof dish. Mix together the rest of the ingredients for the five-spice short ribs and add to the dish. Cover with foil. Roast in the middle of the oven for 5 hours, until the meat is tender.

Heat the broth in a pan. Cut the corn off the cobs. Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the corn until it has coloured. Remove the corn from the pan and fry the padrón peppers in the hot oil and a little salt. Set aside.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil for the noodles. Fill four bowls with hot water to warm them. Discard the water when it’s time to plate up. Cut the meat into chunks against the bones. (You can warm the meat in a moderate oven if needed.)

Put 2 tbsp of the five-spice chilli paste in each noodle bowl, add the broth and whisk together. Boil the noodles for approximately 45 seconds in the pan of water on a rolling boil. It’s best to use a noodle basket or a sieve so that you can reuse the water and quickly take out the noodles once done. You only have a window of a few seconds to make sure they’re not under- or overcooked. Drain thoroughly and transfer the noodles to the broth bowls.

Top with the meat, sweetcorn, padrón peppers, jalapeño peppers and mizuna. Place two lemon slices against the edge of each bowl.

Beef bone broth *

Before I tried this beef broth at Matador Ramen in Tokyo I thought that my absolute favourite broth was tonkotsu, but now I can’t make my mind up between the two! When cooking broth from beef the flavour comes from a nice fatty cut, which gives it a rich base. I use oxtail, but if unavailable I ask for beef or veal shank. I also throw in roasted marrow bones which slowly melt in the heat. Don’t exclude anything here. If you cook the broth using only meat, it won’t be as fatty as it should be.

Makes approximately 4 litres/7 pints/16 cups

1kg oxtail or veal shank
​20cm marrow bone
4.5 litres cups water
2 onions
Salt

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. Roast the meat and the marrow bone in the middle of the oven for approximately 30 minutes. Bring the water to the boil in a large pan together with the onions. Remove the tray from the oven and transfer the meat to the pan.

Add a cup of water to the hot tray and whisk to scrape up all the good flavours. Add the roasted marrow bone to the pan together with the liquid and bits from the tray. Bring to the boil and leave to simmer gently for about 6 hours covered with a lid. Strain and season with salt and tare (flavouring) of your choice before serving. The oxtail meat can be picked and used as topping.

Five-spice chilli paste **

A spice paste with a good punch, containing five-spice and Chinese soy sauce. In addition to stirring it into broth, it also makes a nice rub for meat that you then braise in the oven.

4 tbsp rapeseed oil with neutral flavour
2 small onions, coarsely chopped
4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
​10cm ginger root, peeled and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp Chinese five-spice blend
1 tbsp crushed small dried red Asian chillies 
3 tbsp Chinese soy sauce
3 tbsp rice vinegar
2 tsp salt

Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion, garlic, ginger and spices until slightly softened.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar and salt. Leave until half the liquid has been absorbed.

Blend until smooth. Store in a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Keeps for a few weeks in the fridge.

Ramen: Japanese Noodles and Side Dishes by Tove Nilsson, published by Pavilion Books. Photographs by Roland Persson

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