I'm tired of eating middling ramen, even here in LA. Does anyone know if any ramen cookbooks (or cookbooks with ramen recipes) exist in English? Especially of the serious type which talk about boiling bones for 8 hours and making noodles from scratch, not about canned chicken broth and store-bought noodles? Any information would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
I've been working on making a tonkotsu ramen for about a month.
I have not found an English book on the subject at all. Even all those books on various noodles never have a recipe (they usually say to buy a packet of noodles..grrr!).
There's also a shortage of high quality information on The Internet.
I've resorted to peer-reviewed science journals for good information on the noodles (e.g. Cereal Chemistry). I've got the noodle down to my satisfaction (for now).
I've had less luck with the broth. The few online recipes have not worked very well, but it could be because I've been using a pressure cooker.
I'd be happy to share my experience on any aspect if you want.
Please post back if you find anything.
Well, I don't have the tonkotsu base down, so not much advice there. Except I found out that it is possible to cook the stock too long, at least with a pressure cooker.
I had better luck with the noodles. After a lot of trial and error, I was able to make some damn fine noodles. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find my notes, but will share what I remember.
Kansui. This is a key ingredient in making ramen noodles, whose main function is to raise the pH of the dough. This gives the noodles the characteristic yellow tint and springiness. From what I understand, the Chinese traditionally used well water with alkaline pH or added some kind of ash to the dough water. Kansui is not available in the US, so one needs to make their own. It is a mixture of sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate. Some literature also mention a form of sodium phosphate, but I think it can be omitted. I came across some research articles that studied the effects of different sodium:potassium carbonate ratios on various properties of noodles. ["Influence of Alkaline Formulation on Oriental Noodle Color and Texture" and "Refrigerated Storage of Yellow Alkaline Durum Noodles: Impact on Color and Texture"]. Based on their findings, I began tests with a 1% mixture of the carbonates in the dough (i.e. for 100g of flour, I used 1g of the carbonate mix). While most of the desired noodle properties seemed to be best with a 1:9 sodium:potassium carbonate ratio, I found a 1:9 or 9:1 ratio to taste too "chemically". I settled on a 1:1 ratio, which minimized the off taste but still produced great noodles. I must note that I could still taste the chemical notes very slightly, and it seemed to coat my mouth and linger for a long time after consuming the noodles. It might be worth trying less of the carbonates, or using something like sodium hydroxide. By the way, I tried baking soda (sodium bicarbonate; suggested by one recipe) and that tasted horrible.
Flour. All purpose flour failed. The noodles were too soft and lacked character. Gold Medal Bread flour worked well. However, the noodles were best when I replaced about 5% of the flour with Arrowhead Mills Vital Wheat Gluten in order to increase the gluten by about 2% (According to my calculations which assumes this product is about 55% gluten). The end result was a very springy, bouncy noodle that was really fun to eat and held up in the hot broth. I did not have durum flour when I was performing these tests. I have a hunch that it would produce stellar noodles. King Arthur bread flour might also work better than Gold medal since it has a higher amount of gluten. Likewise for high gluten flour (in which case, you probably don't need the vital wheat gluten).
Salt. I avoided table salt (NaCl) due to reports that it worsened almost all of the desired characteristics of the noodle. I did not miss it in the taste.
Noodle making. Here's my rough recipe for a dough that uses 100g of flour. This makes a small ball which is a good size for tests, but not nearly enough if you're planning of feeding people:
Bread flour 95g (or 100g if not using vital wheat gluten)
VItal gluten 5g
Sodium carbonate 0.5g
Potassium carbonate 0.5g
Water approximately 35g
You want to be fairly accurate with the weight of the carbonates.
If you don't have a scale that reads in 0.1g increments, you should make a dilute solution of the carbonates first. For instance, weigh 5g of each carbonate and add them both to 90g of water. Then use 10g of the solution in the dough to yield 0.5g of each carbonate. Of course, you will have to adjust for the added water.
Don't add all of the water initially. Add it slowly as you mix the dough. You just want enough water so the dough holds together without crumbling or having any unincorporated flour. You don't want it to be sticky.
Knead the dough until it looks smooth. You can't really do a test like the windowpane stretch test used with bread dough. It seems the carbonates make the dough unstretchable by hand. Let it rest for 20 minutes or so, covered in plastic film.
I used a pasta roller to make the noodles. On the widest setting, I passed the dough through several times, folding it in half or thirds in between passes. I don't think you can really overdo this. I knew it was ready to pass through a narrower setting when it was very smooth. Be very liberal with the flour in between passes. You do not want the noodles to stick together. Pass once through each narrower setting until you think it is thin enough. Depending on the composition of your dough, the noodle will swell a different amount when cooked. So you have to figure out the optimal thickness empirically. For me, I think it was #6 on my Atlas pasta roller. Make sure the final sheet is floured heavily, then cut using the thinner cutters. Flour the cut noodles some more. It has since occurred to me that maybe letting the final sheet dry a little bit before cutting could be helpful (as they seem to do with pasta).
Cooking. Boil lots of water and salt it well. I usually do about 2% salt (20g per liter of water). My noodles took about 3-4 minutes to cook to my desired doneness. [The aforementioned articles state cooking times of 9-12 minutes!]. When cooking noodles for more than one bowl at a time, I found it helpful to do each bowl's worth in a different pot, or to physically separate them in the same pot. Otherwise, I really couldn't separate the cooked noodles into multiple portions. Too much tangle.
I hope all this is somehow helpful. I haven't been working on this for a while since I've found it much easier to master pizza in the meantime. If anyone tries this out, please share your experiences so that we may learn from them.
The purity of the chemicals is >99.5% so I did not worry about whether they were food grade. I suggest contacting small chemical suppliers that don't require institutional accounts (and are also generally less expensive). Google "chemical suppliers" and search within their sites. You'll find the chemicals sold as powders or solutions. Check out chemical.net . It'll probably cost you about $30 to get both items shipped (and that will be a lifetime supply, unless you open your own noodle shop). Or just email me your address and I can send you a few grams to play with (click on my name below to see my profile with email address).
I've come to realize that a pressure cooker is not effective in creating a rich tonkotsu broth. It was impossible for me to simultaneously create a flavorful broth that was also rich and milky due to the emulsification of the fat, collagen and water. However, the goal was easily achieved by simply making the broth over high heat for many hours in an open pot.
Recently, a great friend brought a ramen cookbook from Tokyo. Perhaps I'll get around to bugging another friend to translate it. The book profiles 16 ramen-yas with recipes for their signature dish. It looks very detailed with photos for each step.
It's the ninth book listed on the publisher's site (Warning: Viewing with Google Translate can cause envy): http://translate.google.com/translate...
I await for the day when we can collectively be as passionate about food in this country.
re: Joe MacBu
am also working my way through the momofuku cookbook and just received my alkali salts (and posted on them here in more detail http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6916... ) but you would feel comfortable using the salts I describe in the above link (obvs not asking you to certify them as "totally safe", just your opinion)? these are the two I bought:
someone else in that thread mentioned asking at a pharmacy, which might be promising.
You may want to try using lye water from a Chinese market. I think it's usually a mix of potassium carbonate and sodium bicarbonate (rather than carbonate). It doesn't state the concentration, so you'll need to do some experimentation.
Look for a clear liquid in clear bottles priced around $1. Perhaps in the soy sauce aisle, or maybe the flour aisle. The Chinese name means alkaline water (jian shui 碱水).
re: Joe MacBu
I saw this posting after having received Chang's Momofuku cookbook on Monday. I was surprised to see your recipe also includes sodium and potassium carbonate. :) I've just ordered them online and am anxious to try my hand at making fresh ramen noodles. I really appreciate the detail you've included in your recipe-if only I'd had seen it sooner. Cold weather, ramen...I can't wait!
Thanks for the recipe lead. Momofuku's recipe looks similar to mine, with a few differences. I haven't eaten there to know how the ramen stacks up.
M uses 9:1 sodium:potassium carbonate. In my tests, this ratio came in last place for the desired texture. As mentioned above, 1:9 Na:K was the best in my hands, but I resorted to 1:1 for taste reasons. M also uses total carbonates at 1%. I suspect that the ideal ratio and concentration will vary depending on the flour used (the ash content is probably a factor).
M's dough hydration is at 37.5%, which is pretty much the same for mine.
Most of the other differences are in the kneading and resting steps. M kneads for 10 minutes and rests in the fridge for 30 minutes before sheeting and cutting. M uses 180g of noodles per portion.
M recommends bread flour (as I do) or 00 pasta flour. Double zero refers to the fineness of the grind and doesn't state anything about protein content, which can vary from ~8-13%. If you're going to use 00, I'd go with the Caputo brand flours used for pizza. They tend to have >12% protein. If you don't already have a collection of flour, start with King Arthur bread flour, which has about 12.7% protein.
I checked the book on Amazon (they have previews). It doesn't seem like he discussed making noodles from scratch. Also did not see a tonkotsu recipe in the table of contents. Although, it might be worth it for the other broths.
Thanks for the tip; it looks interesting.
Please let us know what you think of the book once you get a chance to peruse it.
Just commented on this chow thread on this topic http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6916... short answer is I made the momofuku ramen with the alkaline salts I ordered online without a problem and the noodles turned out great. I followed the recipe exactly but ended up having to add maybe 10T of additional water and my kitchenaid mixmaster (the smaller edition, "artisinal" or something) was barely up to the task of kneading the dough, I had to spend another 5 or 10 minutes kneading by hand (very tough dough too). but the end result very closely resembled the ramen noodles served at momofuku (most recently ate there four days ago).
Don't bother trying to knead stiff doughs with those home mixers. There are too many reports of motors burning out with even 65% hydration bread doughs. Noodle dough is closer to 40% hydration.
To make it easier, use an autolyse step. You basically mix all the ingredients just to get it all hydrated. Then let it rest for 15-60 minutes. This allows full hydration of the flour and a substantial amount of gluten to form by itself. It will drastically reduce how much kneading time is required and you won't need to use the machine at all. Let the dough rest another 15+ minutes after kneading, before rolling and cutting.
Thanks for writing about your experience.