I have always been a great lover of Japanese food, until the moment I arrived in Japan 6 weeks pregnant. Suddenly any food vaguely Japanese made me feel sick. Even a simple of thought of Japanese food made my stomach twirl.
Well, bit of a problem when you are in Japan, I tell you.
Anyhow, I felt like this period is now long passed me, so when I was given the opportunity to learn to cook Japanese dish ramen, I didn’t think twice.
Ramen in itself is very healthy, what makes it special is the broth, which is cooked for hours and hours, to bring out all the goodness. As we were explained, ramen for Japanese is almost equivalent to fast food (but it’s not), which you would have late night after a few pints of beer, or just for lunch.
The course I went to was at Sozai Cooking School, very conveniently located just behind Aldgate station. If you work on the city, it’s very easy to reach.
Our instructor Akemi was brilliant at explaining each step and involving us, students, in the process. For example by sealing the pork belly, as seen above.
To my surprise, we cooked ramen from scratch, which Japanese themselves very rarely do. With huge variety of fresh noodles available at supermarkets, wheeling patties of dough through a pasta maker, is not something an average Japanese person often does. Yet, it was so much fun and gave me a sense of achievement, without doubt.
In a couple of hours, we were to prepare three types of ramen – cold ramen, miso ramen and pork ramen.
All in all I would say that cooking ramen is a lot about mixing the right quantities and timing of cooking, so it’s in fact less complicated than I thought. However, it can always go wrong (which I will explain below).
We started by cooking the pork belly, first by sealing it and then adding it to the sauce consisting of soy sauce, mirin, sake, Chinese wine, star anise and sugar.
After that it was time to prepare the actual noodles. We made the dough out of flour, baking powder, salt, hot and cold water. After letting it set, we put the dough in cling film and kept it in the fridge.
Moving on to prepare the miso ramen. Miso in fact is fermented soy beans – did you know that, as I had no clue? We learnt that each region in Japan have their own typical miso, like the Italians would have a special pasta sauce or dessert in each village.
By the end of the evening we were all sufficiently hungry. I was nervous to try out the ramen, having vivid memories of not eating ramen in Japan. However, it was delicious. Three(!) bowls of ramen went down as a treat.
So, after such a successful evening I tried to cook it at home. How did it go? I tell you one thing, do not put your baby to bed and leave the pork cooking in the pot unattended, as otherwise … it may not work. Another tip – make your own chicken stock, it will make a huge difference.