Like it or not (or in my case, love it), ramen is coming to Edmonton. I can remember the days when I relied on Nomiya for my ramen fix. Then came the opening of Yuzen’s Saturday lunch ramen. Fast forward to fall 2014 and we’ve since had three ramen pop-ups by Prairie Noodle, and a brand new ramen-ya, Ninja Club, and another lunch ramen offering by Ohana-Ya! When I heard Get Cooking was offering a cooking class with guest Chef Chris Tom-Kee, I nearly peed my pants.A NAIT graduate, Chef Chris Tom-Kee has worked in some of the best kitchens in Edmonton, including Unheard Of and Canteen. He’s currently finishing up an education degree with the hopes of teaching food courses to high school students but that doesn’t stop him from cooking one his favourite comfort foods. Growing up with instant noodles (Korea’s Nongshim Potato Pork Bone Instant Ramen is his favourite), Chris started focusing on making noodles and broths from scratch over a year ago. I had the rare opportunity to try one of his homemade creations in his home a couple of months ago and I remember thinking, “I need to talk to this guy about ramen!” A recent trip to Japan further boosts Chris’ credentials, making me more excited than ever for this class. Over the span of four hours, our class of twelve learned the basic components of ramen and how to make a version of each at home: broth, tare, noodles, and toppings. We started by prepping our tare (pronounced tar-é), a strong, concentrated sauce that starts off your bowl of ramen. Think of it as the seasoning packet that’s in your everyday instant noodles. There are three mainstays of tare: shoyu (soy sauce-based), shio (salt-based), and miso (fermented bean paste-based). That night, we made a shoyu tare by throwing chicken legs and backs, soy sauce, aromatics (onion, ginger, garlic), brown sugar, salt, and sesame oil into a roasting pan and cooking it low and slow in the oven. Not only did this create a flavourful tare, the shredded chicken meat doubled as one of our toppings.
The broth itself can be made up of anything you can think of: meat (pork, chicken, a combination), seafood, or vegetables to make a vegetarian option. Add some bones for an extensive period of time would yield a paitan (white broth), the most popular being a tonkotsu, or pork bone broth. Our bowl for the night used both chicken and pork bones for a shorter amount of time (8 to 12 hours) to make a cleaner, lighter broth. The use of kombu (dried kelp) and dried shiitake mushrooms gave our broth a much needed umami flavour, while our trio of aromatics (carrots, onions, garlic) also made another appearance. Our broth still needed to cook overnight, but like the magic of television, Chris had already made a batch of broth for us to try.
My focus for the night: the noodles. Ramen noodles are different from your regular flour noodle like pasta, solely because of the use of alkaline salts (sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate). Sourcing the salt powders themselves can get a bit tricky, so the use of liquid kansui, a pre-made solution, was our method of choice.
What I loved about Chris’ class was how technical it was. He talked about gluten content in flours, importance of hydration and the wetness (or dryness) of the dough, and encouraged all of us to forget about what we knew about pasta doughs. Our dough was quite dry and very tough, despite little handling and kneading. A few runs through the pasta roller though and we were on our way to some amazing noodles!
Other toppings we learned how to make: pickled shiitake mushrooms, utilizing the spent mushrooms from our broth; and ajitsuke eggs, (marinated soft boiled eggs) using a 50/50 mixture of tare and water.Before long, Chris was assembling our ramen and we were all enjoying our hard work. A shoyu tare at the bottom of the bowl, a little addition of chicken fat, freshly cooked ramen noodles, topped with boiling pork and chicken broth. Our shredded chicken, pickled shiitake mushrooms, ajitsuke egg, and garnishes of microgreens and a piece of fried chicken skin completed the bowl. Was it worth it? You bet your pants it was.
Four hours of fun, new ramen-loving friends, paired Japanese beers, appetizers, and a bowl of delicious ramen. I don’t know where else you’d rather be. So you’re probably all thinking, “I want to make this. Where’s the recipe Cindy?” Well my notes are all stained with tare and crumpled up from my kitchen experiments. You’ll have to attend a Get Cooking class to find out! The next class (July 8th) is already sold out but make sure you subscribe to the Get Cooking newsletter to keep up to date with their schedule and upcoming classes or follow them on Facebook or Twitter.Second question you’re thinking: “Wait, you actually made everything at home?” Heck yes, I did! I will freely admit that I am not, by any means, a good cook. Low confidence, deathly afraid of failure (waste of time, money, ingredients!), and just desperate for a good meal. But it’s classes like this one, plus surrounding yourself with friends who are just as enthusiastic about ramen, that make me all the more excited to jump right in! To read up on my experience on cooking ramen from scratch, make sure you subscribe to the blog, or follow me on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter. Post to come in my upcoming series LET’S OM NOM at home!
Looking for all things Edmonton ramen? Keep your eyes peeled, I’ve got my Edmonton Ramen Guide coming your way! 😉Get Cooking
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