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Spicy miso ramen1

Ahhh…fall.  Of all the seasons, autumn is probably my favorite.  The cool crisp air is refreshing, the leaves are turning vibrant colors, and it is time for warm, comforting bowls of soup.

To kick off the season, I decided to make spicy miso ramen.  Making great ramen is truly a labor of love, but it is well worth it if you are craving some lip-smacking, flavorful ramen broth.  It does take a lot of time to make, but much of it is spent just “checking on” the broth and quickly skimming the scum off the surface.

After much research and numerous trials and failures, I’ve found that the ramen recipes involving slow-simmering of pork neck bones yield the best result.  Buy the fattiest pork neck bones with a lot of marrow for the richest broth. By slow-simmering pork bones for six to seven hours (yes, that’s right), you’re rewarded with this delicious savory broth that mimics that of restaurants.

Usually, I make the ramen broth over the stove, regularly checking on the broth, adding more water as needed to replenish the water that has evaporated.  I also regularly skim the surface of the broth, move the neck bones around, and check on the taste about every hour or two.

However, this last time, I decided to experiment with the slow cooker.  I cooked the broth in there for about six and a half hours.  While the resulting broth was beautifully clear and clean, it didn’t have the depth or richness that I was looking for.  Next time, I’ll go back to my old way of making ramen broth; that is the method I outline below.

Little Bear’s Spicy Miso Ramen

2 lbs pork neck bones
10 c water, to start (you can add more later, per your preference)
1 large onion, sliced
5 generous T white miso paste
3 t dashi powder
Dash of soy sauce
3-4 t chili oil
1 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 lbs pork belly, fat trimmed off if desired
2 heads baby bok choy, leaves separated from the base
1 pkg fresh ramen noodles (enough for 6-8 people)
Fish cake, sliced (I used kamaboko–pink shell with white center, and naruto–white with pink swirl)
4 eggs, hard-boiled and sliced in half lengthwise
2 stalks green onions, diced, for garnish

**The pork neck bones need to simmer for 6-7 hours prior to adding other ingredients, so plan accordingly.**

Pre-boiling the bones:

Fill a small pot with water about three-fourths of the way up and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once the water is boiling, add the pork neck bones.  Boil hard for about 7-10 minutes.  You’ll see brownish scum and other impurities rise to the surface.  You’ll be glad you didn’t skip this step.

Once done, remove the neck bones from the pot and rinse well with cool water.  Set aside.

Making the ramen broth:

In a large pot, over medium-high heat, add 10 cups of water and the neck bones.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over low heat.  Simmer for 6-7 hours.  Every hour or so, skim any extra scum off the surface and add more water as needed to replace that which was lost.

Once  7 hours are up, remove the pork bones from the pot and discard.  Skim the broth again for any remaining impurities.  You can also strain the broth through a cheesecloth if you like, but I opt not to do this for fear of scalding myself.

Now add the miso paste, 1 tablespoon at a time, stirring to dissolve the miso.  Add the thinly sliced onion, dashi powder, a dash of soy sauce, and the chili oil.  Stir well.

In a small frying pan, heat vegetable oil over medium heat.  Sear the slices of pork belly on all sides, then add to the ramen broth.  Using approximately 1/4 cup of water, deglaze the pan and add this to the broth as well to get every last bit of flavor.

Add the bok choy leaves and simmer for an additional 5-10 minutes.

Making the ramen noodles:

Meanwhile, bring a small pot of water to a boil.  Add the desired amount of fresh ramen noodles to the boiling water.  Salt lightly and cook per package instructions (usually no longer than 2-3 minutes for al dente noodles).  Do not overcook!!  Noodles should be chewy and have a firm texture.

Putting it all together:

Prepare individual ramen bowls (or large soup bowls).  Place cooked noodles in the center of the bowl, arranging several fish cake slices, an egg half, and green onions on top.  Ladle the ramen broth on top of the noodles.  Add some bok choy and pork belly to each bowl.  Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Serves 6-8.

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