Thy Tran demonstrated how to make noodles at home and gave us a little lesson on ramen history and ingredients, while Ken Tominaga shared broth making tips and cultural observations. Here are some of the things that we learned and the recipe we received typed out below:
The Yellow Color Comes from Alkaline Water
Many people think that the yellow color in ramen noodles comes from eggs but that's not the case according to Thy. It comes from kansui aka the alkaline component that reacts with the compounds of the wheat. Historically, people used alkaline well water to make noodles but because most of us do not have access to a well with water, you can buy alkaline water from Asian grocery stores; it's usually labeled as potassium carbonate or sodium hydroxide.
Do You Like it Thick or Thin?
Thy advises if you plan on making a hearty ramen, thick noodles are the way to go. If you want more focus on the broth or if you are going for more delicate flavors, go with thin noodles.
Use Water with Caution
When making ramen noodles, it's important that the water is not too hot or the dough will seize and make it difficult to handle. You will also want a dough that comes together but is not wet. If needed, you can add more flour after mixing but you will compromise the texture of the dough.
Instant Ramen is Popular in Japan
It's no surprise when Ken tells us that ramen in Japan is equivalent to hamburgers in the United States. While it's common, it is actually mostly consumed in instant ramen form that contains dried meat and vegetable protein in comparison to dining out at a ramen shop or making it at home. It turns out that most people do not make ramen from scratch at home because it's a difficult process.
Eat Quickly & Don't Talk to Friends
Ken gets nervous when people converse over a bowl of ramen and says, "You are supposed to eat it fast and eat it as soon as possible." He advises the proper way to eat ramen is to start off with the soup then pick up noodles and make noises while slurping the noodles down your throat without much chewing. Ken dreams one day to just hear people slurping at the Ramen Bar.
Ramen Noodles by Thy Tran (Wandering Spoon)
Makes 24 oz uncooked noodles, or 6 servings
YOU WILL NEED
- Food processor
- Pasta maker
- 1 cup hot water
- 2 tablespoons kansui (labeled as potassium carbonate or sodium hydroxide in Asian markets)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 3 1/2 cups oo flour* or unbleached all-purpose flour
- Potato starch
- Kosher salt
*Note: oo flour has higher protein content and gives noodles a firm bite while retaining silky smoothness
- Stir together the hot water, kansui, and salt in a medium bowl until dissolved.
- Put the flour into a food processor fitted with the dough blade; pule a few times. With the machine running, drizzle in about 3/4 cup of the kansui mixture. Stop to squeeze the dough and incorporate any clumps of dry flour. Continue mixing in the water 1 teaspoon at a time until the dough forms small, distinct balls that, when squeezed, meld into a smooth mass.
- Knead by machine for 3 minutes, then finish kneading by hand for 2 minutes.
- Shape the dough into a smooth square, wrap in plastic, and let rest for at least 1 hour or refrigerate for up to 1 day.
- Divide the dough into four pieces. Using a pasta machine, pass each piece through the rollers, starting with setting 1 and working through to setting 5. Coat the dough sheets well with potato starch to prevent sticking, the then pass noodles through the thin-width cutters. Dredge the noodles evenly with more potato starch.
- Boil immediately, or wrap well and refrigerate for up to 3 days.
Note: To make kansui in a dry form, thinly spread 1/4 cup baking soda on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour at 250 F. Let cool and store in a tightly-sealed glass jar. To make ramen noodles, stir 1 tablespoon dry kansui powder into 1 cup of water until completely dissolved, before adding salt.