As a person living in Japan, I feel sad at how ramen is treated in the west. It is considered the epitome of junk food; a greasy, carcinogenic mess, lacking in any nutrients whatsoever and only to be eaten as a last resort or as a college student...
Here in its home country, ramen is, if not the healthiest thing around, at least something that you can eat every day and not get sick. And of course, the taste is incomparable.
This recipe will teach you how to make true ramen from scratch, with little more cost than a instant ramen packet (depending on what you do for the soup). It does take some extra effort, but if you enjoy cooking and know how to knead things, it should be fine!
Step 1: Gather Your Ingredients
You will need:
3/4 Cups Flour (see below)
~3/4 tsp salt (or to taste)
~1 tbsp water (depending on flour and humidity)
In Japan, we do not have all-purpose flour, only low gluten and high gluten flours, which we have to mix. If you do have easy access to these flours, you should mix about 1 part low gluten to 2 parts high gluten. Otherwise, just use all-purpose flour. It's not vital to the noodles.
This dough doubles or even quadruples very well, although the dough becomes harder to knead.
Step 2: Combine.
Mix the dry ingredients, make a well in the center, and beat the eggs and water inside.
Then slowly combine the ingredients together.
Step 3: Knead That Dough.
Once your ingredients are somewhat combined, dump the stuff onto your CLEAN counter and start kneading. It should be a little stiffer than bread dough.
The dough is ready when your hands become fairly clean and the dough does not stick as much anymore (and when your forearms are sore). When it is the right consistency, you should be able to lift your hand and the dough should fall off after about a second.
If it's too sticky, add some flour and knead it in. If it doesn't stick at all, add some water a few DROPS at a time.
Step 4: Rest.
The dough needs to rest before we stretch it, otherwise it will not make nice thin noodles.
Put it in a damp cloth and find something to do for at least 30 minutes in the summer, up to 2 hours in the winter.
Step 5: Stretch It!
Take the dough ball and (if you are making a double or triple portion of the recipe) break it into a single portion (Otherwise we'll get a massive dough circle). Sprinkle some flour generously over the dough, take a rolling pin or roller and start stretching it. I suppose you could use a ravioli dough stretcher thing too, but I don't have one of those.
If you can, get it to about 1mm in thickness. If it starts sticking, get some more dry flour onto there.
If it starts springing back to its original shape, let it rest for a minute or two.
Step 6: Cut the Dough!
Get the sheet of dough and put it onto a cutting board so you don't damage your counter. Spread flour LIBERALLY on the surface, because if it starts sticking when we cut it, our ramen will be ruined. Fold it two times in the same direction, each time spreading flour on the surface. finally, get some flour on the top. Don't worry, all that loose flour will wash off when we boil it, and the flour in the water will keep our noodles together also.
Once it is folded in a strip, start cutting it. A wide square knife is best, but any knife will work as long as it is big enough.
Periodically spread some more flour. It won't hurt anything and it's best to be safe rather than sorry.
Once you have a pile of cut noodles, toy at them with your fingers to unfold them. toss them around with some more flour, just be careful not to break the noodles.
Step 7: Boil It!
I hope you got some water boiling already. I always forget. Anyhow, once the water boils, salt it, then sprinkle the noodles into the water. if you dump them in, they will stick. Mix the noodles around with chopsticks.
As long as the water is hot enough, they should start floating.
I usually boil them about 4 minutes, depending on how thin I got the noodles. The best way is to just taste the noodles and drain them when they're just soft enough. You can also boil some vegetables or meat with the noodles to heat them up, just make sure to not cool the water down too much when you put them in.
Step 8: Add Some Soup and Eat.
This is the part I myself could use some help on. I just mix concentrated chicken stock and soy sauce (or miso), but if you're desperate you can use the flavor packet from instant ramen or something. Do not just use soy sauce or miso without any stock, because it will taste like crap. And for the love of god, do not use tomato soup or any of those American concoctions.
If you make or have your own stock, then yes, just the stock and some seasoning will work perfect. You can also make tonkotsu soup with pig bones, but that amounts to about a day of simemring and reducing, something I am too lazy for.
Spinach and Chinese cabbage (hakusai) both go great with ramen, as does most kinds of mild meat.You can also add corn, peas, or any other manner of frozen vegetables. Eggs also go will in the soup, hard boiled or mixed in.
Finally, let us examine the price. The eggs, flour and salt should come to no more than 50 cents. Depending on how much you spend on your soup, you should be able to get a decent bowl of ramen for about a dollar in ingredients. Not much more expensive than a instant packet! You can, of course, really go crazy on the condiments.