This is one of my favorite solo suppers. I have made it for the family, but with the multiplied chopping, prepping, and dishing up, a certain frantic note can be introduced into the proceedings.
For the same reason, although my photographer here, Keiko, admonished me gently, telling me that no Japanese person makes ramen at home, I find the chaos and noise of noodle joints is not what I want when I’m in the mood for ramen, and so I sacrifice authenticity for pleasure.
But I felt that I was sacrificing a little too much authenticity for Keiko’s comfort when I told her I liked my ramen with soba noodles. This was a step too far, and so I tried to ingratiate myself with her by using the noodles she picked out of my Carb Cupboard (I have such a thing), but I do love soba noodles in my ramen and am afraid I will persist in this incorrect habit.
I found fresh dashi, a Japanese broth infused with seaweed and bonito fish, in a pouch at my local supermarket, but there are also plenty of instant dashi granules or cubes around, and if I haven’t got any, I just use vegetable bouillon.
The flavor from the dried shiitake mushroom is so beautiful that any light broth is a good choice. Speaking of which, if I have time, I use 4 dried whole shiitake mushrooms and soak them for a couple of hours after the 15 minutes’ bubbling — indeed, I sometimes get them soaking at breakfast so that the flavors deepen all day and I’m ramen’d up in no time at all in the evening.
But I am not that organized often enough, in which case I use dried ready-sliced shiitake and suggest you do, too. When I’m ramen-ready, I want no one or nothing to hold me up.
- ¼ cup dried ready-sliced shiitake mushrooms
- 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into fine matchsticks
- 2 cups cold dashi or vegetable broth
- 2–3 ounces instant ramen noodles or soba noodles
- 1 egg
- 3 baby bok choy
- 2 radishes
- 2 teaspoons sweet white miso
- ½ teaspoon soy sauce, or to taste
- drop of Asian sesame oil
- 1 scallion (green part only), thinly sliced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1. Put the dried shiitake in a saucepan that has a tight-fitting lid. Add the ginger matchsticks and pour in the cold dashi; bring to a boil, then clamp on the lid, lower the heat, and let it simmer for 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, put a saucepan of water on for the noodles; these take hardly any time. So, toward the end of the broth’s 15 minutes’ simmering time, cook the noodles following the package instructions, then drain and refresh under a cold running tap and leave in the strainer or colander.
3. Fill the saucepan with water again, bring to a boil, add the egg, and simmer for 6½ minutes, by which time the yolk will be set around the edge but still have a bit of ooze in the middle.
4. While the broth’s simmering, trim the ends of the baby bok choy, tear off the leaves, and separate the stems into one pile and the leaves into another.
5. Quarter the radishes lengthwise. When the broth’s had its 15 minutes, bring it to a rolling boil, and add the bok choy stems and the quartered radishes.
6. Let it come back to a boil, then add the bok choy leaves and turn off the heat. Now add the miso and soy sauce and a drop of sesame oil, and put the lid back on.
7. When the egg is ready, pour out the boiling water, then run cold water from the tap into the pan until the egg has cooled enough to peel.
8. Put the drained noodles into a bowl and pour the broth and vegetables over them. Cut the egg in half lengthwise, then add both halves to the soup. (And yes, I know the bowl you see here only has one half.)
Sprinkle the sliced scallion and crushed red pepper flakes over the top, and eat yourself into Zen bliss.
Excerpted from Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food (Flatiron Books). Photo credit Keiko Oikawa.