Recipes by Vivi: Pork and Ramen Noodles

Vivi Mazarakis is the author of Forking DC. You can read her previous columns here.

Pork and Ramen Noodles

This recipe was inspired by my recent trip to the Atlas District’s Toki Underground, a Taiwanese noodle and dumpling shop inspired by Japanese ramen houses. (Read my review of Toki here). Ever since slurping noodles there last weekend, I just couldn’t stop thinking about the Hakata Classic (ramen with pork loin). So, I turned to one of my favorite chefs, “Iron Chef” Masaharu Morimoto, and his book “The New Art of Japanese Cooking” to feed my obsession. Sitting on my couch, I leafed through the colorful images of Chef Morimoto’s beautifully plated food looking for a recipe I could try.

I will admit that many of Morimoto’s recipes are a bit intimidating. They call for either complicated cooking techniques or many exotic ingredients that most local grocery stores don’t sell, or don’t sell for a reasonable price. (Yes, I’m referring to the grocery store commonly referred to as “Whole Paycheck,” with whom I have a love-hate relationship.)

When I came across Morimoto’s Za Jan Noodles recipe, I thought: bingo! It would satiate my craving for both noodles and pork, and it seemed relatively easy to prepare. Below is my slightly modified version of this recipe. For vegetarians, swap out the pork with tofu and skip the egg. Tofu is a great substitute since it will soak up the flavor-packed sauce.

Most of the ingredients can be found at your local grocery store. As for the red miso, you can find it and any other Asian specialty items at one of my favorite stores in DC – Hana Japanese Market at the corner of 17th & U St. NW. This place is a real gem and the owners are nice and very helpful. As for the sake, you’ll find that many liquor stores these days carry it. For example, you can find it at the liquor store across the street from Hana or De Vinos, a great wine store in Adams Morgan. Otherwise, cooking rice wine, which you can find at any grocery store, will work just fine.

Continues after the jump.

(Serves 4)

1 tbsp vegetable oil
½ lb ground pork
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
1 tbsp minced garlic
¼ c julienned bamboo shoots
1 ½ c chicken or vegetable stock
¼ c red miso
¼ c low-sodium soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp sake
1 tsp cornstarch, dissolved in ¼ c cold water
1 ½ tsp sesame oil
12 oz dried noodles (ramen or lo mein)
½ cucumber, peeled, seeded, and julienned
1 hard-boiled egg (optional)
1 scallion, thinly sliced on an angle
Sriracha sauce or Chinese chile sauce (to taste)

Start boiling water for your noodles. Combine the sugar, soy sauce, stock, and sake in a bowl. Mix in the red miso. Set aside. Note: Red miso is salty. I found that ¼ cup bordered on too salty, so I recommend adding a little red miso at a time and tasting the mixture as you go until you find the amount that’s right for you. Remember that the salty flavor will only intensify as the mixture cooks down later.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add the ginger and garlic and cook (stirring often) for about 1 minute. Add the ground pork, breaking it up into smaller pieces with a wooden spoon. Brown the pork for about 5-6 minutes or until there is little to no liquid left in the skillet. Add the bamboo shoots and then add the red miso mixture. Bring the contents of the skillet to a boil and then add the cornstarch mixture. Cook until the sauce thickens and reduces. Remove from heat and stir in the sesame oil. For some heat and additional flavor, add Sriracha (or chile sauce) to taste. Cover to keep warm until noodles are ready.

Drop noodles in boiling water and cook according to package instructions (usually about 4 minutes). Drain noodles and divide among four bowls.

Spoon the pork mixture over the noodles. Top each bowl with cucumber, chopped egg, and scallions. Enjoy!

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