The touchstone of the college student. It always feels incredibly satisfying to be so full from a 39 cent meal. Microwaveable ramen is the largest of any average college student’s necessary food groups, but that little package of dry noodles is a far cry from the real thing. You might not think it, but the traditional Japanese dish is delicately layered with flavor and takes a great deal of effort to make. I had the best bowl of ramen I’ve ever experienced in Vietnam, which is weird I know. But remembering that meal while waiting three minutes to hear the buzzer for my mug of a “chicken flavored” impersonator after school the other day, I set out on a mission to recreate the real deal.
Cooking delicious ramen in true Japanese fashion is so outfitted with steps, it takes about three days to complete. I made a dashi, a freakin’ dashi! That is some Top Chef worthy, culinary wizardry. It’s a stock made from fish and kelp, used as the base of your favorite miso soup appetizer. The dashi had to be shelved for at least a day, as did my enthusiasm, which I needed good and rested for day two.
Peeling ginger, sautéing bok choy, learning how to actually get the good stuff out of lemongrass; frying an entire pork shoulder, only to make and strain another broth… this ramen is serious.
The end result though is the most delectably fragrant and outrageously tasty entity I have ever produced by following directions. Over 60 hours and $80 later, I had enough soup to last my house two weeks, which was 100 percent worth it, but it definitely makes me appreciate that convenient “college student staple” a little bit more.
Below is a not-as-complex variation on the dish I prepared, give it a go; you’ll have lunch for a month!