Two steps forward, one step back. I was sure after the last attempt that I had the formula nailed but alas, all I got on attempt 4 was a slightly better umami bomb than attempt 2. I haven’t eaten a whole lot of ramen, but I consider the ultimate goal of a bowl of ramen (which is my ultimate goal) to offer both clarity of flavour, depth and plenty of umami. To get just umami is easy, the other two are much more difficult to achieve.
The broth this time was more cloudy, and the flavour more muddled. Attempt 3 tasted sharper — you could tell the base was chicken, the tare was well balanced and you got that “holy shit, this is good” from the first mouthful. On the plus side, the onion flavour came through a bit more on this attempt. I think the ratio of fat was a bit too high in this attempt, and I think it tends to blunt the flavour of the broth when there is too much. It’s like making scrambled eggs — when you get the amount of butter and cream just right, the combination of ingredients is greater than the sum of its parts and each bite is like a harmonious song. When you get too much of any one ingredient, it’s all you taste and it brings everything down.
I also realised even tiny differences can make a big change at the end. Things done differently on this attempt:
Bonito flakes were added from the beginning
As a result of the above, I didn’t bring the broth to boiling point to scoop the fat/scum off the top
I used more chicken
I didn’t cook the broth down as much — there wasn’t as much chickeny flavour
The kombu I used was cheap stuff from the Asian grocer, not the stuff from Hokkaido.
I did the leeks in the oven for half an hour before adding to the stock
When I read Ivan Orkin’s method for making ramen I thought it was too complicated for me to bother with at home. Making each component on its own is more trouble than making the entire broth in one pot and the tare in another, but I realise by doing each component on its own you can really control the flavour as you’re making that component, and you can also work out the exact ratio of each component until you achieve perfection.
Also, just 2 attempts ago I was like, there’s no way I’m making my own noodles. Now, I’m resigned to the fact that I’m going to have to do it. I’ve got a lot of work to do on getting my broth right first though, so it can wait for the moment, because I’m going to have to buy an expensive kitchen mixer with a dough hook to do it.