Recipe Source: Lee, Debbie: Seoultown Kitchen. Kyle Books, Lanham, 2011 p. 46
I'm a big believer in adapting recipes to one's own needs. When I'm working on a medieval recipe I try to stick as close to the original as I can, but when it's a modern recipe I'm willing to make a lot of changes depending on my tastes, preferences and inventory and that usually works out okay. Sometimes, though, the original recipe is written that way for a reason. This is one of those times. I made some changes because of what I had on hand and what my husband prefers and this that and the other thing and the results were... a lot less soup-like than intended. This was okay. It was fine, we both really enjoyed this dish and it met our needs just fine, but it wasn't what I intended and I'm very certain that it isn't what Ms. Lee had in mind. Oh well.
So about the ramen. A real chef - she's got a cooking school degree and worked in the industry for a very long time before getting out - once told me that every chef has their guilty little food pleasure, the kind of thing that they would generally prefer not to admit to even under torture. For some it is mac-and-cheese from a box. For others it is sad, greasy fast food. For some it is pasta from a can. I am not a chef, I am a pudgy suburban housewife who cooks too much, but I too have a guilty pleasure and that guilty pleasure is ramen. The cheap kind. There have been times - thankfully long gone - when I was reduced to eating a packet of ramen a day, so I guess in my head I associate ramen with not starving. Even after those days were gone packet ramen was a convenient way to get dinner after a long day at work - the dot-com years were wild and crazy, but not exactly lazy - or a long day at work followed by a long night of graduate school. They cooked in like five minutes. Of course I was very much aware that real ramen was better than that, and when I had things to add to the dish I would. Leftover greens here, spices there, you know. But if all I could get was a packet of noodles and that salty, 100%-pure-synthetic-something-salty flavor packet then I was more than happy to eat it.
And sometimes I still crave that stuff. I don't get the packet stuff, but I like to find ways to satisfy those cravings without murdering my blood pressure and taste buds. (I loved it then, I still do on some level, but that stuff is so not good for you. It's better than starvation.) When I found this recipe in this cookbook I knew I would make it, because it would make me happy. (Even though it didn't turn out the way I intended it did, ultimately, make me very happy.) I was very ill that week, so my husband volunteered to go to the grocery store. He went to a different grocery store than I usually patronize, which is fine. This meant that he couldn't get nori, or at least that he couldn't find the nori and I couldn't guide him to it. I wasn't surprised to find that they didn't have it. I told him to pick up something green and leafy instead and he grabbed collard greens, which are my favorite dark green leafy thing. I figured that it would add to the overall healthiness of the dish. I omitted the sugar because I just don't like to add sweeteners to my savory dishes; I'm wild and crazy like that. I didn't have dashi stock but I did have vegetable stock. I used more chile powder, and of course I used "Chile Powder Xtra Hot." (It felt so good to use that again; we made our daughter some ravioli.) I couldn't get two cups of kimchee juice out of the jar I had, but I strained out what I could. I couldn't do the fishcake tempura thing - we couldn't have gotten them at the supermarket we used and I was going to make this the night we got home from a long trip anyway, so I used tofu instead.
The problem came from the noodles. The recipe called for two packets of noodles of about 4.5 ounces each. This jived with what I expected from the grocery stores I usually visit. My husband found noodles in 8.5 ounce packets, and I decided to use them both because my husband really, really likes carbohydrates. They soaked up all the liquid, and I do mean all. I added more broth, and more broth after that. They still soaked it all up. What came out was more along the lines of a stew, or maybe noodles in a thin sauce, than like a soup. I don't think I care. Like I said, it was very different from what was intended by me or by the author, but we both liked it and that's ultimately the important thing.
Kimchee Ramen (serves 6; approx. $3.60/serving)
2 8.5 ounce packages ramen noodles, broken up (see note above; using fewer noodles will result in a more soup-liked final product)
3 1/2 quarts vegetable broth
1 block extra-firm tofu, chopped
1 jar kimchee, drained, juice reserved
4 eggs, beaten
4 tablespoons chile powder
1 bunch collard greens, trimmed and chopped
- Large saucepan
- Combine the broth and the reserved juice from the kimchee jar with the chile powder in the saucepan. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer 15 - 20 minutes.
- Return the pot to a boil and add the noodles. Cook for 3 - 5 minutes.
- Add the tofu and the collard greens. Cook 3 - 4 minutes.
- Add the eggs. Stir to break up any attempts at clumping on the part of the eggs and continue to boil another 2 - 4 minutes.
- Serve hot.