I have an intense love of ramen that dates back to when I was in middle school. I was sleeping over at my best friend’s house and for lunch her mom made us grilled cheese and chicken flavored instant ramen, or as they referred to it, ray-man noodles. I later learned that ray-man is not widely accepted as canonical pronunciation of ramen noodles, but I digress. I had a period of about two or three years after that where I would always force my mom to keep maruchan in the house because I was that about it. I was obsessed to the point of complete burnout.
Then a combination of my 20s, living in Chicago, and advances in American food culture happened all at once and I learned what ramen truly was. Instead of msg laced flavor packets were dashi broths filled with things like poached eggs, beautifully cooked pork, and fresh noodles. I was hooked all over again. There was just one major monkey wrench.
The older I got the more I wanted to be able to cook foods at home instead of going out to get them. Unfortunately just about every classic ramen preparation involves ingredients that are not just hanging out in every grocery store. You usually see pork bones, bonito flakes, or kombu in a recipe list, and that was not going to be happening in the small town I live in now.
But then the clouds parted and I was blessed with a miracle. Indie food magazine and personal favorite of mine, Lucky Peach, released their cookbook Lucky Peach Presents 101 Easy Asian Recipes. In the book was a recipe titled “rotisserie ramen,” which was how to make a ramen broth from rotisserie bones a la tonkotsu ramen which uses pork bones as the foundation of the broth. I was excited, made it instantly…and was wildly disappointed. Do not get me wrong, this recipe came from one of my favorite cookbooks of all time, it just felt kinda like a dud. It came out really bland and watery, but I loved the idea of the rotisserie chicken ramen so much I was determined to use their recipe as a base and create something all my own while keeping the ingredients and preparation list as simple as can be. And it turns out the key is lots, and lots of bacon. Like an almost stupid amount of bacon.
The high amount of bacon works because the bones from the rotisserie chicken give that solid base, but the bacon itself gives the broth such a nice porky flavor, the fat gives a luscious mouth-feel, and the flavor of the bacon in the large quantity gives the broth a flavor that mimics the smokiness you would get from using bonito flakes to make a dashi.
While the authenticity of this dish might lean a little more ray-man than ramen, the salty, smoky, ginger flavored broth paired with a perfectly soft-boiled or poached egg is pure heaven and comfort in a bowl. And the best part, when you make the ramen at home not only is it as easy as can be, but you can customize the bowl with any toppings that you like for the perfect meal.
- 14 cups water
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1 rotisserie chicken, it can be just the carcass or fresh out of the package, just make sure if you ate some of the chicken first you save any bones you run into for this recipe
- 8 bacon slices
- 2 carrots, sliced down the center lengthwise
- 4 whole green onions
- 8 oz white button mushrooms, cut into quarters
- 4 tbsp freshly minced/grated ginger
- 1 lb cooked noodles, usually at the store they’ll be labeled as lo mein noodles
Toppings, just go with what feels right:
- Wilted spinach
- Soft-booiled/poached egg
- Bamboo Shoots
- Water chestnuts
- Sliced green onions
Throw literally everything except for the noodles and toppings into a large soup pot together and turn the heat to high. For the first 10 minutes that the mixture is boiling scrape off and discard any fat (white bubbles) that appear on the top of the broth. After about 10 minutes you should be in the clear.
Once the excess fat is removed reduce the heat to low, cover, and allow the soup to simmer for 1 ½ – 3 hours. The longer you let it simmer the tastier the flavor will be. Remove the chicken, bacon, carrots, and onions. If you were using a chicken that still had meat on it feel free to chop up the meat and throw it back into the pan to have with your soup. Place the broth, mushrooms, and any potential meat and toppings over cooked noodles.