Legit the closest I got to a ramen bar in NZ’s level 4 lockdown.
Made Chashu Ramen for hubby’s birthday and it was as though we went for a holiday in Japan. Springy noodles with the distinctly yellow tones and alkaline smelly cooking water, these are close to the ones in ramen restaurants.
I had a basic understanding of how to achieve this and it is through kansui, meaning “alkaline water” in Chinese. I just need to figure out what it actually is and how much to add.
After lots of research – my comprehensive book on all things noodles arrived, plus lots of visits to Japanese ramen websites – I found that it’s relatively easy to make kansui at home with something most pantries have – baking soda. Well it’s not exactly the same as what restaurants would use, which would likely be a combination of sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate, but it’s close enough and it works!
Chemistry lesson 101: Essentially when heat is applied to sodium bicarbonate NaHCO3 (which is our baking soda here), it reacts and decomposes into sodium carbonate (Na2CO3), carbon dioxide (CO2) and water (H2O).
You’d want to prepare this alkaline kansui first. You can buy bottled kansui from Asian grocers but it’s even easier if you have baking soda. I actually prefer this method now.
Kansui ingredient: Sodium carbonate
- 100g baking soda
- Take baking soda and spread it thinly onto a foil-lined baking tray. Bake at 230C for an hour.
- The reaction releases carbon dioxide and water over time and you should be left with about 70g of sodium carbonate.
- Remove from tray and keep it in a clean jar.
The key to making authentic ramen that’s achievable at home, with a pasta roller machine, is a “High” hydration recipe, which is around 40%. Commercial noodle machines are more powerful to evenly distribute water particles into flour granules so recipes can be between 28% and 35%. At 40% (which refers to the ratio of water to flour) it is still harder than your normal pasta or bread dough so I hereby emphasise and repeat the tip I read about: after it has rested, make sure to give it a knead with the rolling pin before you let the machine work on it.
The dough looks dry and stringy at first. Don’t stress and don’t add more water – let it rest for 30 mins, and then the kneading will take care of it.
Now I got J to do the kneading for me – dough in plastic zip bag, placed inside a paper bag, then she STEPPED on it for 45 mins, while dancing to some music. The result is a smooth, shiny dough!
Make sure to roll the dough sheets only to a KitchenAid-pasta-roller-attachment setting of 4 or max 5. This gives just the right kind of thickness and chewiness to your noodles.
Makes 6 servings
- 240g cold water
- 6g salt
- 6g – 9g sodium carbonate
- 600g baker’s flour
- Potato starch for dusting
- Weigh sodium carbonate and salt in a small condiment bowl (start with 6g. Next time try adding more to see if you like the change in flavour).
- Weigh cold water in a jug and add weighed sodium carbonate and salt in. Stir to dissolve completely. This is your kansui.
- Weigh flour in a large mixing bowl.
- Slowly pour the kansui in, while stiring with chopsticks. The liquid will look yellow and the dough will be lumpy.
- Using disposable gloves to protect your hands from the alkalinity, work the dough, breaking up big chunks.
- Transfer dough to a zip lock plastic bag and set aside for 30 minutes.
- It’s normal for the bag to inflate a little (gas) after 30 mins, just open to release it.
- Place zipped bag inside a paper bag, and get ready to knead it – with your feet! (hence bagging it inside a second bag).
- Using you feet, step on the bags to knead the dough, about 45 minutes. It should become smooth and elastic.
- Remove dough from zip bag and cut into 4 sections.
- Roll each piece out so that it’s thinner, about half a centimetre thick. Dust dough with potato starch to prevent sticking.
- Place one piece through the widest setting of your pasta machine. Fold and feed it through the same setting again, from the folded end. Do this 4-5 times altogether and then change the setting to the second widest setting. Feed the ramen dough through twice before moving up the settings. For ramen we like it slightly thicker, rolled to setting 4, maximum 5.
- Change your pasta roller attachment to the narrow cut (spaghetti) attachment. Feed sheets of thin dough through to cut.
- Dust ribbons of ramen with potato starch, and coil into loose nests.
- Keep in a container dusted with potato starch prior to cooking.
- Cook in boiling water only for 2 minutes.
- Drain noodles and serve with your favourite ramen broth (mine are usually made with pork trotters, pork bones, ginger, mushroom stems, leek, spring onions, black garlic and fat), Chashu pork, menma bamboo shoots, seaweed and gooey egg.