An Obsession Not to Be Denied

People in the US ask us “Don’t you get tired of Mexican food?” and the answer is no, never. It’s a varied cuisine, using a variety of fruits, vegetables, chiles and herbs that we can only dream of in Vermont, especially in winter. Richard makes a mean Huevos Rancheros, we always have fresh Pico de Gallo and Guacamole in the fridge (when avocados cost about 20 cents apiece you tend to put them in everything!), a salad with jicama, avocado, beautiful and inexpensive greens and a cilantro lime dressing is lunch most days, and the Tacos al Pastor truck on Insurgentes (just a couple of blocks from our house) makes a fabulous late supper for about $3.00 per person. But that doesn’t mean that our family obsession can be ignored. All of us are to some degree obsessed with Asian food. My obsession is possibly the strongest, but I’ve definitely passed it on to both of my sons.

Noah is currently obsessed with Sushi. Weirdly, we found some pretty darn good sushi on our drive down to Mexico – in Burmingham Alabama, of all places!

Simon loves Thai and Chinese food. One of the first things he taught himself to make was General Tso’s Chicken. He made it for his Grandpa’s 80th birthday celebration in Tel Aviv, of all places. The mess was Epic, but the chicken was Amazing!

I’m a huge fan of Dim Sum, and we’re lucky enough to have Danny and Joanne in Houston, the home of a lot of very good Dim Sum. It’s become a ritual to have it as our last meal before crossing the border each year.

Richard would die for almost any Asian soup-from Vietnamese Pho to Tai Tom Yum to my current favorite-Japanese Ramen.

Unfortunately this cuisine is pretty hard to come by in San Miguel. There are places that try, but we haven’t found anything really authentic. So as usual that means that if we want to eat it I have to make it! On our dim sum eating forays in Houston we stop at a massive Asian supermarket where I stock up on ingredients for the 5 month dry spell in Mexico. I get several varieties of noodles, dried mushrooms, dim sum and wonton wrappers, and sauces and condiments of all kinds.

Last night the need struck. Luckily I had a few hours to kill, so I put together a wonderful Ramen soup. We slurped in up while watching a movie in our living room, and we had a wonderful evening. It’s not hard to make, just requires a bit of patience. Local chicken and pork are intensely flavorful, so make a fabulous stock, which is of course the most important element of a good Ramen. I had bought Japanese dried noodles that stood in for Ramen noodles quite well, although they lacked that alkaline snap of real, fresh Ramen noodles. Shredded Swiss Chard and a perfectly boiled organic farm egg completed the dish. Oh my. Obsession satiated, at least for a few days!

Here’s the basic recipe, without amounts. The most wonderful thing about soup is that you can just go for it and taste along the way, eventually coming up with something savory and great to eat.

Basic Soy Ramen

Ingredients: Strong chicken broth made fresh with chicken bones, onions, carrots. Bone-in Country pork ribs or Pork neck, if you can get it. Onion, garlic, soy sauce, star anise. Asian noodles(flour not rice). Greens(I like chard but kale, collards, even spinach will do). Eggs(I use 1/2 per person. Scallions. You can add anything else you want – some people like corn kernels or roasted winter squash. Whatever floats your boat.

photoMake the broth: In an appropriately sized soup pot heat a tiny bit of vegetable oil. Sear the pork until browned and remove. To pot add sliced or diced onion and a couple of crushed garlic cloves and stir to lightly brown. Deglaze with soy sauce(not too much – I use a light soy so it’s not too salty). Add Chicken Broth(about 2 cups per serving of ramen), a couple of star anise, and 1/2 the amount of water as broth. Turn heat down and add back the pork. Let barely simmer for 3-4 hours, adding water if necessary to keep the liquid level up. When flavorful, and meat is falling off the bone, remove the pork and let cool. Pull pork into small chunks and shreds and set aside. Strain Broth into a clean pot and keep warm. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Shred some greens and blanch for about a minute in the water. Fish out the greens with a slotted spoon or other appropriate utensil and set aside. Add the eggs to the water and boil 5 minutes. Remove from water, shell eggs and slice in 1/2. Add the noodles and boil until al dente. You are now ready to assemble the Ramen. Into large bowls divide up the noodles. Ladle the hot broth over the noodles. Add small piles of the meat and shredded greens on top. Finish with 1/2 boiled Egg.

Don’t forget to Slurp!!