But I digress. Aside from the father-son rivalry plotline and others of equal literary depth, the books contain fascinating, well-researched, and often extremely detailed insights into all sorts of aspects of Japanese cuisine, and each of the U.S. volumes after the first one (broadly titled "Japanese Cuisine") is focused on a particular aspect of that cuisine: Sake, Ramen and Gyoza, Fish, Sushi and Sashimi, Vegetables, The Joy of Rice, and Izakaya--Pub Food thus far. I dare say I've learned more about Japanese techniques, ingredients, and cooking philosophy from these comic books than anything I've read elsewhere. As an added bonus, each book has an actual recipe or two, taken from the stories in that volume.
Frod Jr.'s gotten into the Oishinbo series too, and has also read through all seven volumes. So when we were in Sushi Deli recently, looking through the refrigerated cases waiting for a spot to clear, he said "Why don't we make the ramen dish from the Oishinbo book?" This is what's known as a proud parent moment. We were able to round up most of the ingredients that we didn't already have right there.
It's an unusual miso ramen dish, in that it uses a fish-based katsuobushi dashi broth instead of the chicken- or pork-bone stock that is customary, and the miso is not in the broth, but rather in the ground pork which goes atop it. I was a little dubious when I first read through it, but it turned out fantastic - good enough to be worth sharing the recipe. Frod Jr. helped all along the way.
(Note: I have adjusted the measurements in the book's recipe some, doubling up most things other than the noodles. The book's recipe supposedly got 4 servings out of 6 oz. of ground pork, which seemed unlikely. The measurements below are probably good for about 6 servings).
OISHINBO STYLE MISO RAMEN
2 qts water
1 cup katsuobushi (shaved bonito flakes)
6 tbsp soy sauce
6 tbsp hatcho miso*
6 tbsp sake
2 tbsp sesame or peanut oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 large shallot, finely chopped
1 lb ground pork
6 scallions, finely chopped
1 cup mushrooms, finely chopped (recipe called for shiitakes, in their absence I used a mix that was available at the grocery store)
1 lb fresh ramen noodles (in the freezer case at Sushi Deli)
- Bring the water to a boil in a large pot. Once it's reached a boil, add the katsuobushi, turn off the heat, and let it steep for 2 minutes. Strain through a chinois and return the dashi to the pot. Add the soy sauce (to taste) and hold on low heat while you prepare the rest of the dish.
- Mix the miso with the sake until well combined and set aside.
- Heat up a wok or large skillet over high heat. Add the oil, then add the garlic. Once the garlic starts to make the room smell good, add the pork and shallots. Cook, stirring constantly and breaking the pork up into small bits, for about 3-4 minutes. Add the mushroms and the scallions, reserving some of the greens of the scallion for garnish. Cook for another minute. Add the miso-sake mixture and stir in well. Cook until most of the liquid in the pan has evaporated, about another 4-5 minutes. Hold over low heat.
- Heat a large pot of water to a vigorous boil. Add the ramen noodles and cook for 2-3 minutes, until they've just lost their firmness. Remove and drain the noodles and put them into bowls for service. Spoon some of the broth over the noodles, and top with the miso-flavored pork. Garnish with the chopped scallion greens.
This makes for an intriguing variation on a surf-and-turf. In truth, the dashi retains little in the way of fishy flavor once it's been bolstered with soy sauce and mixed with the miso-flavored pork, but it does provide a pleasingly smoky backnote, and has that unique combination of rich flavor and light texture that makes dashi so wonderful. And the pork, with the hatcho miso and mushrooms, is an umami-bomb of flavor. Together, and with some noodles to provide some ballast, they made for a great meal.
Fortunately, Frod Jr. and I were able to happily share credit for our preparation of this fine dish, and hopefully we won't be having any "Ultimate Menu" / "Supreme Menu" showdowns any time soon.
*Hatcho miso comes originally from the city of Hatcho and is supposed to be a very "pure" miso, with no rice or other grain added to the soybean base, consequently taking longer to ferment. It's very dark and rich, and less salty than other misos.