Friday, February 26, 2010

Oishinbo Style Miso Ramen

Several months ago, through a tweet by Chef Chris Cosentino, I learned of the Oishinbo books. Oishinbo is a Japanese manga series which ran to over 100 volumes in Japan, and which has been republished in several volumes here in the U.S. The comics are loosely structured around the premise that a newspaper has set out to create the "Ultimate Menu" - the best of all Japanese food. The protagonist, Yamaoka Shiro, is a lazy newspaper employee with an exceptionally refined palate who is tasked with the creation of the Ultimate Menu. Yamaoka has major issues with his father, Kaibara Yuzan, a reknowned artist, the founder of the "Gourmet Club," and the architect of the "Supreme Menu" that a rival newspaper has commissioned.

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.

Oishinbo-Style Miso Ramen

(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).


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)
  1. 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.
  2. Mix the miso with the sake until well combined and set aside.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.


  1. Nice post. I'll have to check this series out.

  2. I had heard about these comics some time back, but not sure why I never researched it to the detail as you have. What a great way to get kids into Japanese cuisine.
    The meat proportions for Japanese eaters is probably right on money. Ming used to take a single scallop and stretch it out into 4 or 5 servings of food. She has since adjusted to a more acceptable American proportion these days thanks to me.