20 years ago, Ramen Noodles were a staple of my college life. I was poor and a pkg of Ramen cost a mere 10 cents/package. It could be “souped up” with a can of chicken, a soft boiled egg, or some hot sauce if you liked it spicy. It was the perfect “poverty food”. I ate so much of it that I burned myself out and didn’t touch it again for over 15 years. But then my (then) tweenager became obsessed with Japanese culture. He loved it all: anime, sushi, Pokémon, and of course, ramen noodles. He began requesting that I buy it by the case. I obliged him and assumed it would be a short lived phase. Nope! “Ramen Culture” took on a life of its own. Noodle restaurants started opening up everywhere and the Ramen isle of the store tripled in size. At our local Asian Store, there is an entire isle dedicated to Ramen!
At about the same time that my son was embarking on his Ramen infatuation, I discovered a show called, “Mind of a Chef.” It is a series narrated by the late Anthony Bourdain. The first season of this show features a chef by the name of David Chang. I am fascinated by David. I love the way his mind works, his recipes, and how he thinks about food. He somehow makes a humble bowl of ramen seem sexy. His restaurant, Momofuku, is in New York and it is just a little too far for me to travel for a bowl of ramen. (Though I hope to someday!) I became inspired to look for and to test ramen recipes of my own. Serendipitously, I received an Instant Pot for Christmas that year. While learning how to use my Instant Pot, I was testing various ramen recipes. On the stove, a good broth takes about 3 hours. In the Instant Pot, it takes about 40 min. to come to pressure and cook. It’s a no-brainer for me.
I have tested approximately six different versions of chicken ramen to find my perfect ramen broth recipe. I think the key to a great chicken ramen broth involves using bone-in/skin-on chicken thighs. The bone adds flavor and nutrition, the skin adds a silky mouth feel, and the dark meat doesn’t dry out like white meat can. I also love the addition of Kombu. Kombu is a species of dried brown, edible kelp. It is commonly used in the soup base, dashi. It provides a layer of flavor & umami to the broth that can’t be replicated with salt or other seasonings. Kombu isn’t always easy to find so I have successfully substituted Nori with good results. Nori can be found in most grocery stores and typically sold as sushi nori, or sushi wraps.
My recipe for Chicken Ramen is a base stock. However the addition of vegetables like shredded carrots, thin strips of baby spinach, and mushrooms add extra nutrition and flavor. If using mushrooms, add them with the chicken before pressure cooking. If adding carrots and spinach, stir them in with the noodles so they don’t overcook. The veggies also add vibrant color to the ramen and creates a feast for the eyes too.
Finally, let’s talk garnishes. This is truly where the ramen magic happens. I love to set out a variety of garnishes to add color, flavor, and texture. My go-to garnishes are soft boiled eggs or fried quail eggs, fish cakes, thin sliced scallions, thin sliced serrano/jalapeño peppers, furikake, sriracha, and chili onion crunch. Some additional garnish ideas are bok choy, corn, bean sprouts, micro greens, pickled ginger, and toasted sesame seeds. Once you have added garnish, allow yourself a minute to gaze at your custom creation. Even better, take a picture of that gorgeous bowl of soup!
If you make this at home, please leave a comment below and let us know how it turned out! I love great feedback.