Ramen Noodles & Teriyaki
What started as a culinary curiosity, grew into an unstoppable obsession. Nearly a year ago I set out to make my own ramen noodles from scratch, but little did I know, after producing an upwards of a hundred bowls of mush, making Asian noodles took a fair amount of practice and most importantly, the right ingredients. I’m happy, rather ecstatic, to report that I’ve produced the best noodle I’ve ever had …and all thanks to chemistry. I scoured the internet looking for recipes and insights on how to make not just a passable noodle, but a terrific noodle that could stand up to boiling broth, or extreme heat of a stir-fry. I tried them all and all I got was a mushy bowl of starch. The biggest issue was one special ingredient: sodium hydroxide, also known as lye, or caustic soda. Yes, that alkaline chemical found in heavy duty drain cleaner. Not the easiest task to find food grade lye. But I persevered. Several recipes on the internet use sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) or recommend baking the sodium bicarb to convert it into sodium carbonate which essentially amps up the pH level from a low 7.2 to the threshold of 9.4 – the vicinity of a perfect Japanese noodle. I tried both, and neither one was the one I was looking for, though the sodium carbonate came close. Finally, with the sodium carbonate and the addition of egg white, to reinforce the glutenous protein structure, I was able to achieve the texture I sought out a year ago. Here are the recipes for my scientific noodle and a killer teriyaki sauce to compliment it.
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 5 tbsp brown sugar
- 2 tbsp rice vinegar
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp chopped ginger
- 1 tbsp chopped garlic, optional
- 1 scallion chopped, optional
- 1 tsp sesame oil
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and bring to a boil over med-high heat. If using as a glaze, add 2 tsp cornstarch mixed with tbsp water. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature.
Place meat or fish in a plastic zipper bag and pour teriyaki sauce over. Zip the bag and shake.
Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, turning the bag at least once.
Cook using a preferred method. If meat or fish is in large pieces then grilling or broiling works best. If the protein is in smaller pieces, stir-frying will be best.
- 2 cups strong bread flour
- 1 tbsp pure wheat gluten, optional
- 1 egg white, room temperature
- 1/3 cup warm water
- 2 tsp sodium carbonate*
- ½ tsp sesame oil
- Powerful stand mixer with dough hook
- Pasta maker with spaghetti attachment
*Sodium Carbonate is an alkali of heat treated sodium bicarbonate (baking soda). Baking soda alone is not alkaline enough to maintain a well textured noodle, and will fall apart in boiling water. To convert ordinary baking soda into sodium carbonate, simply spread baking soda out on a foil-lined baking sheet and heat at 120°C for 1 hour. Place the treated sodium carbonate in an air tight container and store in a cool dark place. Be careful not to touch the powder as it has become more caustic and can cause irritation or even burns.
1. In a stand mixer, add the flour and gluten. In a cup, combine the water, egg white, sodium carbonate, and sesame oil. Stir well.
2. Pour the liquid into the flour and mix on medium speed. The dough should be very dry but moist enough just to bring it all together. If the dough doesn’t form after 2 minutes add a tbsp of water, then another if necessary.
3. Knead the dough for 10 minutes by machine. Then wrap tightly in plastic and let rest for 30 minutes, room temperature. Unwrap it, knead for another 5 minutes by hand, wrap it and store it in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours.
4. Remove dough from fridge and divide into 2 equal pieces. Roll the dough through the pasta maker. Depending on your settings, you’ll want it half as thin as possible. If your maker goes from 0-9, you’ll want to stop on 5. Run the dough through the spaghetti cutter to give you perfect size ramen. Use lots of flour as you roll out the pasta to avoid it from sticking.
5. When ready to cook the ramen, bring a large pot of water to a boil, with 1 tbsp of regular baking soda. Add the noodles and cook for 1 minute. Drain and rinse with cold water. Let the noodles dry as much as possible if adding to stir-fry. Otherwise, if using for soup, boil a pot of water and add the noodles for 10-15 seconds. Strain the noodles and add to soup, serve immediately.