This is an express ramen recipe that uses 44 cloves of garlic. Most of the garlic is browned and braised with an obnoxious slab of pork belly until meltingly tender, then blended with chicken stock and soy milk (my favourite ramen cheat) to fabricate the most speedy, but intensely rich broth ramen-history has ever seen. Call it the ramen with 44 cloves of garlic. Me, I’m calling it The Vampire Slayer.
- 1.25 litres chicken stock, warmed (see Note)
- ¼ onion, peeled
- 310 ml (1¼ cups) unflavoured, unsweetened soy milk (see Note)
- 2 tbsp instant dashi powder (see Note)
- 1–2 tsp fine sea salt
- 4 servings ramen noodles
- 4 soft-boiled eggs, halved
- 1 cup finely chopped green onions (scallions) (green part only)
- 1 sheet nori, cut into serving-size pieces
Garlic-braised pork belly
- 4 whole dried shiitake mushrooms
- 125 ml (½ cup) hot water
- 1 tbsp canola oil
- 400 g skin-on pork belly
- 30 garlic cloves, peeled
- 125 ml (½ cup) sake or rice wine
- 2 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tsp mirin
- ½ tsp salt
- ⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Fried garlic powder
- 14 garlic cloves, finely chopped or sliced
- 125 ml (½ cup) canola oil
- ½ tsp ground white pepper
- ⅛ tsp fine sea salt
Garlic togarashi oil
- 60 ml (¼ cup) garlic oil (reserved from fried garlic powder)
- 60 ml (¼ cup) toasted sesame oil
- 1 tbsp schichimi togarashi (Japanese seven-spice mixture)
- 1 tsp dried chilli flakes
- ½ tsp black sesame seeds
- ½ tsp ground coriander
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
You will need to begin this recipe 1 day ahead.
Preheat the oven to 165ºC. To make the garlic-braised pork belly, soak the dried shiitake mushrooms in the hot water in a bowl for 20 minutes or until soft.
Meanwhile, add 1 tablespoon of oil to a saucepan that fits the pork belly tightly (you can cut the pork belly in half if it fits better that way), then heat over medium-high heat. Place the pork belly skin-side down and cook for 5 minutes or until the skin is blistered. Turn over and cook for a further 6–8 minutes or until browned on the other sides. Remove and set aside.
Add the garlic and cook for 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Return the pork belly to the pan with the soaked shiitake mushrooms and its soaking liquid, sake, soy sauce, mirin, salt and pepper. Put the lid on and bake in the oven for 2–2½ hours, turning the pork belly 2–3 times in between, or until extremely soft. If you want to do this on a stovetop, cook over low heat and check the pan frequently to prevent burning.
Carefully remove the pork belly and mushrooms, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for easy slicing later. Reserve the braised garlic and braising liquid. You can do this the day before.
To make the fried garlic powder, while the pork is in the oven, combine the garlic and oil in a small saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium-low heat. Keep the mixture sizzling, stirring constantly, until the garlic starts to turn golden brown, about 5 minutes. Strain immediately through a fine sieve, reserving 60 ml (¼ cup) garlic oil (you will need this to make the garlic togarashi oil). Drain the fried garlic on paper towel, replacing with new sheets if soaked, for 1 hour.
With a stone mortar and pestle or spice grinder, pound or pulse the fried garlic with the ground white pepper and fine sea salt until coarsely ground. This can also be made the day before.
To make the garlic togarashi oil, combine the reserved garlic oil, toasted sesame oil, togarashi powder, chilli flakes, black sesame seeds and ground coriander in a small saucepan. Place over medium heat and cook for 1 minute to combine. Set aside for 3 hours or overnight for flavours to infuse. This can also be made the day before.
To make the stock and assemble the ramen, in a blender, blend the reserved braised garlic and braising liquid, warm chicken stock and onion until very smooth. If your blender is small, you might want to blend with half of the stock only, and add the other half later on in the pan. Strain the soup through a fine sieve into a large saucepan, pressing the solids to extract as much liquid as you can, then discard the solids (don't worry if there's foam on the surface). Add the soy milk, bonito dashi granules and 1 teaspoon of salt, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with more salt if needed (keep in mind that Japanese ramen broth tends to be salty).
Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook the ramen noodles according to the packet instructions. Drain well and divide among 4 bowls, then pour over the soup.
Thinly slice the braised pork belly and arrange over the top along with 1 braised shitake mushroom for each bowl, and soft-boiled egg, green onions and nori.
Generously spoon over the fried garlic powder and garlic togarashi oil, and serve immediately.
• You can use homemade chicken stock or store-bought, just make sure that it’s unsalted or minimally salted, and neutrally flavoured, meaning no herbs like thyme, rosemary, bay leaves or anything that could be conflicting.
• I strongly suggest using Asian unsweetened soy milk, or look for a brand with only water and soy beans in the ingredients (not sugar and vanilla-like flavourings). After all, that’s what soy milk is supposed to be!
• Instant dashi powder, available from Asian food stores, is what gives this dish its bonito flavour, so don't skip!
• Schichimi togarashi, a Japanese spice mixture also known as seven-spice is available from Japanese food stores.
Recipe from Lady and Pups by Mandy Lee, with photographs by Mandy Lee.