Monday, April 13, 2015

5-Spice Chicken Ramen

This isn't some gussied up packaged ramen recipe, so please keep reading! I have yet to try "real" ramen from a ramen restaurant, but for some reason I just really wanted to make it myself. When I have a craving, it stays on my mind until I have it. I honestly do think about food all. the. time.

Ramen is known as Japanese noodle soup that uses Chinese noodles in a savory meat or vegetable based broth flavored with soy or miso, and uses an array of condiments such as sliced green onions, cilantro, soft boiled eggs, meats, and whatever else you feel like topping it with.

Making a good, healthy, and flavorful ramen at home is easy peasy and worlds different from those .10 packets that most of us know and maybe even love! I am not one to be beneath eating those old school ramen packets. I grew up on those during the tough times as a kid, I ate them as a college kid as a quick, cheap, haven't gotten paid yet meals, and I even had them post college when I lived on my own, perking them up with meat and vegetables. Those packaged ramens helped me have a meal, and therefore, hold a special place in my food life.

My ramen starts with a super flavorful broth, which comes from the addition of sesame oil, lemongrass, ginger, and garlic as the base. I then added some spinach, Napa cabbage, and shredded carrots for extra veggies and color. Topped it off with probably the best chicken I have made in a while, using Chinese 5-spice* plus salt, and a soft boiled egg, drizzled with a little red chili oil. Using good quality Chinese noodles I found at the Asian market near my home completed this classic ramen.

This recipe is just my adaptation. Like I said, I haven't had the chance to try a real ramen place in Houston, and these ingredients are just part of how I thought ramen would be made, and or taste. We had these with some light and fresh summer rolls and homemade peanut sauce. I will share that recipe in a different post.

Make this ramen, make it your own, and enjoy!

*Chinese 5-spice powder is a mix of star anise, clove, black pepper, cinnamon, and fennel. Can be found in the spice or Asian foods aisle of your supermarket. 

5-Spice Chicken Ramen

2 large chicken breasts
1 tablespoon Chinese 5-spice
sea salt
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon sesame oil
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1" inch ginger, thinly sliced
1 stalk lemongrass, cut into 3" slices
4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable)
4 large mushrooms, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1/2 cup shredded or matchstick carrots
2 cups baby spinach
chili oil, to taste
2 cold eggs
6 oz thin Chinese wheat noodles (best found at Asian supermarket, or Asian foods aisle)
Garnishes: thinly sliced green onion, thinly sliced napa cabbage, lemons, thai basil, mint, cilantro, Sriracha

Begin by cleaning and drying the chicken breasts and seasoning both sides with Chinese 5-spice powder and sea salt.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees and heat up a cast iron skillet over medium high heat. Drizzle in the olive oil and butter. Once butter is melted and the skillet is screaming hot, place the chicken breasts in. Do not touch and let cook for 3 minutes to form a crust. Flip and cook other side for an additional 3 minutes. Place the skillet with the chicken breasts in the oven to cook for an additional 20-25 minutes until cooked through.

While the chicken is baking, begin the broth. In a large soup or stock pot, heat sesame oil and toss in the garlic, ginger, and lemongrass. Cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in the broth, soy sauce, and mushrooms. Bring to a boil, and let simmer for 10-15 minutes.  Add in carrots, and simmer for 5 minutes to soften, and lastly add in spinach until wilted. Add in a few drops of chili oil to taste, if desired.

Follow package directions for the noodles. As water boils for the noodles, work on making the soft boiled eggs. Soft boiled eggs have a creamy yolk center, and is a perfect complement to any ramen bowl. Bring a small pot of water (enough to cover the eggs) to a boil. Gently place in the 2 eggs from the refrigerator into the boiling pot of water. Be careful! Cook for 7 minutes for a creamy, less set yolk, or 8 for a creamy, more set, yolk. I prefer the 8 minute mark. As the eggs boil, make a small ice bath. After 8 minutes, drain the hot water and place the eggs in the water bath to stop the cooking process. Peel and set aside when ready to use.

Once chicken is cooked, place on plate and cover with foil. Time to assemble your ramen!

Grab a large, deep bowl for yourself and start by placing in some noodles. Pour over ramen broth to cover noodles and make it as soupy as you like. Some people like more noodles to broth, and some like less, so up to you.

Thinly slice the chicken breast and top the ramen bowls with chicken, a sliced egg, cabbage, more chili oil, green onions, any other greenery, and Sriracha sauce, if you heart(burn) desires.

Enjoy with chopsticks and your best slurping noises!

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