We’re entering the cozy season, which means kitchen projects. All-consuming, borderline crazy, overly involved cook-a-thons that delight and terrify in equal measure. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll question your resolve and sanity. They’re just a great time. So even though summer isn’t quite over and done with, I thought I’d get a headstart with this Miso Tahini Ramen. The broth is from scratch, the tare (we’ll dig into that later) is from scratch, and you better believe the noodles are too. No corners were cut, no time was spared, and you know what? That is exactly how I wanted it. So roll up your sleeves, and unwind your soul because this recipe calls for some grade A kitchen puttering.
Okay, so now that I’ve adequately prepared you for the level of effort this ramen calls for, I’m going to walk things back a bit. I get it, not everyone’s idea of an awesome Saturday involves opening your pores over a pot a bubbling poultry stock. So let me assure you there are plenty of potential shortcuts you could take if you need this Miso Tahini Ramen at some point closer to now.
The most obvious short cut is the noodles. You can simply buy fresh ramen noodles at your local Asian grocery store and skip the whole noodle-making rigmarole. Heck! You could buy a pack of instant noodles and call it a day. But skipping the noodle-making process will rob this ramen of its kitchen project status.
Another corner that could easily be cut pertains to the stock. You could easily buy a tetra pack of good-quality stock or even throw a bouillon cube in some boiling water. I’m not going to encourage this because a homemade stock is not difficult, requires very little active cooking, and it tastes so much better. It’s also a delicious alternative to an air freshener. If you’re looking for instant coziness, fill your home with the smell of simmering chicken soup.
There are a few steps in this recipe that cannot be cut in half. The marinated ramen eggs for one. They might as well be skipped if you’re unwilling to soak them in soy sauce and mirin for a minimum of 4 hours. But far more pressing than perfectly marinated eggs, is perfectly reduce miso tahini tare. Now, you might be wondering what tare is. Well, the short answer to that is it’s what makes ramen so good. But I think it’s more illuminating to think of it as a soup concentrate.
Tare, in its simplest form, is a reduction of soy sauce and some kind of sweetening agent, usually sugar. Tare has many uses, but most often, it is used as a sauce/glaze for yakitori and as the primary source of seasoning in a bowl of ramen. You simply make your tare, store it in a jar, and whenever you get a hankering for a bowl of ramen, you pour a few tablespoons of the stuff into a bowl and top it with noodles and stock. If you’ve ever made a bowl of ramen at home that lacked the oomph of your favorite restaurant’s rendition, it was probably missing tare.
Okay, now let’s talk about making your own ramen noodles, which I’m sure has peaked your interest. Making successful ramen noodles relies on two ingredients that are slightly off the beaten track – vital wheat gluten and baked baking soda. Baked baking soda is exactly what it sounds like – baking soda baked at 350°F for a few hours. This process turns sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) into sodium carbonate, a strong alkaline salt. This is what helps ramen noodles retain their shape and chewiness in hot soup.
Vital wheat gluten, like baked baking soda, is exactly what it sounds like – pure powdered gluten. Vital wheat gluten is made from wheat flour that has been hydrated to activate the gluten. The flour is then processed to remove everything but the gluten, which is then dried and ground into a powder. Vital wheat gluten improves the elasticity and overall chewiness of every dough it touches. But because this powder is nearly all gluten, a little goes a long way. I have made ramen noodles without vital wheat gluten in the past and they were perfectly serviceable, but if you want the real deal, full chew noodles, track down some vital wheat gluten. Bob’s Red Mill makes one.
So that’s everything you need to know about this Miso Tahini Ramen with Seared Duck Breast. Is it a lot of work? Absolutely! Is it hella rewarding and delicious? You bet your butt it is!
Miso Tahini Ramen with Seared Duck Breast
- Pasta Roller
Miso Tahini Tare
- 2 tbsp neutral oil I used canola
- 2 shallots halved and sliced
- 1 knob ginger cut into matchsticks
- 2 scallions white part only, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup mirin
- ¼ cup sake
- ¼ cup white miso paste
- 1 tbsp granulated sugar
- 2 tbsp tahini
- 4 large eggs
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup mirin
- 2 tbsp sake
- 2 tbsp neutral oil I used canola oil
- 3 yellow onions halved and sliced
- ½ cup sake
- 9-10 chicken backs or whole chicken wings
- 3 cloves garlic smashed
- 1 (2-inch) knob ginger sliced
- 12 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tbsp green peppercorns
- 3 anise pods
- 1 tbsp salt
Ramen Noodles **
- ¾ cup water
- 1 ½ tsp baked baking soda*
- ½ tsp salt
- 3 ¼ cups bread flour
- 1 tsp vital wheat gluten
- 1 duck breast
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp five spice powder
- 200g (7oz) shiitake mushrooms stems removed, sliced
- 1 (200 ml, 6.7 fl oz) can bamboo shoots drained
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup mirin
- 2 tbsp sugar
- 1 ear corn kernel cut from the cob
- 250g (9oz) yu choy washed
- 2 scallions green parts only, thinly sliced
- 3 squash blossoms (optional) thinly sliced
- sesame seeds for sprinkling
For the Tare
- Pour the oil into a skillet and place over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the shallots, ginger, and scallions. Sauté until the veg starts to caramelize, then pour in the water and bring up to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and let cook for 15 minutes.
- Once the 15 minutes have passed, whisk in the soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar, and miso. Bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until reduced to 1 cup. About 15 minutes. Take the sauce off of the heat and whisk in the tahini, and salt. The sauce will taste very salty, but don't worry it will be diluted by the soup.
- Transfer the tare to a heatproof jar and let cool on the counter until it reaches room temperature. Place a lid on the jar and transfer it to the fridge. Tare will keep in the fridge for up to 3 months.
For the Eggs
- Bring a small saucepan of water to a boil. Lower the eggs into the water, making sure they are covered by at least 1-inch of water. Reduce to heat to a gentle simmer and let cook for 7 minutes before extracting the eggs and plunging them into an ice bath. Leave the eggs to cool in the bath for a minimum of 10 minutes.
- Gently peel the eggs and place them in a small resealable container. In a small bowl, whisk to combine the soy sauce and mirin and pour the mixture over the eggs. Seal the container and transfer it to the fridge. Marinate the eggs for a minimum of 4 hours, turning the eggs in the marinate once halfway through.
For the Stock
- Pour the oil into a large stockpot and place over medium heat. Once the oil is shimmering, add the onions and a pinch of salt. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Deglaze the pot with the sake and add the chicken parts, garlic, and ginger. Pour in the water and add the bay leaves, star anise pods, peppercorns, and salt. Bring the stock up to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Cover and let cook for 2 hours.
- Once the 2 hours have passed, strain the stock, and pour it into large jars. Let cool on the counter before sealing and transferring to the fridge. Simply reheat when you're ready for ramen.
For the Noodles
- Stir the baked baking soda into the water and set aside for 1 minute. Add the salt to the water and stir until dissolved completely.
- Place the bread flour and vital wheat gluten into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Stir on low speed for 2 minutes to ensure the vital wheat gluten is evenly distributed throughout the flour.
- Add a ¼ cup of water mixture to the flour mixture and turn the mixer up to medium. Stir until the water is completely integrated then add another 1/4 cup. Once you've integrated all of the water. Form the dough into a rough ball. It should be pebbly in appearance and not smooth at all, so don't panic. Cover the mixing bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough sit for 30 minutes.
- Once 30 minutes has passed, transfer the dough to the counter and knead for 7-10 minutes or until satiny. Divide the dough into four and cover once again with a wet cloth.
- Working with one piece of dough at a time, roll the dough out slightly before passing it through a pasta roller. Roll the dough out to setting number 3 or 4 depending on how thick you want your noodles. From here you can pass the noodle sheets through a spaghetti cutter or you can fold the sheet, like a letter, and cut the noodles by hand using a sharp knife.
- Once the noodles are cut toss them in flour and tease them apart with your fingers. Coil the noodles into nests and place them on a tray lined with parchment paper. Store the noodles covered in the fridge until ready to cook.
For the Toppings
- Score the fat of the duck breast in a cross-hatch pattern with a sharp knife. In a small bowl whisk to combine the salt and five-spice powder. Work the spice mix into the duck breast and set aside to dry brine for 1 hour at room temperature.
- While the duck is resting, place the bamboo shoots and shiitakes in a skillet. Add the soy sauce, mirin, and sugar and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Place a cover on the skillet and let cook for 15 minutes. Transfer the mushrooms and bamboo shoots to a bowl and set aside.
- Wipe out the skillet and place the duck, skin-side-down, in the center. Place over low heat and cook for 10 minutes undisturbed. Once the 10 minutes have passed, carefully pour off all but 2 tbsp of the duck fat. Flip the breast and cook for 10 minutes more. Transfer the duck to a cutting board and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing. Cook the corn in the same pan the duck was cooked in until tender. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
- Pour the stock in a large pot and place over medium heat. While reheating the stock, place a pot of water over high heat and place a steaming basket on top. Add the yu choy to the basket and bring the water to a boil.
- Once the water is boiling and yu choy is tender, remove the steaming basket and set aside. Add a bundle of noodles to the water and cook until tender, about 3 minutes. Drain the noodles well. For the sake of portioning the noodles correctly, I recommend cooking the noodles a bundle at a time. To save the boiling water, simply fish the noodles out of the water using a spider or large slotted spoon before transferring to a fine mesh strainer to shake out any excess moisture.
- To assemble the bowl, pour 2-3 tablespoons of the tare into the bottom of a large bowl. Add a bundle of cooked noodles and ladle hot stock over top. Top the soup bowl with 3-4 slices of duck, half a ramen egg, a few pieces of steamed yu choy, a generous spoonful of braised bamboo shoots and shiitakes, a spoonful of corn, and a sprinkling of scallions, squash blossoms, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately with cold beer.