Summer Ramen

A few years ago, when I was doing my final tests of this recipe—one of my favorites from Bowlit was peak August. My poorly ventilated apartment was very much a sweat lodge, and the last thing I wanted to do was bring a pot of liquid to simmer. But I had no choice. I was on deadline. I’d learned in my research about the principle—popular throughout many East Asian cuisines—of battling hot food with hot weather, but as I sat over this bowl of steaming “summer” ramen, my hair, face, and clothes matted with sweat, I didn’t buy it.

Then I took a taste. It was so good! So clear with summeriness, such a glorious, fresh way to show off those juicy, late-summer gems. Did it help to make the heat more bearable? Perhaps. At the very least I was temporarily distracted from it. Nonetheless, I was excited to make it this year, and I’ll look forward to it next, too. 

The fun thing about ramen, and all of the component-style recipes in Bowl, is its easy adaptability. Some cubes of roasted eggplant, strips of sweet bell peppers, or pan-fried rounds of summer squash would be right at home in here, and play around with the herbs. And while this recipe serves four, I often make up a batch of broth, use one or two servings of it, and then put the rest in the freezer—this means shortcut ramen is in my future. I included a few other tips in the headnote… I hope you’ll give it a try before it’s too late!

Summer Ramen

It’s important to season the broth properly—you want it to be full of flavor. Additionally, and while this is generally not the traditional practice for Asian noodles, I salt the cooking water for the noodles, which helps ensure that the dish is seasoned all the way through. One indulgence I’ve lately been enjoying is whisking a bit of butter into the broth, which adds some really excellent enrichment.

Adapted very slightly from my cookbook, Bowl

Serves 4

3 ears corn, shucked
1 white or yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 plump garlic cloves, smashed
1/2 ounce ginger (1 thumb-sized piece), peeled and sliced into thin rounds
10 cups water
Four 2-inch squares kombu
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 to 3 tablespoons butter, optional
8 ounces dried or 12 ounces fresh ramen noodles, such as the Sun Noodle brand
1/2 cup ripe, chopped tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes
4 boiled eggs, molten yolks (see recipe below)
Basil leaves, cilantro leaves and tender stems, and sliced scallions,  coarsely chopped or torn, for garnish
Rayu or Chili Oil, for garnish
Togarashi, homemade or store-bought, for garnish

1. Cut the kernels off the corn: Place each corncob in the middle of a big cutting board. You can hold each piece upright or on its side. Using a sturdy chef ’s knife, cut downward to remove strips of kernels, rotating the cob as needed until you’ve worked all the way around the cob. Reserve the kernels. (Optional: You can grill the kernels first, over a gas or charcoal grill, or even the flame of a gas burner.) 

2. Place the stripped ears in a saucepan with the onion, garlic, ginger and the water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, cover the pan partially, and simmer for 25 minutes. Add the kombu and remove from the heat. Cover and let stand for 20 minutes. Strain the broth, wipe out the saucepan, and then return the strained broth to the saucepan. Add the salt and taste, adding additional salt if needed. Let stand, covered, over low heat until ready to serve. If using the butter, whisk it into the hot broth just before serving. 

3. Bring another saucepan of salted water to boil. Add the noodles, in a strainer basket or the pasta insert that comes with your stockpot if you have one, and cook until tender, usually 4 to 7 minutes for dried, or according to the package instructions, or 60 to 90 seconds for fresh. Lift out the noodles so as to reserve the cooking water, and thoroughly rinse the noodles under running tap water in order to remove excess starch. Quickly dunk them back into the hot water to reheat, which ensures that the dish is hot when you serve it, then divide among four bowls.

4. Divide the tomatoes, reserved corn kernels, and eggs over the noodles. Cover with the hot broth. Scatter with the remaining toppings and serve immediately, alongside the condiments at the table.

Boiled Eggs with Molten Yolks: Bring a saucepan of water to a gentle boil and prepare an ice bath. Using a slotted spoon, lower eggs—any number you like, as long as they fully submerge and can roll around fairly freely—into the water. Once it comes back to a gentle boil, cook for 6 minutes, then transfer to an ice bath to halt the cooking.


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