sesame and chile ramen

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My mother is Japanese, and when my sister and I were in our early twenties, our parents took us on a trip to Japan to see the “motherland”.  For some reason on that particular trip, we ate an inordinate number of our meals at various restaurants housed in train stations, complete with plastic food in the window so westerners could, if all else failed, point to what they wanted to order.  Given my family’s love of food, how we spent so many meals at these sorts of restaurants in such an exciting culinary country still baffles me.

One of our few meals outside of the train station that was, for me, the culinary highlight of our time in Japan, was a little hole in the wall ramen restaurant in Tokyo.  The place was hot and steamy from all the little pots of ramen boiling away, the lighting was flourescent, and all the patrons were seated around a very old school U-shaped formica table.  But the ramen was revolutionary.  Don’t get me wrong, I love me some top ramen out of the packet, but this ramen was on a whole other level, and I understood in that moment how truly amazing ramen could be.

I still love finding great ramen spots, and in San Francisco, ramen is having a moment.  But, I also love making it at home, and I make this particular dish at least twice a month during colder months.  It comes together so fast, but the flavors are incredible – the fresh ginger and garlic sing against the Japanese chile and sesame pastes.  I debated whether to post about this recipe as a few of the ingredients require a special trip to a Japanese or Asian market, but I thought, at least for a moment, I should stop pretending to be French and give my Japanese heritage a shout out.

Recipe continued after the jump…

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From Saveur

  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped scallions, plus ¼ cup, thinly sliced, for garnish
  • 1 {½”} piece ginger, finely chopped {I use a microplane}
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped {I use a microplane}
  • ½ lb. ground pork
  • 1 tbsp. tobanjan {Japanese chile bean sauce, available at Japanese and Asian markets}
  • 2 tbsp. soy sauce
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ¼ cup plus 1 tbsp. neri goma {Japanese sesame paste, available at Japanese and Asian markets}
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1 lb. fresh or frozen ramen noodles (available at Japanese and Asian markets}
  • Rayu {Japanese hot chile oil, available at Japanese and Asian markets}, for serving

Heat oil, chopped scallions, ginger, and garlic in a 12″ skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 2 minutes.  Add pork and tobanjan; cook until pork is cooked through, 3 to 4 minutes.  Add reserved stock, soy, sugar, sesame paste, and salt; boil.  Reduce heat to medium; cook, stirring, for 3 minutes more; keep warm.  Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Add noodles; cook, until tender, 2 to 3 minutes, drain, and divide between 4 deep serving bowls.  Ladle broth over each bowl of noodles, and garnish with sliced scallions and some rayu, if you like.

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35 Responses to sesame and chile ramen

  1. chef mimi says:

    What a beautiful and heartwarming post! Is Neri goma like tahini?

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      Thank you Mimi! Yes, it is actually. And the tobanjan is similar in some ways to a sirracha (sp?). I was wondering if those ingredients could be substituted in as they may be easier to find in regular grocery stores. Will have to give them a try sometime…

  2. looks just beautiful..i love that your are honoring your heritage, i’m sure it makes your mother so proud…wish i could do more of that myself, but i’m native american, so i’m not really into picking wild berries or grounding my own corn..lol i love ramen, but to be honest i’ve never made it myself, maybe i will give it a try…lovely post..sarah

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      Thank you Sarah! So cool that you are Native American – what tribe? I wonder if there are any cookbooks out there featuring traditional Native American foods – sounds like it could be pretty interesting! xo

  3. I love ramen and here in Brooklyn there is a ramen renaissance of sorts right now with new restaurants opening all over the area. I love your recipe and your story, it’s so vivid I feel like I am there with you. I must try this, after I make a trip to the Asian market of course.

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      Yes! Ramen is totally taking over the Bay Area too. All of these places serving up homemade ramen – luckily I haven’t really met a ramen that I don’t like, so I am not that hard to impress! Thank you for your kind words – it was a lovely trip with my family – so fantastic to learn more about my heritage. xo

  4. This looks absolutely divine! Like the perfect kind of comfort food. I’m Asian, but I very rarely blog about anything Chinese . . . mostly because I don’t actually make anything Chinese on a regular basis. But when I do, it really hits the spot.

    I always have this idea that some of the best things to eat in Japan are in these little train station holes-in-the-wall . . . are most of them not good?

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      I totally relate to that. My mom is a third generation Japanese American, and I am also half German, so I don’t know that many authentically Japanese dishes. Would love to learn more, and I guess I have no excuse not to! 🙂 The train station places are decent – better than you would encounter at a train station in the states for sure – but it was mostly all the same – tonkatsu, curry, tempura, udon, etc. – nothing that fresh or exotic, but delicious nonetheless. Thank you so much for stopping by!

  5. Lynette says:

    I really enjoy Pho, which is pretty popular here in the Pacific NW. Not sure if Ive heard of Ramen restaurants, but I bet they would be similar in that they are broth based noodle soups. The recipe looks so easy Im very tempted to try. Thank you.

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      Oh I LOVE pho! I have been known to eat it at some late night spots in the city after a night of drinking – one of the best hang over cures! 🙂 The recipe is easy, and once you try it for the first time, I promise you will be hooked! So much better than top ramen! 🙂

  6. LaurenG says:

    Yum, yum, YUM.

  7. ladyredspecs says:

    I love that every Asian culture has a noodle soup recipe that’s simple and nourishing, each with a unique twist. Looking forward to trying your sesame and chile ramen, it looks delicious

  8. We were JUST planning on making ramen this weekend. Yours looks delicious!

  9. My kind of meal on those days when it’s cold, warm, cold again kind of weather (your typical Bay Area weather). Lovely post Lindsay, especially when you spoke about your heritage and how this post relates to it. Hope you are doing well! xoxo

  10. I can almost taste your heart warming dish from here. When I lived in Japan, one of my favorite places to go for Ramen was just under the Yamate Eki. This canteen only had 7 precious seats and it was always worth the wait. Ja mata, BAM

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      Thank you BAM! I love your memory – the places that are the tiny, hole in wall, hidden places are the ones that are truly magical, and live on in our food memories forever. I will have to find that place if I am ever back in Japan! xo

  11. Amazing how so many great food memories are from to most modest of places (particularly in Italy for me), especially those that ‘specialise’. I’d love to visit Japan, it terms of food alone it’d be heaven for me.

    In the meantime, I’ll start by trying this out! Brilliant photography again too.

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      Absolutely – I couldn’t agree with you more. Something about how modest they are makes you believe that somehow, it’s a very special, personal discovery. I hope you are able to make a trip to Japan soon – it is such an incredibly beautiful country.

  12. ohlidia says:

    My daughters and I love ramen noodle soup. I’m sorry to say I’ve only ever had the instant soups… Shameful, I know. But now I must try yours. Thanks!

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      No shame in the instant soups! 🙂 I still love them myself. Sometimes, when I can’t be bothered to cook something on a weeknight, I throw together top ramen with some “additions” including tofu and spring onions. Still absolutely delicious! Thank you so much for stopping by!

  13. What a cool post, Lindsay! It’s always so lovely to learn about your fellow food bloggers and this looks de-licious! Thanks so much for sharing as always, Lindsay, hope you are well! xo

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      Thank you Christina! I actually wish I knew how to cook more traditional Japenese dishes – I guess, as with everything else, it’s a work in progress! Hope you are doing well too! xo

  14. Helena says:

    How lucky you are to have Asian origins ! I’m very interested in Asian cultures, and your ramen look so tasty. Plus, I have all ingredients at home (except noodles, sadly ^^), so I can’t wait to give it a try !

    • fleurdeselsf says:

      Wow – that is very impressive that you had all of these ingredients on hand – you are more Asian than me! 🙂 xo

      • l'ogresse says:

        I’m actually going to cheat slightly, subsituting Chinese ingredients for the Japanese ones (tobanjan, neri goma) ; I think they would work well too. But I admit I’m very fond of Asian food, though mostly Chinese one. I find Japanese food attractive yet a bit too sophisticated, requiring very specific and often expensive ingredients !

      • fleurdeselsf says:

        Oooh, that’s a good idea. I actually don’t know too much at all about Chinese cooking, but would love to learn more!

      • Helena says:

        Well, I don’t pretend having such a nice blog than yours, but I’d like to share some Chinese recipes on mine from time to time, besides French or Eastern European ones. Hope you won’t feel pressured to do so but you might check it from time to time if you’re interested, though I don’t know if my English is fluent enough. I’d be very glad to welcome you then, but won’t mind if it doesn’t please you ! xo

      • fleurdeselsf says:

        Your blog is absolutely stunning! And your recipes make me drool! I love what you are doing on your blog and find it incredibly inspirational! I am so excited to see what you come up with next! xo

      • Helena says:

        Oh, I’m flattered ! I just read your enthusiastic answer and I want to thank you very much, I’m so glad that other people might be inspired by my recipes !
        Besides, I made this one a few days ago (with a leftover firm tofu instead of pork) and it turned out as tasty as I had figured it out when I saw your pictures, or even more 🙂 So, thanks too for having found out this recipe which from now on is my favorite ramen recipe !

  15. Reblogged this on Haute Mom Living and commented:
    a beautiful mix of blends!

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