Sunday, November 27, 2005
The Best Recycled Turkey - Ramen
I had a belated Thanksgiving meal last night (Saturday) with some friends at my place. It was a pretty eclectic menu, consisting of a roast turkey with basil-cilantro-garlic shoved under the skin (best way to get the flavors into the bird!), brown and wild rice stuffing with raisins and a variety of Asian mushrooms, soymilk turkey broth gravy, pumpkin Israeli couscous, soy milk mashed potatoes, and pomegranate molasses carrots. Appetizers were sliced grilled steak that the Papa Bear and I call 'Bobby's Beef'(more on this on later this week) and home-shucked Kumamoto oysters with homemade daikon gratings and ponzu sauce. Heh, not your typical Thanksgiving meal, but the spirit was definitely there...
Surprisingly, we didn't end up with a whole lot of leftovers besides the turkey carcass. But the bird carcass is actually my favorite part of cooking an entire animal. I am too much of a cheap-o to make stock with an entire bird, but a carcass with most of its meat picked off? Perfect. I take this as my special opportunity to create delicious broth by cooking the leftover body for hours on end. I had a few left over beef bones as well, so I threw those into the soup to add some more iosine monophosphate umami into the mix to counter act the predominantly glutamate-powered broth.
I usually turn this bird broth into risotto or some other Western dish, but as I was dancing around the kitchen celebrating the fragrant turkey aroma my broth was emitting, the Papa Bear came downstairs (our rooms are upstairs) to see if I wanted to go out for pho+?. As I was still in my PJs and planned to stay in my PJs for most of the day today, I suggested that I make turkey-pho for us instead. To this, he asked me if we had any pho noodles at home...which we didn't have. So I quickly replaced my suggestion with ramen. The broth I had made was so rich and so deeply complex with cilantro, basil, garlic, and some left over rice stuffing floating around, I was certain it would rival most ramen broths in the Bay Area. We agreed that ramen for lunch sounded good, so I decided to do a little experiment.
As most ramen fans know, most stores have a big pot of stock that has no seasoning in it, and ramen soup is made from stock and seasoning individually in each bowl. What that meant was that I could try a few different combinations of seasoning to go with my rich turkey broth. I assembled a simple old-school shoyu broth (extra-strong bonito broth with soy sauce), a tomato-powered salt broth (because tomatoes have the same molecular umami composition as bonito broth and soy sauce), and nuoc mam (Vietnamese fish sauce) with counter-balancing ginger.
I added just enough turkey stock to the three seasonings to create a trinity of choices. Each of them was so individually different, I was totally amazed. Utterly taken back. I mean, theoretically, of course all three soups ought to taste different, but boy, this was an unique experience. All three of them had the same background flavor of that almost gamey turkey smell, but the top note - the first taste - was so drastically different. The shoyu was buttery and powerful in a delightful way, the tomato-salt was gentle and nourishing, and the nouc mam... that just didn't work. The nuoc mam-ginger was just too edgy and harsh; it didn't envelope the stock to bring anything out of it.
The Papa Bear was immediately smitten with the shoyu while I preferred the tomato-salt (which is to be expected, since the Papa Bear likes rich ramen, while I gravitate towards the lighter, delicate ramen broth). Once the soup seasoning was decided upon, I made more of the seasoning we liked (the first batch was tester-sizes), prepared some boiled eggs for toppings, cooked up some frozen, ex-'fresh' ramen noodles (did you know that if you freeze 'fresh' noodles, they get chewier?), and voila - shoyu and shio ramen was created from our Thanksgiving leftovers! What was also very amazing was that this dish, even though there wasn't a piece of turkey meat in the end, was very deserving of being called 'turkey ramen'. The broth mingled beautifully with the noodles, such that each bite was full of turkey essence and fragrance. I will definitely do this again next year!
The Papa Bear preferred my seasoning over the store-bought packaged seasoning...