Whether you are breaking in a new apartment or just looking to try something new, cooking for your friends is always a hit. Rather than offer something conventional, consider adding Japanese food to your menu. Ramen is a great communal dining experience that offers your guests the chance to customize their meal and offers you a chance to show off your prowess in the kitchen.
A Quick Primer On Ramen Noodles and Broth
Different types of ramen bowls come with different types of noodles. Authentic ramen noodles are made of four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt and alkaline minerals (kansui). While kansui is one of the most common ingredients, some noodles are made with egg instead.
Soup broth also comes in different forms: soy sauce base, miso base, salt base, pork back-bone base, and so on. You can challenge yourselves and make your own broth; however, you can easily buy ramen noodle kit that comes with soup stock.
Pick Your Protein
Your choice of protein gives the bowl character. Two of the most commonly served meats are chicken (sometimes fried) and braised pork (chashu), though you can certainly get creative if you want. If your guests don’t eat meat, Japanese food recipes offer a wealth of vegetarian options. Try spicing up your bowl with some kimchi (though the smell might linger for a bit) or shiitake mushrooms. You can also add fish cake (narutomaki) or tofu as well; there are plenty of authentic garnishments to choose from that are as diverse as your guests.
Ramen Waits for No One
Do you think you’re going to make a few bowls of ramen and then quickly pop them in the microwave before your guests arrive? Think again. Ramen noodles don’t reheat well and get soggy, so cook as soon as your guests sit down. Keep a pot of water boiling so you can quickly cook your noodles, and make sure your soup broth is hot and ready to serve. Once the noodles are cooked, place them in the bowls and then pour the broth. Now you can take a breather because the hard part is over. Your guests will customize their own bowls, and enjoy the delicious meal you put together.
As You Like It
Speaking of customizing, that’s maybe one of the best parts of eating ramen. You always start with noodles and broth, but after that, you can add whatever you like. Many types of ramen come with soft-boiled egg (ajitsuke tamago), so that should definitely be on your table. Sliced scallions and sprouts are also common and easy to make at home. Some people like their ramen with a little heat, so garlic paste (ninniku-dare) and chili oil are welcome additions. Many condiments such as wasabi paste or Japanese drinks can be purchased at a well-stocked supermarket and add character to the meal.
A Word on Presentation
If your guests won’t be customizing their bowls, then you have the opportunity to get creative. You could just dump everything in the bowl, or you can take an extra minute or two to make a meal that looks fantastic. Slice the soft-boiled egg and place the two halves in the broth, sunny side up. Place the slices of meat together, slightly overlapping, at the edge of the bowl. The fish cake should be one of the last things you put in the bowl and should be prominently displayed.
To offer an authentic ramen experience there are a few things that you have to get right, but otherwise there’s plenty of room to experiment. The meal isn’t terribly complicated to prepare but looks fantastic on the table, and tastes even better. Whether your guests are fans of Japanese recipes or just like eating hearty, healthy foods, you’ll be serving ramen dinners that have everyone coming back for more.