Guest Author - Chidori Phillips
Fresh noodles require a lot of effort to make, and if youre not inclined to spend several hours mixing, rolling and cutting them, I suggest you buy fresh noodles at your local Asian food market. Look for chukamen noodles, not yakisoba noodles which are meant for stir-frying. Sometimes, they are sold in the midst of several Asian noodle types and it can be confusing to find the right one. Chukamen noodles are thin and narrow with a slightly yellow tinge. Some brands may be slightly curly while others straight but all are wheat-based with egg. Other Japanese noodles are white (somen, udon) or brown (soba).
You can buy packaged ramen soup inexpensively at any market, but know that the texture and flavor is very different from fresh. It is similar to the difference between fresh Italian pasta and dried. The instant soup base packet that is included results in a very salty broth. Although the quality varies among brands, packaged ramen is usually very inferior to fresh in every way. Still, their obsession for noodles compels many Japanese to buy instant ramen out of sheer convenience. Asian markets sell a lot.
But for those of us who will go to any length to experience good food, here is a homemade from scratch recipe for chukamen ramen noodles. Texture is key to a good chukamen noodle so use a pasta roller for uniform thickness if you can. Set it on the thinnest setting.
Chukamen Noodle Recipe
In Asia, lye water is added to noodle dough. Lye water can be purchased in Asian markets but if you cannot find any you can add a pinch of baking soda instead. This recipe comes from my aunt who cooks for large groups. A scaled down version follows, if youre in the experimenting stage.
5 lbs. unbleached flour
1 Tbsp. salt
¼ cup lye water
3 to 3-1/2 cups water
3 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. salt
½ Tbsp. lye water or a pinch of baking soda
½ cup water
Mound the flour on clean work surface and make a well in the center. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, salt, lye water and water. If using baking soda, add it to the flour and blend. Pour the liquid mixture into the center of the flour, mixing it carefully until a dough comes together. Knead well for about five minutes. If needed, add a little more water. Cover with a damp cloth and let the dough rest in a cool place for two hours.
Dust a pasta roller machine with cornstarch to prevent dough from sticking. Cut the dough into slabs that will fit into a pasta roller. Work with one slab at a time, covering the remaining slabs with a damp kitchen towel. Using flat rollers, pass each dough slab through about four times, each time folding the slab in half. Dust slab with more cornstarch and roll the dough through noodle-cutting roller and cut into strands about 10Elong. Use thinnest setting as possible. Cook immediately or wrap individual servings in plastic wrap to freeze or refrigerate.
To Cook Chukamen Noodles
Fresh noodles cook fairly quickly, in about one minute, and tend to rise to the surface of the cooking water. The texture should be soft with some body but not al dente with a little bite. Frozen or stored noodles take up to 3 minutes.
To cook fresh chukamen noodles, bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil. It is better to have too much water than not enough. Water should be able to circulate through the strands. Do not salt. Ramen broth is sufficiently salty. Cook the noodles until done, which should take about 3-5 minutes. Drain well.