The unusual stock for this ramen noodle soup features ingredients with uniformly strong umami profiles. When you're making it, remember that crafting stock is not an exact science: The amounts of each ingredient do not have to conform precisely to the recipe – you are looking for a combination of ingredients to give a certain taste. The dried mushrooms can be any flavour – I often use the Chinese dried ones. Parmesan rind, another ingredient, is available at some supermarkets such as Whole Foods and also at some cheese stores. (I save the rind of my Parmesan when it is finished and it keeps for months. It is an essential ingredient in Italian stews and soups for added flavour. Keep it in the freezer.)
The strongly flavoured broth used here is excellent for poaching eggs and superb for sauces. It is also the perfect stock for bean soups and enhances pasta sauces. For this ramen dish, I use chicken stock with some soy sauce and ginger in it as an easy substitute. Frozen ramen noodles are available at some Asian supermarkets; otherwise, use the dried.
Ready time: 5 hours, including broth-making time
2 medium tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2 king mushrooms, quartered
2 leeks, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, cut in chunks
1 celery stalk, cut in chunks
10 shiitake mushroom stems plus 4 caps (I save my stems in the freezer)
2 oz cremini mushrooms, quartered
4 oz piece pancetta, coarsely chopped
4 oz piece parmesan rind
1 oz (25 g) mixed dried mushrooms
4 garlic cloves, halved
4 large eggs
6 cups umami broth
150 g dried ramen noodles
1 cup sliced shiitake mushrooms
8 baby bok choy, halved lengthwise
3/4 cup sliced green onions
2 Thai bird’s eye chilies, thinly sliced
1 sheet nori, cut into 4 squares
To make broth, combine ingredients for stock in a large pot. There will be about 8 to 10 cups in total. Add 12 cups of water or enough to cover vegetables by 2 inches.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for 2½ to 3 hours or until liquid has reduced by about one third and broth is flavourful.
Strain into large bowl. Reserve pancetta, if desired, and discard remaining ingredients.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Add eggs and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from water and plunge into a bowl of cold water to stop cooking. Reserve.
Bring umami broth to a simmer in a medium pot. Add noodles and mushrooms and cook for 2 minutes or until noodles are almost cooked through. Add bok choy and cook until noodles are tender (about 2 more minutes). Stir in half of the green onions and remove from heat.
Spoon soup into four bowls. Scatter each bowl with chilies and remaining green onions. Peel eggs and slice in half, working quickly as yolks will be very runny. Place eggs in soup and tuck a piece of nori into each bowl.