This dish is really satisfying on a rainy evening. Seasoned with generous amounts of soy sauce and mirin, the broth is rich and sweet like tentsuyu (tempura dipping sauce) but still light enough to eat like soup. Swap mushroom broth for chicken stock and omit the fish to make this vegetarian, and I’m gonna be honest here, I think you’re going to want to add a pinch of MSG and a little extra kombu if you go vegetarian; it really brings up the savory. Using rice flour and seltzer makes a nice, light tempura — you’ll want to fry everything in the house! This recipe makes 6 servings, because if you're going through the effort of making tempura, you might as well share the results with friends and family!
Makes 6 servings
2 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
2 cups water
A handful of bonito flakes
5 or 6 dried anchovies
6”x3” strip of kombu seaweed
5 dried shiitake mushrooms
1” piece of ginger, thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, smashed
3” length of daikon radish, thinly sliced
1/2 cup sake
1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
Salt to taste
4 cups neutral, high smoke-point oil like canola, grapeseed, or peanut
1 cup rice flour (mochiko)
Assortment of vegetables such as kabocha squash, sweet potato, carrot, onion, green beans and small mushrooms like maitake, shimeji, or shiitake
3/4 cup (half a can) of cold seltzer (or light beer)
Kosher or flake sea salt (Jacobsen’s black garlic sea salt is really nice here!)
2 packages (24 ounces) Umi Organic ramen noodles
2 scallions, thinly sliced
4 tablespoons finely grated daikon
Togarashi chile powder (optional)
1. Simmer chicken stock, water, bonito, anchovies, kombu, dried shiitake, ginger, garlic, and daikon radish together for about an hour, then strain.
Pro Tip: I think the easiest way to make ramen broth is to put all the solids into one of those giant Chinese tea/medicine bags. You can buy disposable ones by the ten-pack at bigger Asian grocery stores, or cloth bags can be found at beer brewing supply stores, of all places. If you don’t want to do that, just pour it through a cheesecloth-lined strainer at the end.
2. Return the broth to the pot and add the sake, soy and mirin, and taste to check for seasoning. Add salt and sugar as needed. You want it to be kind of strong since the noodles are going to soak up some of the flavor. Keep it at a very low simmer while you’re making the tempura.
3. Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil.
4. Thinly slice the bigger or firmer vegetables such as winter squash, sweet potatoes or carrots. Separate the onion rings. Leave the green beans and mushrooms whole, removing the woody stems of the shiitakes if you are using them.
5. Heat up your oven to its lowest setting, then begin heating the oil over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees. While your oil is heating, mix the rice flour and seltzer (it’s okay if there a few lumps) and wash and pat dry your vegetables. You’ll be working in batches, so just do a handful at a time. When the oil is hot, dunk the veggies in the batter and carefully slide them into the oil (chopsticks are a great tool for this job). Don’t overcrowd the oil, and keep an eye on the temp. It will drop once you add the cold food. After about ten seconds, gently stir the items in the fryer, and after about 3 or 4 minutes remove them carefully with your spider or other long-handled strainer, or long chopsticks. (If you’re unsure about it, test one piece for doneness before you pull everything out.) Spread them on a cooling rack laid over a baking tray to drain, hit them with a sprinkle of salt, and put the tray in the oven to keep the tempura warm and crisp while you fry up the rest of the veggies.
Pro Tip: Get your noodle water boiling at the same time as you’re making the tempura. When you’re getting your last batch of tempura out of the fryer, cook the noodles.
6. Tease apart ramen noodles and add to boiling water. Stir and cook in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain well.
7. Divide noodles into six portions, placing the noodles in the bowl first. Cover with a ladleful of broth (add the broth to the same level as the noodles in the bowl and swish the noodles around to keep loosen then), and then nestle the tempura on top. Add sliced scallions and a spoonful of grated daikon on top and togarashi to taste. Itadakimasu!