caramelized pork ramen noodle soup

This is my ultimate dead-of-winter-comfort-food; one that my friends and family also love dearly. Though I will say, some of Seattle’s recent weather was positively spring-like. Quite the tease, actually. We all know that we are in for at least another month and a half of cold and grey weather. Regardless of whether that makes you happy (i.e. my snow-loving husband) or sad (myself and those eager for springtime), I think we can all agree that comforting food is a welcome and nourishing way to see us through the coldest months.

Before some of you start to think I’m crazy (who am I kidding, that ship has probably sailed), I want to make it clear that I am in no way claiming this is authentic Japanese ramen. I’ll leave that to the professionals. But I will claim that this is a delicious bowl of deeply-flavored broth, ramen noodles, and caramelized shredded pork. Just throw (almost) all the ingredients in the crock pot, let it work it’s magic, and after a little bit of prep you’ll have a soup that will leave you craving for more, especially on cold winter days. And yes, it tastes as good as it looks in the photos.

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CARAMELIZED PORK RAMEN NOODLE SOUP
adapted from: Half Baked Harvest

serves 6*

soup:
3.5 to 4 pounds bone in pork shoulder**
8 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup fish sauce
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup red wine, optional
1/3 cup lime juice, freshly squeezed
2 small shallots, diced
1/4 cup Thai red curry paste, which yields medium spice level (use only 2 tablespoons for mild spice)
3 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 tablespoons Sambal Oelek (use 1 tablespoon for mild spice)
2 teaspoons Chinese five spice
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon black pepper
12 oz (approx. 5 cups) mushrooms, de-stemmed and sliced (I used a combination of crimini and shiitake)
18 oz dried ramen noodles***

caramelized pork sauce:
1/4 cup toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup low sodium soy sauce
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup brown sugar

garnishes:
6 lime wedges
2 large carrots, cut into matchsticks or sliced into rounds
2 jalapeños, sliced (seeds removed for less spice)
4 green onions, sliced
soft or medium boiled egg (1 per person)
cilantro, a pinch of leaves for each bowl

Directions:
If you have time, let the pork shoulder come to room temperature before cooking.

Turn a large crockpot to low heat. Place pork inside and pour in the broth, soy sauce, fish sauce, apple cider vinegar, red wine (if using), and lime juice. Add diced shallots, red curry paste, fresh ginger, sambal oelek, Chinese five spice, cumin, and black pepper. Cook on low for approximately 3 hours, or until the center of the cut is at least 145 degrees (the reason the pork cooks faster is because it’s practically submerged in nearly boiling liquid).

While your pork is cooking, chop/prepare the soup garnishes (except for the medium boiled eggs). Store toppings in fridge until soup is done.

When the pork shoulder is cooked, pull it out of the broth and place it in large baking dish to rest for a few minutes. Put all the chopped mushrooms into the broth and set a timer for 45 min (keep crockpot on low heat). After the pork has rested, shred it in the baking dish with a fork (into bite sized pieces).

Heat a large skillet to medium-high. Add the shredded pork and ingredients for the caramelized pork sauce (sesame oil, soy sauce, apple cider vinegar, and brown sugar). Caramelize the pork pieces, stirring frequently, until some of the pieces are beginning to crisp and there is no more liquid in the pan. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside.

About 15 minutes before the mushroom timer goes off: Boil 1 egg per person (for this soup, I like a 6.5 minute boiled egg). Next, taste your broth, it should be plenty salty, but adjust if needed. Put ramen noodles in the broth and cook for approx. 5-6 minutes.

To serve: Ladle one portion of broth, mushrooms, and noodles into a large soup bowl. Top each bowl with a scoop of caramelized pork, shelled and halved egg, and any or all of the garnishes (carrots, cilantro, jalapeños, and green onions). Squeeze a lime wedge over the top. This soup is best the first or second day.

*I’ve always made this recipe for a group, hence the 6 servings. The recipe can easily be halved to serve 3.

**If you buy a boneless pork shoulder, get a ½ pound less

***I used THESE– you can find authentic ramen noodles at most Asian food markets, or some gourmet grocery stores. You can also use the Top Ramen noodles, but of course I recommend trying to find authentic ones whenever possible.

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