The weeks following our return from Japan proved to be a somewhat rocky re-entry. First, it reminded me how life does not wait when you are away, but rather piles up like the newspapers on your front step. Second, our jet lag combined with our girls’ new middle of the night loneliness made days next to impossible. Finally, after a week of eating better than maybe any other week of my life, what were our options when we got home? (I guess make everything out of koji.)
Ramen was our go-to lunch in Tokyo. Ramen here is no longer scarce, but scarcely very good. I spent most of my days after returning working consciously to not make mention of our ramen lunch habit. People’s eyes glaze over by sentence two of hearing about vacations. The response from those who actually responded with more than nods was frequently referring to the quarter per packet instant ramen and questioning why we would seek it out. Since these were the people nice enough to listen, I worked doubly hard to not condescend. I am not sure if I succeeded.
When I had to make something at home with egg whites, I was left with five yolks and a bad attitude about instant ramen. This stuff is awful – a complete salt lick. Say it again, “It is a complete salt lick.” Even if that salt was MSG, I had these egg yolks and a few weeks to figure out if I could use powdered ramen broth as a cure for these yolks (for more on cured eggs yolks look here or here). I dropped two dollars on eight package of ramen and planned to let the poison in the packets transform the yolks.
Before curing the yolks, I froze and thawed them first to remove their fragility. I am not sure what happens with the proteins when they freeze, but the texture changes and, in this case, it is for the better. Scientists, please educate me. Once they froze and then thawed, though, I lined a glass dish with a third of the mixture and gently laid the egg yolks which were then topped with the remaining powdered ramen stock. Within a day, the salt/MSG had leeched out a ton of liquid. By the end of the week, the yolks were swimming in concentrated “ramen”-ish liquid and fully cured.
When I removed and rinsed them, their appearance reminded me of the amber from the Jurassic Park films and the smell reminded me of a college microwave – in some ways better than nostalgic. After wrapping the yolks in cheesecloth and hanging them for four days, I unwrapped them and chilled them overnight.
The next day, I grated the cured and dried yolks over some cha soba. The still blazing hot noodles half-melted the cured yolks and released the salty, MSG laden aroma from the ramen seasoning. With the grated yolk giving richness and then the savory qualities from the seasoning, I realized the flavor of the seasoning is actually really delicious, even addictive. Only it needs to avoid the customary broth it fortifies. Using it almost like parmesan cheese avoids the puffy ankles and tight wedding rings which follow a bowl of Maruchan Oriental Flavor Salt Soup and gives the strong flavors in little blasts instead of in heaping spoonfuls.