This article in Taste reminds me that it’s Time for a Winter Cooking Project.
Last year after being meated-out by an abundance of charcuterie cooking I’d enrolled on an Indian and Italian cooking binge. What will be my Winter Cooking Project this year? I have a couple new constraints to factor.
The first being healthy eating. Diet is finally catching up with us and the doctors have advised Hubby to watch his intake. Depending on the doctor and his specialization the diet restrictions vary. Collectively their advice is to avoid carbohydrates, fats, all things dairy, animal protein in general, fish and shellfish, plant proteins too, dark green vegetables, sugar and fruits (described as sugar on trees.) Apparently the only thing allowed is lettuce.
My response is to ignore all the extremes and heed the nutritionist’s call for moderation: less meat, smaller portions and more plant based foods. This takes us out of the realm of lettuce and salad, which as everyone knows, is not winter food.
My other constraint is accessibility. Last year I had the option of going to school to learn new cuisines. I could eat out and explore possibiliies. This year the city is under lockdown. All non-essential businesses are closed and dine-in restaurants are shuttered. Take-out is still available which is a good thing, as there are several fabulous eateries close-by. Some foods though, are not suited for take-out. Fried foods and noodle soups come to mind.
Which brings me to my Winter Cooking Project.
I’ve decided to learn how to cook Japanese. Emphasis on cook. I’m not big on sushi and cold raw fish in winter just doesn’t appeal. I want to learn how to cook homestyle Japanese meals beginning with ramen noodle soup complete with homemade ajitsuke tamago (ramen egg.)
On my last trip to the Asian grocery store I stopped by the miso section. I spent a long time looking at the packets and reading the labels. I hadn’t known there were so many different types of miso. I should have read this webpage before shopping.
If I had, I’d have realised that the three primary types are shiro (white) miso which is the mildest, aka (red) which is the most pungent and awase (yellow) which is a combination of the two. More variations exist depending on ingredients (rice, barley, soybean) and flavor additions. Using my intuition from Chinese products, I guessed that white miso was the mildest and purchased a hefty one kilogram package of that.
Back in my kitchen I looked up the recipes. Ramen egg is relatively easy – boiled eggs marinated in mirin and soya sauce. Really good ajitsuke tamago is gently boiled with an almost runny yolk. I didn’t achieve really good ajitsuke tamago. For a first try, I figure that’s ok.
The soup was also easy, pulled together in under 30 minutes. Ground pork stir fried with ginger and garlic, flavored with doubanjiang, miso and sesame oil, seasoned with sherry (or sake), sugar, white pepper and finished with chicken stock and bonito flakes. After the soup was ready, I cooked the ramen noodles separately, rinsed them with cold water and assembled the bowl.
It was surprisingly good! Tasty with a distinctly ramen flavor. I would make this again. I have to make it again. I still have 800g of miso paste to go.
Still Winter in Toronto, Canada. February 2021