J. and I went in search of a mysterious elixir last weekend. We were looking for the secret ingredient to make perfect ramen noodles.
It was a U.S. holiday (Memorial Day), and perhaps it was also a Chinese holiday. The pan-Asian (mostly Chinese) store was packed. The children were all wearing neatly pressed special occasion clothes, pink dresses, bows in their hair, best shoes. There were long lines at the checkouts, workers bustled around, restocking and assisting customers. Everyone was speaking Chinese and pushing full carts from aisle to aisle.
There we were, in search of this odd ingredient, and though I had pictures from the internet, I couldn’t find it! We showed one harried employee my picturest, but he said “No, not here!” But I’d been in that store looking for agar agar, had been told that no, they did not have it—but when I asked another employee (perhaps with more English skills), I found that they carry 3 different varieties. So we kept looking, until we found an employee who was taking temporary shelter behind a counter. He pointed to a shelf not 15-feet from us: the alchemist’s solution to make real ramen noodles! And it cost only 99 cents!
Indeed, one can make ramen noodles at home
with this magic potion
Koon Chun potassium carbonate:
This product is (similar to) kansui water. The Chinese noodle makers may have originally used alkaline well water to make their unique springy toothsome noodles. I found many online references to it being used for making both ramen and lamian (the amazing hand stretched Chinese noodles).
The recipes I found online involved using powered potasium carbonate, and / or detailed descriptions with weights and ratios of various kinds of flours to make the truly mythical perfect noodles. I don’t bake very often, so I don’t buy multiple kinds of flours, nor do I have a kitchen scale, so those recipes were like a roof: above my head! You are welcome to check out my links to those recipes if you are seeking perfection; but I am perfectly happy to make some noodles that are better than any I’ve been able to buy in my area.
They may not be a perfect performance of Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A major, but the music is so beautiful that even my own hummed version amazes me. And while my husband may not appreciate my humming, he did enjoy the noodles…
- 3 cups King Arthur bread flour
- ¼ cup wheat gluten
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 ½ teaspoons Koon-Chun kansui
diluted in 1 cup water
- 1 egg
Combine the flour, gluten, and salt in the bowl of a Kitchen Aid stand mixer. Install the dough hook and add the egg, mix, then slowly add the water, mixing until you have a ball of dough. It is a very stiff dough. I tried to knead it, but couldn’t manage, so I wrapped it loosely in a plastic bag to rest for 30 to 40 minutes. After its little nap, I was able to knead the dough, but still could not get it to the soft smooth state of ready to roll pasta dough.
I divided the dough into quarters and rolled each section through the widest setting of the pasta machine, folded each in half and rolled them through again several times. Then I rolled the quarters through numbers 2 and 3, folding and re-rolling. By this time, the dough was quite smooth, though still very stiff. I dusted the noodles lightly with cake flour and rolled them through to the thinnest setting. The cutters did not separate all the strands completely so I had to pull some of them apart. I noticed that the noodles were very stretchy without breaking. Interesting.
We cooked and ate some of the ramen a little later. The rest I pushed into single serving nests and let them dry on waxed paper. That took about a day, and I turned the nests over whenever I thought about it so they’d dry evenly.
Here is more information about making noodles: http://1tess.wordpress.com/2011/04/20/tenobe-dango-jiru/