Warning! I’m about to talk about my boyfriend. Before you click away from this page for fear of extreme mushiness, I promise I’ll get to the Chilli Chicken Ramen momentarily. Feel free to scroll through until the word “boyfriend” disappears. Or better yet, fixate on the photos. I mean, let’s face it, you’re here for the sweet, sweet food porn and a recipe. I’m not offended. I’ve been guilty of the same thing. To those of you who find my personal life compelling or are too polite for your own good, please proceed to the next paragraph. I am grateful you’ve chosen to indulge me.
My boyfriend and I fell in love over food. The thing I really enjoy about our relationship is we constantly learn from one another. Neither of us has ever set foot in a culinary school and we are by no means food “geniuses”, but we’re both intensely interested in the food world and behave accordingly. We get chatty with servers, cooks, and bartenders. We muse over the potential deliciousness of a new brand of whatever. We gawk at every cookbook and food magazine available on this pale blue dot. Essentially, we’re the same brand of nerd. Although we engage in the same methods of feeding our mutual addiction, we often catalog very different bits of information. So, we have a cool back and forth where we both get to expand our knowledge in an area neither of us can get enough of. And one of my very favorite things he has introduced me to is Hakka cuisine.
My boyfriend had the benefit of actually growing up in Toronto, so from a very young age, he was exposed to a globe’s worth of cuisines. Growing up in Halifax, which is not nearly the melting pot Toronto is, I did not. Hakka was one of those cuisines that just never made it to my corner of the world (or at least it hadn’t the last time I checked). Most of the Hakka restaurants in Toronto serve up a cuisine that was developed by a population of Chinese people living in Kolkata, India. Most are of Hakka descent,which is why the cuisine bears that name. The cuisine is populated with Chinese dishes accented with Indian ingredients, such as cumin, graham masala, Kashmiri chilli, and paneer. The result is absolutely amazing. It’s a pleasing collision of two ubiquitous comfort foods, but with an element of intriguing unfamiliarity, which I guess will dissipate the more I eat it.
After I tasted Hakka, I (true to form) had to figure out how to make it myself. The ramen portion of the Chilli Chicken Ramen was born out of my need to eat copious amounts of noodle soup all winter long. As I mention in a previous blog post, I am constantly bombarded with conflicting food cravings. This is why my website is populated with weirdo recipes, each of which is the culinary equivalent of sewing a pigeon to a rat (anyone a Simpsons fan?). I wish I could say the madness will stop one day, but it won’t.
Now, one quick note about Kashmiri chilli powder, which seems to be a thing in Hakka cuisine. I could not find it. I did a little poking around on the internets and was advised to substitute Kashmiri with a large dash of paprika and a small amount of cayenne. If you can find Kashmiri chilli powder in your way cool neighborhood, use it to make your Chilli Chicken Ramen instead of the paprika and cayenne.
Another note: I went crazy and made homemade ramen noodles with my beau on the weekend because that’s the sort of nutso thing we do for fun. We followed Lucky Peach’s recipe to the letter but found that the pasta maker setting they recommended made our noodles a touch too thin. I’m not sure if it’s simply a case of having different machines, but if you are using the KitchenAid pasta attachment – which is the bomb, by the way – stop at setting number four and run the sheets through the spaghetti cutter.
Okay, I’m done with all the disclaimers. I strongly recommend that you make this weird and wonderful Chilli Chicken Ramen. I guarantee it will confuse your brain in the best possible way.
- Adapted from Just One Cookbook's excellent recipe
- 3 large eggs
- 3 tablespoons soy sauce
- 3 tablespoons mirin
- 8 tablespoons water
- 6 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, quartered
- 2-3 green chillies, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 tablespoons black vinegar
- 2 tablespoons soy sauce
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 1/2 cup cornstarch
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 4 lemongrass stalks, trimmed and bruised
- 2-3 green chillies, thinly sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 teaspoons sambal oelek
- 2 teaspoons black vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon honey
- 1/4 teaspoon white pepper
- 1 batch Chilli Chicken
- 1 batch Chilli Lemongrass Broth
- 6 heads of baby bok choy, quartered
- 3 ramen eggs, halved
- 1 batch homemade ramen noodles or 6 packages of instant ramen, flavor packets discarded
- 2 scallions, thinly sliced
- Black sesame seeds for sprinkling
- Fill a small sauce pan with water and place over high heat. When the water boils, reduce the heat to a simmer and gently lower the eggs into the water.
- Allow the eggs to cook for seven minutes. Remove the eggs from the simmering water and plunge them into an ice bath. Leave them in the ice water for at least 3 minutes.
- Once the three minutes have elapsed, remove the eggs from the ice water and carefully peel them.
- Place the shell-less eggs in a large ziplock bag.
- In a small bowl combine the soy sauce, mirin, and water and pour the mixture over the eggs. Seal the ziplock bag and store the eggs in the refrigerator.
- Let the eggs marinate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Place green chillies, garlic, black vinegar, soy sauce, and honey in a large mixing bowl and whisk to combine.
- Add the chicken and toss to coat. Leave the chicken to sit in the vinegar mixture for at least an hour.
- In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, paprika, cumin and cayenne.
- Add the cornstarch mixture to the chicken, vinegar mixture and stir until a batter forms.
- Heat 1 1/2 inches of vegetable oil in a large wok over medium-high heat.
- Once the oil is hot, add the chicken to the wok. Don't crowd the wok - work in batches. Fry until golden brown, turning once.
- Place the chicken on a plate lined with paper towel and pop it in a 150 F oven to keep warm.
- Combine the chicken broth, garlic, green chillies and lemongrass in a medium-sized sauce pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Leave to cook for 15 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a small mixing-bowl, combine the soy sauce, sambal oelek, black vinegar, honey and white pepper.
- Pour the mixture into the broth and stir to combine. Let the broth simmer for an additional five minutes.
- Fill a large pot 3/4 of the way full with water. Fit a steamer basket on top of the pot. Place the bok choy inside the basket. Cover the basket and place the pot over high heat. Bring the water to a boil. Allow the bok choy to steam for three minutes, then remove the steamer basket and set aside.
- Toss the ramen noodles into the still boiling water and cook until tender and springy, about 3 minutes. Drain and rinse the noodles.
- Divide the noodles between six bowls. Place 3-4 pieces of the Chilli Chicken in each bowl, followed by 4 pieces of the bok choy and half a ramen egg.
- Spoon enough broth over the noodles to nearly cover them.
- Garnish the finished ramen with scallions, black sesame seeds and a few green chilli slices.