It’s been quite some time since I hosted my first pop-up dinner, Japanese Street Eats! It was a ton of hard work, but an amazing event to look back on. I’m super proud that we were able to crank out around 150 bowls of Ramen over two days, as well as 4-6 other courses per person. It was a crazy learning experience, but suffice it to say, I was all Ramen’d out for quite a while.
Most recently, when playing around in the kitchen, I’ve been drawn to Jewish deli classics. I wanted to see if I could take one of my favorite sandwiches and twist it into something new. Over a year had passed since Japanese Street Eats, and I was ready to step back into the ring with Ramen, except this time I wanted to throw all the rules out the window.
I rolled up my sleeves and got to work trying to get the flavors of a Reuben sandwich crammed into a Ramen experience, because why not!? Pumpernickel Noodles, Cheesy Swiss Caraway Fritters, Pickled Mustard Seeds, Buttery Cabbage Broth, Sauerkraut… It took some trial and error, but dammit if it isn’t a tasty bowl of Reuben Sandwich.
1 1/2 cups White Flour
1 1/2 cups Rye Flour
1 tbsp. Toasted Caraway Seeds, ground
1 tbsp. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 cup Water
1 tbsp. Molases
1 tbsp. Kansui (Potassium Carbonate/Sodium Bi-Carbonate)
(see recipe for Kansui substition)
Buttered Cabbage Broth:
1 head Cabbage, chopped
1 Yellow Onion, sliced
6 cloves Garlic, smashed
4 roasted Bone Marrow
1 1/2 sticks of unsalted Butter
1 tbsp Caraway Seeds
1 tbsp Celery Seeds
4 cups Chicken Broth/Stock
4 cups Water
Swiss Caraway Fritters:
8oz Block of Swiss Cheese, cubed
White Flour for Breading
4 Eggs for Breading
Breadcrumbs for Breading
2 tbsp Toasted Caraway Seeds, ground
Salt and Pepper for seasoning
Oil for Frying
Pickled Mustard Seeds:
see recipe from ChefSteps.com
Chives, finely diced
Toasted Caraway Seed, ground
Thick cut Pastrami or Corned Beef, chopped and fried
Sauerkraut(I used red cabbage with ginger Kraut)
Dijon or Yellow Mustard
Pumpernickel Noodles, part 1
The first step (and the one that took me the longest to figure out) is making the Pumpernickel Noodles. Figuring out how to make Ramen Noodles was tricky to begin with, but once you add the wild cards Rye Flour and Molasses into the mix, things can get a bit sticky. Literally. The key is to keep the dough as dry as possible, because once it gets too wet, it’s almost impossible to bring it back to the right texture, despite how much flour you add.
One of the keys to making a Ramen noodle is alkalinity, which is the opposite of acidity. It’s easy to find vinegar or lemon juice to add acidity to something, but adding alkalinity is a bit trickier. The best option is to find Kansui, which is usually in liquid form, labeled as “Potassium Carbonate & Sodium Bi-Carbonate Solution”. It’s sold at Asian markets, or available online. If you don’t have access to Kansui, don’t panic. Baking Soda is an Alkaline agent, and you can intensify the baking soda’s alkalinity by baking it in the oven at 250°-300° for an hour. Use 1 tbsp. of Baked Soda in place of the Kansui in the recipe for a similar result, though you may need to add a splash more water to compensate.
Getting the texture right is key. Start with the dry ingredients in the mixer (White Flour, Rye Flour, Ground Caraway, Cocoa Powder). Mix on a medium speed until combined and start adding the wet ingredients (Mixed Water/Molasses/Kansui). You’ll need to be patient for the dough to come together, but it should start to happen 3/4 of the way through adding the liquid. Once you get to the stage shown on the left, go slowly and add just enough liquid for the dough ball to form fully (you may have some of the liquid left over). Once the ball forms, keep the mixer going on Medium for 5 minutes.
You should have a solid ball of dough that isn’t sticky to the touch. If it’s sticky(like my first several attempts) you can usually add flour, a bit at a time, until it gets to this stage. Flatten the dough ball into a disc, and wrap it in plastic wrap. Allow it to rest and hydrate for at least an hour.
Buttered Cabbage Broth
Simply gather all your ingredients (Cabbage, Onion, Garlic, Caraway, Celery Seed, Butter, Stock, Water, Bone Marrow) and put them in a pot together. Bring it to the boil, then cover the pot and simmer gently for 75 minutes. My initial broth recipe lacked a bit of depth, which is why I decided to add the roasted Bone Marrow. If you don’t have bone marrow, you can substitute roasted beef or chicken stock bones. To finish the Cabbage Broth, simply strain the liquid and bring it back to a boil on the stove top. If you want a slightly thicker broth, you can opt to add a bit of blond Roux (flour and butter combined and cooked) to the strained soup.
Oh yeah! When is fried cheese NOT a great idea? When it comes to recreating the feel of a Reuben, these fritters add the melty, crunchy, cheesy element.
Cut a block of Swiss cheese into cubes and bread them twice. I set up my breading station from left to right: Flour with Salt and Pepper, 4 eggs whisked with 2 tbsp of water, Breadcrumbs with 2 tbsp. Ground Caraway. Coat the cheese in the flour, then dip in the eggs, then coat with breadcrumbs and then back to the flour, eggs and breadcrumbs one more time.
I let the cheese cubes rest on a cooling rack so they dry out before going for a dip in hot oil.
When you’re ready, fry the cubes in 350° oil for 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown and delicious. Beware that some of the cubes like to burst open and spill their cheese into the oil. I haven’t figured out a way to stop this yet, but 75% of the cubes make it through in tact, so I call that a moderate success. Finish the cubes with more Ground Caraway and Salt.
Pumpernickel Noodles, part 2
Now that the dough is rested, we can get to making the noodles! You’ll want to cut your dough disc into 4 pieces. Flatten them out so they’re thin enough to feed into the widest roller setting. Fold the dough over itself and feed it through the widest pasta setting a couple more times, adding flour as needed. Once you have a nice even sheet, narrow the pasta roller and feed it through. Then narrow it one more time and feed it through once more. I stop there (at setting number 3) but I have tried pushing it one setting further, and the noodles still work quite well.
I learned a valuable trick while trying to make these noodles. The first couple attempts, I didn’t give the dough time to dry once it had been rolled into sheets, so when I tried to run them through the pasta cutter, they stuck together and clumped up a bit more than I wanted. Lesson learned! You’ll want to hang your pasta or lay it on a dry counter for at least 15 minutes (but no longer than 40 minutes) to dry.
Now you can carefully feed the pasta through the noodle attachment, and you have yourself some pumpernickel noodles! On this last attempt of noodle making, I did wait a bit too long and the pasta dried out. The first three sheets went through well, but I lost my last sheet of pasta to the noodle-gods! So it goes.
Dust the noodles lightly in flour to keep them from sticking together and let them sit for at least another 15 minutes before cooking. When you’re ready, add the noodles to a large pot of salted water, boiling vigorously, and cook for 2 1/2 to 3 minutes. You can ignore traditional rules and rinse the noodles in cold water to stop the cooking, or serve them immediately into the broth.
A traditional Reuben is finished with Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, and Thousand Island dressing, and that’s how I finished garnishing my first couple of bowls of Reuben Ramen. It was really good, but it didn’t quite capture the experience of having a Reuben and the Thousand Island mingled with the Cabbage Broth and disappeared.
In the end, I changed gears slightly and opted for chopped Pastrami, which was pan seared until crispy. I know it’s not specifically a Reuben at that point, but I enjoyed the Pastrami’s seasoned crust and slight smokiness. I also garnished the Ramen with Chives for a burst of freshness, Red Cabbage Ginger Sauerkraut to balance the heavy body, and Pickled Mustard Seeds for texture and added acidity. There was still something missing in the end, and that was a hit of intensity, delivered by a good dose of Dijon or Yellow Mustard. When the mustard was added and stirred into the noodles, you really got the sense that you were eating a sandwich in Ramen form. A good sandwich, too!
Recipe by Scott@Fork, Photography by Nicole Blalock
I hope you enjoyed the post! Have some feedback or comments? I’d love to hear it!