Monday, September 30, 2013

The Ramen Burger: The Closest You'll Get to Feeling like Jabba the Hutt

Whoa oh oh oh. Ahahahaha. Yes, that was the Jabba-esque chuckle I made when I sat down at the counter in front of a homemade ramen burger. It's the fad food monstrosity that's come into being in the wake of the cronut and other strange food mashups, birthed in none other than Brooklyn. Unlike the cronut, it's easy (albeit time-consuming) to make in your own kitchen and I just had to have one.

I was lazy. I didn't get out of my yoga pants all day long - a day which was devoted to watching Breaking Bad, some reruns of Top Chef and the Huskies beat down Arizona while a monsoon raged on outside. It was a perfect day to be gluttonous when all I needed to do was walk to the corner market for a few packets of Top Ramen and some burgers. I used Mashable's recipe as a guide and here's how I made this delicious gut bomb:

Ingredients (serves one)
  • One packet of top ramen 
  • A hamburger patty of your choice - painted hills beef for Nick and a veggie quinoa patty for me
  • 1 egg
  • Cooking oil
  • Toppings of your choice. Here is what I used:
    • Greens - Mashable used arugula but I used a baby swiss chard, spinach and baby kale mix
    • Sliced green onions
    • Shallots
    • Ketchup
    • Wasabi Mayo
    • Sriracha
    • Tomato
    • Avocado
    • Soy sauce
1. Cook the Top Ramen according to directions and drain the noodles. Rinse noodles in cool water and let it cool. I did NOT use the seasoning packet but in hindsight, I recommend either using the seasoning packet or seasoning the ramen with some salt and pepper when you form the buns. Otherwise, the ramen is slightly bland.

Don't overcook it. It's nice when it's al dente.
2. Beat the egg and mix throughly into the ramen. If you didn't season the noodles yet, now would be the time to do it.

I beat two eggs for two servings here.
The egg is a binder so the bun stays together.
3. Make the ramen buns. Find bowls with flat bottoms that are bun-sized. Oil the bottom of the bowls and add half of the noodle mixture to each of the bowls. Press the mixture gently into the bottoms of the bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

You can spray the bottom half of a bowl with cooking spray.
4. Ensure the noodles are pressed evenly and add a weight to the top of ramen like a heavy mug, ramekin or can. Refrigerate for half an hour. 
Don't let the noodles spill up from the weight too much - even it out.
5. After half an hour, heat about 1 tablespoon of oil in a nonstick pan over medium high heat. Remove the weight and plastic wrap and invert the bowl over the skillet to remove the ramen. Using a spatula, move any stray noodles back into place so it retains its circular shape.

The noodles don't absorb much oil - it's not too greasy.
6. Pan fry for 4-5 minutes until golden brown on one side. Flip and cook for 3-4 minutes longer until seared on the other side. Remove and place on a paper towel to absorb excess oil. If you're making a lot of buns, you can keep them warm in an oven at a low temperature while you finish cooking the rest.
Watch the temperature and turn it down if the noodles have burnt spots.
7. As a ramen bun is cooking, heat oil in another pan. Cook the shallots until translucent and add in the green onion. Saute until onions are softened and shallots are slightly browned. Set aside. 

8. Cook the hamburger patty. I added some soy sauce to season ours but season to your liking.

9. Assemble the burger. I put sriracha and ketchup to one of the buns and wasabi mayo to the other. I topped my burger with the green onion and shallots along with some sliced avocado, tomato and greens. However, the veggie burger has a thinner patty so you can add more toppings whereas Nick had to remove the tomato from his in order to bite in. The ramen bun is a bit dry so I do recommend condiments and textural contrast like avocado or sauteed mushrooms. I think a fried egg would have been awesome.
My veggie burger & toppings
10. Enjoy! Have some Tums or Pepcid handy.

The ramen burger is a crunchy, gluttonous and savory not-meant-in-nature combination that makes you a little ashamed to enjoy in public. Something about it feels slightly wrong and deliciously right. However, it was a complete gut bomb. I've been known to down an entire plate of Matador nachos by myself and I've indulged in Red Mill onion rings, double-fried kennebec frites and tatchos. However, the last few bites of burger were a bit difficult and I pretty much passed out a couple of hours later on the couch while trying to watch some more college football. I woke up with a food hangover the next day. I haven't eaten ramen or that much processed modified starch in years and it hit me like a crunchy truck. 

Beware the ramen burger. Eat with caution. Rub your belly and chuckle like Jabba.


Monday, September 16, 2013

If You Left Home, What Food Would You Miss?

Salmon with basil sauce, beets, blueberries and a baguette from Boat Street.
If fortunes took you away from your hometown, perhaps away from your geographical region (the US West Coast for me) or even away from your home country, what kinds of foods would you miss? What restaurants would you like to visit when you ventured back during a holiday?
A few of my friends' lives and careers have taken them abroad and the types of foods or specific restaurants that they crave have become very apparent. The overwhelming culinary request is for Mexican food when friends go abroad and come home to the US. For the majority of the US, Mexican food is fairly common and may have distinct regional variations. Texans will miss Tex Mex, SoCal natives will miss street tacos while Bay Area fans might miss sloppy mission-style burritos and so on. My friends will ask for Mexican food, even if it's a pile of chips and salsa or a mess of carne asada. Regardless, Mexican food has yet to make a giant culinary impact around the world in the way Italian food or pizza has. My friends in Europe crave it as their mouths water at the smells of tacos al pastor and my pals from Asia will lap up guacamole like it's water.
My friend Skye is happy with her Serious Pie.
Here are the top requests from friends who move abroad and miss the culinary delights Seattle has to offer:
Halibut tacos from La Carta de Oaxaca
  1. Salmon. Let's face it, Atlantic salmon is just not the same. I don't care if Europeans love their Norwegian smoked salmon but proper Pacific Northwest salmon tastes different. Also, the easy access to Alaskan halibut, Dungeness crab, Puget Sound oysters and such help make the Pacific Northwest a seafood mecca. But feels like home more than a perfectly cooked and simple filet of salmon.
  2. Mexican food. Unless my friends relocate to Latin America or elsewhere in the states, the resounding requests are always for good Mexican food. My pals are eager to hit up La Carta de Oaxaca or El Camion or even the Matador happy hour. My friends in Taiwan tell me that there are two Mexican joins in Taipei run by America expats and some friends in London say that efforts have been made to try to bring Mexican food to the UK. Nonetheless, there probably isn't going to be lengua, mole, posole or Tapatio outside of the western hemisphere.
  3. Burgers. The kinds with American toppings, oozy cheese and tater tots or French fries on the side. I know what you're thinking... they have burgers everywhere! There are burgers in Europe, burgers in Asia and sometimes they come with excellent toppings like fried eggs or weird sauces and alternative buns. But Americans are attached to their burgers - whether it's a simple Dick's Deluxe or the Red Mill Val Verde burger dripping with jack cheese and spicy with roasted poblano if you are from Seattle.
  4. American-style barbecue. Barbecue purists might be in shock, but any regional variation will do once you've been abroad. Don't get me wrong - ethnic barbecue may be one of the best things you can possibly experience while traveling such as Vietnamese barbecue, Korean barbecue, anything roasted on a spit in South America, etc. My friends still want a Texas-style brisket or rack of ribs with KC sauce when they are home.
  5. Asian food unless you're in Asia or on the West Coast. Sweet and sour chicken and soggy noodles drenched in soy sauce is available just about anywhere. But access to a variety of Asian standards from very fresh and authentic sushi to Korean soondooboo spicy soup, northern pho is severely lacking when you're in the Midwestern US, smalltown Canada or most areas of Europe. My friends who have relocated to Asia pretty much avoid this cuisine like the plague when they visit since they can get cheaper fare overseas but friends who have spent too much time in the bowels of Europe make a beeline for pho when at home.
  6. Northwest mash ups. Northwest-y food has its own flair that is hard to pinpoint. A lot of it is fusion cuisine or features use of local or unusual ingredients. Friends who hit up an Ethan Stowell or Tom Douglas joint know that there is a little added something that kicks those restaurants up a notch from being strictly authentic to Italian, Greek or Japanese food, depending on the spot. Revel and Joule impart Korean and Asian flavors and Northwest ingredients to refined dishes and Duke's features distinct chowders and seafood that differs from seafood anywhere else. It's comforting to Seattle natives.  
What would you miss if you left home?

Serious Pie is serious business

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

First Rule of Cook Club... Enjoy Dumplings!

The first rule of cook club is to brag to everyone about the awesome things you're cooking. The second rule is to have a fun time cooking and eating what you've cooked with your friends.

My pal Michele had emailed out a list of cooking classes a local restaurant was offering and asked if we wanted to join in. I realized that Nick and I already knew how to cook many of the things that the classes were offering: pasta, ramen, dumplings, etc. Why not invite friends over to cook something together rather than spending $75-$100 on a cooking class? Each friend contributes some ingredients, a snack, some beverages and you've got yourselves a cooking party. Best idea ever.

We decided to make dumplings which ended up being a delicious idea. We made three different kinds of dumplings: an Indian-inspired chickpea ricotta dumpling, a Vietnamese-inspired shrimp dumpling and my own creation of Mexican-ish dumpling. We started making the dough and prepping the filling as we noshed on crackers, cheese, dip, drank wine and gossiped. Upon hearing the loud and obnoxious girl talk, Nick buried himself in some HBO Hard Knocks, far away from us ladies.

However, the recipes for the dough were rather watery so it ended up taking a long time to mix enough flour, knead it, let the dough rest and knead it to the proper consistency so the glutens set up properly. Nick usually makes the dough while I tend to the filling and the cooking of the dumplings. A watery dough is actually good because once you make pasta or dumpling dough, you can add flour to dry out the dough but you can't add more water. A dough that is too dry must be scrapped and you need to start all over again. At this point, I had to appeal to Nick for assistance to help make the dough and roll it out because it was too wet.

Due to the dough fiasco, our chitchat and our own inability to stay on task, it wasn't until 9pm before we actually were cooking, wrapping and eating the dumplings and they were fantastic! We boiled the shrimp dumplings which were chewy and delicious like dim sum and we pan seared the rest of the dumplings. The Mexican dumplings were surprisingly amazing and Nick noted that they tasted like fancier and Mexican versions of those Totino's Pizza rolls. We dipped them in salsa but we're going to make them another time and serve them with queso. Nothing beats making your own fusion cuisine that turns out well.

I can't wait for the next cook club!

We enjoyed leftover dumplings at the summit of Mt. St. Helens!
The recipes for dumplings and wrappers are listed on our Revel dumpling class blog. Here are some recipe notes:


I followed the recipes for the ricotta chickpea and shrimp fillings. Taste the chickpea mixture and season it well with salt and pepper. Our first batch was a tad bland until we seasoned it more. For the Mexican dumpling, I mixed refried black beans, soyrizo (or spicy chorizo or ground pork works), green onions, cilantro and minced radish for crunch. I've also made stuffing and turkey dumplings dipped in gravy for Thanksgiving. Feel free to improvise.


When you make the dough, mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Make a little well in the middle of the flour mixture and pour in the water. Mix it with a spoon and add a little more flour until it's combined and smooth. Flour a wooden board and dump out the dough. Knead the dough until smooth, adding more flour if the mixture is too soft or watery. When you knead the ball of dough, turn it 90 degrees each time so you're folding it over in different areas.

Once you're done kneading, wrap a cloth or plastic wrap around the ball of dough and let it set for 20 minutes to half an hour for the gluten bonds to be right. When you finish kneading, if you poke at the dough, you should leave a little hole/deep finger print that stays in the dough. After 30 minutes when it's set, when you poke the dough, it should spring back halfway.

Resting dough
Roll it out in a pasta roller or pasta rolling attachment to a stand mixer on the widest setting. Each time you roll it out, fold the dough into thirds like an envelope fold.

1. Lay out rolled dough
2. Fold a third over in the middle
3. Fold the other third over
Each time you feed it into the roller, rotate the dough's orientation 90 degrees. This means sometimes you will feed the dough fold-first into the roller and the next time you fill feed the dough packet with the folds facing left and right, like in the photo above.

You will lacquer the dough by continuing to fold it up, roll it out and fold it again. Once it's completely smooth, you can simply decrease the thickness and roll it out until you have a long stretch of dough to cut. You can cut the dough into dumpling wrapper squares or circles if you have a cookie or biscuit cutter.

Rolled dough, ready to just be rolled out thinner

You can prepare the dumplings a few different ways. You can boil the dumplings and scoop them out once they float, ravioli-style. You can pan sear them, which is one of my favorite ways of serving them. You can also deep fry them to a golden brown which works best if you have a deep fryer.

Make sure you have enough flour and don't stack the dumplings or they will stick together. It's best to cook them right away after wrapping them.

Wrapping shrimp dumplings into round packets for boiling
Pan-seared dumplings potsticker-style
  • Mix soy sauce or tamari with a dash of sesame oil and sriracha for a dip for the shrimp dumpling.
  • Serve the ricotta chickpea dumpling with an Indian fruit chutney.
  • Dip the Mexican dumplings in salsa... or if you're in love with Velveeta and cheese sauce, queso.