Isamu “Sam” Morikizono of Tajima shares easy ways to enhance a packet of ramen, according to a ramen chef
Cooler weather has finally arrived which means it’s time for some comfort food. A bowl of ramen is the ultimate on a chilly day. We bet you’ve got some packets of ramen noodles lurking in the pantry right now. We’ve got some fresh, easy suggestions from Executive Chef Isamu “Sam” Morikizono, owner of Tajima Ramen, to upgrade your ramen beyond college food into a slurp-worthy meal. Morikizono has successfully expanded Tajima over the past 20 years from its original Convoy restaurant to an award-winning ramen empire with seven locations.
Whether you love made-from-scratch cooking, or hope to catch a quick, warming bite, it always helps to know what a pro like Chef Sam uses in his kitchen. Here, he shares products and techniques that help create umami perfection.
Morikizono recommends using cauliflower. “It’s a great winter vegetable, and getting it fresh from a local farmers' market is the best way to incorporate into a bowl of ramen.”
Blanch the cauliflower in a separate pot so that it's still crunchy. Cooking it the in the ramen stock will dominate the taste of the whole dish. As a home gardener, I’ve always got green onions and baby bok choy growing during the winter. Chopped up, they add a fresh, green zing to a bowl of ramen.
Time-saving tip: Throw in a handful of frozen peas.
Aromatics Boost Flavor and Texture
Morikizono recommends a ratio of 1:1 ginger and garlic for ramen. He shares this easy tip, “Garlic chips are a great flavor addition to add to any ramen. We use garlic chips in both our Tajima and Spicy Sesame Ramens, and the crunchy texture and flavor are an excellent addition to the other ingredients.” To make garlic chips, Tajima’s kitchens thinly slice garlic, then roast in the oven until crispy.
Time-saving tip: Air fry the garlic for about 3 minutes.
Fill Up with Protein
Tajima braises its pork chashu or whole pork belly for over 12 hours in the oven. “Slow cooking makes it melt-in-your-mouth juicy,” states Morikizono, who adds that home cooks can also achieve success by cooking pork butt in the slow cooker.
Another ramen classic, Ajitama eggs, add delicious protein. For perfect creamy results, Chef Sam recommends, “Place whole eggs, with the shell, in boiling water for 7–8 minutes. Then remove and drop into ice water to cool. Afterward, peel and marinade.” You can create a simple marinade using a mixture of mirin and soy sauce or chashu braising liquid. When cutting the eggs in half, use a wet knife to minimize yolks sticking to the knife.
Time-saving tip: For instant gratification, whisk a raw egg in a bowl, stir the ramen in a circular motion and slowly drizzle egg into your pot, swirl and mix with broth until cooked (about 30 seconds).
Use Up Leftovers
“I like adding rice and cheese to my leftover ramen soup, which makes a delicious and flavorful risotto-style dish. You can also add any leftover vegetables or meats into the risotto dish to incorporate protein and added flavor with the veggies,” says Morikizono.
The Best Pre-packaged Noodle
Morikizono recommends Sapporo Shio Ramen Japanese Style Noodles. “The noodles come with a flavor packet that brings out the natural sweetness and flavor of veggies, and also with a seasoning packet of sesame seeds to add to the dish. The noodles can be found at many local grocers.
Make It Gluten-free
Our family often eats gluten-free. We like the rice ramen noodles from Lotus Foods’ for their texture. They cook without becoming gummy. King Soba brand makes many gluten-free varieties which are fun to explore. We like their black rice noodles.
Spice It Up
When asked about his favorite hot sauce, Morikizono replies, “My favorite addition to ramen would be S&B Shichimi Togarashi Chili Pepper. It’s a powder, rather than a sauce, but it is fresh and fairly spicy without being too hot.”