Valentine’s Day is near– it’s a faux holiday that makes us single folks feel bad. It’s not my favorite day of the year BUT lots of places make these incredible Valentine Day’s desserts and I always like to treat myself to a couple things. I am my own sugar momma.
However, dinner is a completely different story. Last year, Leili and I did Galentine’s Day and it was a complete disaster trying to book a reservation. We had dinner at 5:30 because we waited until last minute to look. This year will be different.
I love staying in and making dinner – it’s even more enjoyable if you make dinner together with a friend or a date. I’m not sure what my plans are yet for this February 14th, but I do have an awesome date recipe for you to impress someone with. It begins with melt-in-your-mouth pork belly and soupy noodles.
Ramen is definitely one of my favorite dishes – it’s tasty, satisfying, and comforting. The version I make here is not one that involves hours of broth making. It’s quite simple and the soup is incredibly easy to make. It uses instant dashi granules, which taste like smoky fish and it is a common ingredient used in Japanese cooking to add flavor. It’s similar to bouillon powder.
I’m also going to mention a few other ingredients that might be new to some. I used a white miso paste for this soup because it is milder – I recommend using a light hand when adding this because the flavor is quite strong. Arame is a type of sea kelp that is also very popular in Japanese cuisines. Enoki mushrooms are needlelike and white, commonly used for soups. Use noodles you like – vermicelli, udon, or soba are great with this soup. All the ingredients are flexible, of course, but I want the main focus to be the pork belly and soup.
Get braising and start impressing!
Miso Braised Pork Belly Noodles
Half a pound of pork belly
2 stalks of scallion, cut into 2” pieces
4-5 shiitake, sliced
1 cup of enoki mushrooms, 2” pieces
Large handful of arame
1 teaspoon instant dashi
2.5 tablespoons white miso paste (Begin with less to adjust flavor accordingly)
1 stalk of bok choy
5 cups cold water
2 servings noodles of your choice (I used laksa noodles)
1 egg (optional)
This is optional, but I marinated my pork belly in a mixture of 1 tablespoon soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sugar. This just adds some extra flavor and helps the pork to caramelize nicely when braising.
Cut the pork belly into two even pieces. Heat up a medium saucepan on high and when hot, sear the pork belly. Once a side is brown, turn over until all sides are brown and caramelized. Add the scallions and once they start to brown and soften, add water. Here’s a tip: if you clean the shiitake thoroughly, add the stems to enhance the broth’s flavor profile.
Once the broth comes to a boil, add the dashi and miso. Stir until everything is incorporated. Turn heat down to low. Check for taste – once it’s to your satisfaction, cover and let cook for at least one hour.
When the soup is close to finish, start preparing your other ingredients. Soak the arame in cold water for 5 minutes and then drain. Set aside.
Once the belly is done braising, immediately remove and set in fridge to let cool. By cooling it, it will be easier to cut the meat. Let cool for at least 15 minutes. Now, back to finishing the soup.
If you used the mushroom stems, take them out now. Taste for flavor again and adjust if necessary. Follow instructions for the noodles you are using. Drain and portion noodles into two large bowls.
At this point, once the pork belly feels cool to the touch, slice into 1” pieces. Fry them in a pan over medium heat to crisp them up.
Bring the soup back to medium high heat – toss remaining vegetables for cooking. Once the vegetables are done cooking, ladle the steamy soup into the noodle bowls. Add arame and crispy pork belly on top. Top off with fresh scallions and radish for a splash of color.
This last step is totally optional but definitely worth it – add a soft-boiled egg onto the yummy goodness and sprinkle some sesame seeds on top.
Ready to enter noodle heaven?