What do you feel when you wake up in the morning … still sleepy, energised or raring to go? Perhaps you reach for the snooze button; flick on the radio or get up, open the curtains and windows to let the cleansing light of new day flood in.
Maybe you might start planning a day framed by food, by mentally selecting ingredients and preparing meals. Breakfast, mid-day coffee and a slice of cake, lunch, tea and ultimately dinner which may start at around 5pm or stretch out to around midnight; such meals punctuate our days and lives.
This past Wednesday I woke-up early, rubbed my eyes and began to think of Ramen; this was unusual. I’ve eaten this Japanese staple before, but never made it. It’s a simple and nutritious meal. I’d ordered bowls of it in Osaka, Milan and London, but never eaten a bowl of it in my own home – these memories offered very different ingredients, flavours and memories I wanted to recreate at a time when many of us eat alone, stuck at home by rolling Covid lockdowns.
I would say I swing between being very impulsive and super organised, my life bouncing between the two extremes. But once a thought enters my mind, I feel the need to do something about it, to dismiss or create.
Mirin on my mind
So, after a quick scan through some of my cookbooks and online recipes I scribbled down a shopping list. Most ingredients were already taking up space on my shelves or in the fridge – light soy sauce, eggs, spring onions, garlic, ginger, baby spinach leaves, sweetcorn kernels (tinned), slices of cooked pork … but not Mirin or ramen noodles. However, where I live in southern England I am lucky enough to have three shops close-by selling fresh and packaged foods and ingredients from cuisines from across Asia from Pakistan to Japan, from Cairo to Cape Town and Mexico to Patagonia so off I went, returning with the haul in the image below.
Mirin is similar to Japan’s rice wine sake, but with more sugar and lower alcohol content (14%). Found in most Japanese homes and other kitchens where such flavours are appreciated, Mirin pairs with soy sauce to make a delicious marinade and is a base for the popular terijaki sauce. Combining the two in a jar or plastic bag, it’s here you’ll marinade boiled eggs (plunged into boiling water for six minutes and then dunked into bowl of ice and water, peeled) for at least 12 hours.
The recipe I used can be found here. I made extra and had Ramen enough for two meals, with the second helping boosted with Chinese Five Spice and extra chilli flakes.
But how did my Ramen Day make me feel? Excited to try something new; glad to have a reason to get of the house and shopping for new ingredients; happy to load up my bag with with bits and pieces that I didn’t really need but tempted by garish packaging, especially for so many varieties of noodles.
How does it make you feel?
I felt intrigued to make the Mirin and Soy marinade, happy that as it can be kept in the fridge for a couple of weeks, topped up and reused. These eggs are my new favourite thing; soft, sweet, unami and with a hint sweetness all softly enveloped in velvety egg white. The mix can be put to use marinading other dishes such as salmon, as a dipping sauce or an addition to stir fries.
It was a good day to feel an excitement for new ingredients and cooking, and for tasting something fresh and delicious as the evening light drew n.