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Perfect Pairings: Ramen & Romesco

ramen and romesco

The Best Paired R’s in Dining are Ramen & Romesco!

Tucked away in an incongruous mini strip-mall in the gorgeous Pacific Northwest town of Bend, Oregon is 123 Ramen — a noodle shop with some of the lightest, most satisfying soup you’ve ever supped.

With only 16 seats and a small, locally sourced menu that changes daily based on what’s seasonally available, the shop employs a “nose-to-tail” method of menu planning — finding varied ways to prepare different cuts of meat including bones which are simmered with veggies and herbs for a daily broth — resulting in food as clean as the broth is clear.

“We are hardcore, local and handmade to the maximum degree,” explains chef/owner, Anna Witham sitting across from me on her day off, well, not actually her day off — on a day when the restaurant is closed which means it’s her day to catch up. “When I first opened, I didn’t know what people were expecting,” she continues. “Ramen can be so many things to so many different people.”

Similar to ramen’s bottomless variations, is the versatility of Anna’s recent ramen accompaniment obsession: Romesco, which, coincidentally, I have also recently become infatuated with, making large batches of the stuff and slathering it, quite literally, on everything I cook.

Romesco, if you are unfamiliar, is one of Spain’s (specifically Catalonia’s) classic sauces and while there is no standard recipe, roughly involves garlic, olive oil, almonds or hazelnuts, bread and chiles all pounded together in a mortar and slathered on, stirred into, or used as a dip for, well, everything.
When asked what she likes to pair with this Spanish meets Japanese bowl of heaven, Anna says:

“I have a hard time drinking anything with ramen because it’s a bowl of broth. But a good, crisp cider counterbalances the smoky/rich elements of the ramen and gives off some good floral notes before drying crisply on your mouth.”

Hot. Crisp. Smoky and clean. If that isn’t the definition of the perfect summer meal, I don’t know what is…

Ramen with Romesco

One serving of soup + one quart of Romesco

How to Make Ramen

What You Need:

5 oz. fresh ramen noodles (we use Umi Organic from Portland, OR)

12 oz. broth bone or veggie broth (homemade is always best…)

1/4 cup cooked meat of your choice (preferably slow-cooked pork or chicken)

1/3 cup grilled veggies of your choosing

1 soft-boiled egg (preferably soaked in soy sauce for at least 15 minutes/up to 8 hours)

1 tbsp. coconut oil

1 heaping tbsp. Romesco sauce (see recipe below)

How to Prepare:

Bring a big pot of water to a boil while in a separate pot, heat broth to a strong simmer.

Toss ramen noodles into boiling water for two minutes. Scoop out and shake off as much water as possible.

Place noodles in a soup bowl and arrange meat, veggies, egg and Romesco sauce on top.

Drizzle with coconut oil.

Pour broth over the entire bowl.

Garnish with chives, pickled red onions, toasted sesame seeds, or whatever fun bits you have sitting in the cupboard!

How to Make Romesco

What you Need:

1 cup almonds

1 cup hazelnuts

1 oz. chili peppers — California, ancho, Basque or whatever your favorite. You can also use a combination.

1/2 tsp. each black pepper, cumin and coriander seeds

1 tbsp smoked paprika

1/4 cup fish sauce (I like Three Crabs brand)

1/3 cup olive oil

1 big pinch sea salt

1/4 cup tomato paste

3 tbsp sugar

How to Prepare:

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

Roast the almonds and hazelnuts on a sheet pan in the oven, checking after 15 minutes, then every 5 until golden and aromatic.

Roast the pepper on a sheet pan in the oven and check after 10 minutes — they should be darkened in some places and very aromatic.

Roast the black pepper, cumin and coriander seeds on a sheet pan in the oven 4-5 minutes until aromatic.

Allow nuts and spices to cool.

Rub the hazelnuts between your hands, or in a kitchen towel to remove some of the skins. Grind cooled spices with a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, or just rough them up between two sheets of waxed paper with a rolling pin.

Place toasted peppers in a bowl and cover with boiling water. The peppers will try and float, so weigh them down by placing a plate on top of them.Allow to sit for 10 minutes.

Remove stems from the peppers, and some of the seeds, then place softened peppers in a blender or food processor, along with 1/2 cup of the soaking liquid.Blend on medium speed until mostly smooth — about 20 seconds.

Add the almonds, hazelnuts, toasted ground spices plus, smoked paprika, fish sauce, olive oil, sea salt, tomato paste and sugar.

Purée on low speed for 10 seconds, then gradually increase speed until you reach a mostly-smooth paste.

Adjust seasonings to your liking, keeping in mind that the flavors with develop as it sits.

Cider to Accompany:

Tumelo Cider Co.

A new, local company out of Tumelo, OR., their cider reminds Anna of her days living in France where she drank lots of dry, funky, low-alcohol cider.

Vander Mill Dry is another good option. Or look for what’s local in your area — there’s a bit of a cider renaissance happening right now and someone close to you just might be brewing!

Did you make this for yourself? For friends?? For a hot (pun intended) date??? What did you do with the leftover Romesco? Hit us back and give up the deets!