Friday, March 24, 2017

Toasted dark-rye ramen in duck confit sezchuan broth

A good friend told me the other day that she would never want me as her physician. The comment left me in a moment of paralysis. When you have been running like a tireless horse for a singular goal for most of your adult life – to be a doctor-, comments like these can make you feel like both your motivation and competency were called into trial.

duck confit ramen

I asked her why, and her response was “you are too curious about food”. I was so shocked to be hearing this, especially from a fellow med school classmate. I was shocked not from the negative comment itself but from the fact that even soon-to-be healthcare providers feel that doctors cannot have outside interests, beside medicine. Patients expect the stereotype of doctors giving bottomless compassion and sacrifice of their identity, and many physicians pleasantly internalize that stereotype. It is not common that anything that a doctor does outside of the medicine-realm may be considered, by both peers and patients alike, as a deterrent to providing quality care.

sezchuan duck confit

Suddenly, stories I tried to understand a while back but couldn’t, start to make sense. Stories include a resident with a passion for dancing, who actively tried to his dancer persona from his patients, or an attending physician with a passion for photography doing the same. The common motivation was that they don’t want their patients to associate their professional image with preconceived image of a dancer or a photographer. I didn’t buy their logic back then. My jerked reflex thought was, “why would anyone penalize a doctor for having hobbies?”
toasted rye ramen dough

toasted rye ramen

The more intensely I searched for answer for this question, the more questions I was left with. Can I be a competent and compassionate doctor, in concert with my love for culture and food? Will my future patients look at me as a reliable doctor if they find out my blog? Or, am I finally reaching the age where my child-like curiosity should be muffled to death? These are hard questions to answer. I don’t have answers right now, and I doubt that I will have answers in the near future. But, what I do know is that in the future, for whatever reasons, even if I ever chose to let go of Lime and Cilantro, I will always reflect back on the good times I spent on this cyberspace.

toasted rye ramen

quick soy-cured egg

Yesterday, as I lied on my bed, I couldn’t help but to murmur a phrase from my favorite childhood book The Little Prince, “It is the time you have wasted for your rose that makes your rose so important”.  

toasted dark rye ramen with duck confit sezchuan broth

toasted dark rye ramen with duck confit sezchuan broth

toasted dark rye ramen with duck confit sezchuan broth

toasted dark rye ramen with duck confit sezchuan broth

Notes on the recipe

Contrary to what many people think, making ramen noodle from scratch is not technically challenging, but it is certainly crafty. By that I mean, you are not required to do impressive techniques, but you do need to develop a feel for if the dough is behaving right. Take my recipe for a reference point. There will be times, your gut will tell you that you need more water than suggested, follow that. If you fail the first time, don’t worry. I personally tried several times, of course in small batches, until I feel confident in my judgment.

Also, don’t feel afraid to make homemade ramen noodles for a dinner with friends. In fact, it can be quite fun to make those chewy strands while conversing with your friends.  If you choose to actually do a ramen dinner party, here are my tips:

1) Make the dough ahead up to the point of “dough resting” step. In that way, if you somehow f-ed up in the initial steps, you can easily rectify before your friends knock on your door.

2) Obviously, make the broth ahead of time. The broth I use in this particular post doesn’t take long to make, but I feel that doing ahead somehow frees me from this ever-looming-cloud of anxiety.

3) Cook the protein ahead of time. I am using duck confit in this recipe so I like to plan at least 2 days ahead – one overnight day to cure, and one day to cook for cooking. Poached dark meat chicken or fatty unctuous pork belly roasted slowly in oven also make good company to ramen.

Sezchuan pepper-scented duck confit

Soe Thein
Published 03/24/2017
Classic duck confit technique with a twist


6 duck legs
½ cup of coarse kosher salt (if you are using fine table salt, ¼ cup should be enough)
1/4 cup of Sezchuan pepper corns
2 heads of garlic (peeled)
Duck fat or regular olive oil (enough to cover the duck pieces)


Rinse your duck legs with cold water and pat them dry thoroughly.

Grind sezchuan pepper corns either with a spice grinder or a mortar and pestle. Using a fork, mix together the crushed peppery bits with salt flakes.

Apply the salt mixture thoroughly on duck legs. You may notice that compared to many confit recipes, this one does not require as much salt, because I really don’t like how many recipes turn gorgeous duck pieces into hypertension-inducing ones.

The next day (after at least 12 hours of curing), wash down the salt and pepper corn flakes from the duck legs as thoroughly as possible with water. Pat them dry with paper towel.  The scent of those licorice-y peppercorns should not overpower, but linger on the flesh at that point.

In a Dutch oven, layer your duck legs, and strew your garlic cloves on top. Pour over either duck fat or olive oil enough so that all the duck pieces are submerged. Although I say that either choice of duck fat or olive oil is fine, I secretly adore that musky gamey aroma of the feathery animal triglycerides.

Preheat the oven to 300°F and cook the duck pieces for about 2.5 hours until the meat falls apart from the bone. When it is done cooking, let the pot come to room temperature, and store in the fridge. It should last up to a month.

When you are serving the duck confit, the easiest way is to place the cold duck leg, along with the hardened fat globules stuck at crevices, in a cast iron pan, skin side up. Roast for 15-20 min or so in a 350degree preheated oven, until the skin is golden brown and crispy.

Yield: 6-8 servings
Prep Time: 0 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 14 hrs. 00 mins.
Total time: 14 hrs. 10 mins.
Tags: duck, confit, sezchuan

Toasted dark rye ramen

Soe Thein
Published 03/24/2017
This amazing ramen recipe is adapted from Ivan Ramen.


35g of dark-rye flour (about ¼ cup) (I use Bob's Red Mill Organic Dark Rye Flour, 22 Ounce (Pack of 4)
310g bread-flour (about 2 cups)
150g of cake flour (about 1 cup)
5g of kansui powder (recipe here)
1 cup of cool water
6.5 g of salt (1/2 tbsp)
Corn starch (to prevent noodles from sticking together)


Toast the dark rye flour on medium high heat until you start to smell nutty toastiness. I really suggest you put your nose close to the skillet to try and smell it. As soon as you start smelling that addictive aroma, weight out 30g and put the weighed amount in your kitchen stand-mix bowl. The rest 5g is there only to compensate any loss that might have occurred during the toasting process.

Place the rest of the flour in the same stand mixer bowl. I know it sounds excessive to use three different types of flour but Ivan Orkin knows his magic, and it really works.

Dissolve kansui powder and salt in cool water by stirring. Then, turn on stand mixer with a dough hook to a low setting, and the pour in the salty alkaline water slowly into the rotating dough mixture. The dough should starts to absorb all the water in a few minutes. Then, turn up the speed to medium-low, and knead for another 15 minutes. The dough will still be quite crumbly at this point. Don’t be alarmed.

During the next step, you should have wet paper tower by your side. Divide the crumbly dough into 6 portions.  Wet both of your hands liberally, and try to bring each crumbly pile into a coherent ball by pressing with the palm of your hand. If you are used to making Italian pasta, you will probably feel like you are failing badly.  The dough ball will have cracks and crevices on surface and will feel very shaggy. This is how a ramen dough should feel like. So breathe, don’t worry. Cover the dough ball with wet paper towel as you work through your portions.

As you finish forming each pile into a dough ball, wrap each in a ceramic wrap and let it rest for at least an hour at room temperature. By this time, your dough should be quite pliable.

Roll out the dough into an oval shape until the dough is about ¼ inch thick. Use the widest setting on your pasta roller and roll out the pasta. Then, use the setting 7 (two notches before the thinnest setting), roll out the thinner pasta dough sheet. Shred the dough with the thin pasta shredder. Sprinkle corn starch on top to stop the noodle strands from sticking to each other.

Either cook immediately in a boiling water for 2 minutes or cover in a wet paper towel, and store in an air-tight container. It should last for 2-3 days.

Yield: Makes about 1.5 lbs.
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 10 mins.
Cook time: 0 hrs. 35 mins.
Total time: 45 mins.
Tags: noodle, ramen, rye, homemade

Quick sezchuan ramen broth

Soe Thein
Published 03/24/2017
This sezchuan ramen broth is quick to make but packed with all bold flavors


1.5 liters of chicken broth
10 red dried chili
1 tbsp. of whole sezchuan pepper corn
2 tbsps. of duck fat (rendered from duck confit)
1 tbsp. of tomato paste
1.5 tbsps. of ramen
5 star anise
2 tbsps. of Korean red chili powder
2 cloves of garlic (sliced)
Soy sauce (to adjust the taste)


Heat the duck fat, rendered from your duck confit, in pot (medium high heat). Then, plunge in sliced garlic, star anise, dried chili, sezchuan pepper corns and tomato paste. Cook all the aromatics together until the pot is extremely fragrant – about 5 minutes.

Pour in chicken broth, and bring the broth to a boil. Then, put in gorgeous ruby red chili powder, and simmer for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat, and stir in miso. Taste the broth (it will probably need quite a bit of salt at this point), and adjust the saltiness accordingly with soy sauce.

Yield: 3-4 bowls
Prep Time: 00 hrs. 5 mins.
Cook time: 0 hrs. 20 mins.
Total time: 25 mins.
Tags: ramen, broth, soup, sezchuan, spicy, chinese

Soy-cured egg yolk

Soe Thein
Published 03/24/2017
This umami bomb egg yolks will blow your mind.


2 yolks
1/2 cup of soy sauce


Separate the egg yolks from the egg, and place it a bowl.

Pour over soy sauce. Cover in a plastic wrap and let the yolks cure in the fridge for 4 hours, until the gorgeous yellow sunset balls turn into deep dark salty fudginess.

Yield: 2 yolks
Prep Time: 0 hrs. 00 mins.
Cook time: 4 hrs. 00 mins.
Total time: 4 hrs. 0 mins.
Tags: egg, cure,soy

Assembling the bowl

Floor the bowl with 1 tablespoon of duck fat.

Then, place your cooked noodle (about 100g)

Ladle the broth.

Top with shredded duck confit, and soy-cured egg yolk. 

** I thank Tasty Duck for beautiful duck legs, and Bob’s Red Mill for Dark Rye**



  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Wow, great post. I am currently reading When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanathi, a neurosurgeon who died of cancer before reaching 40. He was a polymath in the clearest sense and as i go through the book I can only think of how lucky his patients were to have had someone like him caring for them. His interests outside of medicine clearly made him a better doctor, more able to connect with people, and a deeper, more reflective person. And importantly for people in constantly punishing, high stress enviornments, his interests replenished him. So don't give up on food or cooking.

    Also, I think there might be an error in the recipe, you say to use bread flour two times in the ingredients. I'm assuming the 310 grams is regular all-purpose flour?


    1. Hi Rose...what a coincidence that you mentioned this book. I recently just bought it to read it. Now, you get me even more excited.

      And yes, I corrected the recipe now :D

  3. I can feel you struggling with your identity, and I'm sure you will find your way. I think it's healthy for people to have multiple interests. I think you can be a very dedicated and excellent professional and then do what ever you please in your free time. I think that doctors could easily burn out if they did nothing but work. When you give so much at work, your free time should be restorative. Anyway, as I think you know, I am psychologist by day and a food blogger by night. I very much enjoy both worlds. If you ever want to talk more offline, let me know.

    1. Aww thank you for sharing Dana. Yes, next time when we meet, I would love to ask your professional advice :D

  4. Maybe I am bias because I love food so much myself, but if I have a doctor who is so passionate about food and photography, I think I will marry him! (if I'm not married already!) LOL. On a more relevant note, what I'm trying to say is I don't see anything wrong with a physician having other interest besides medicine. Why can't doctor have hobbies ? He/she needs life outside medicine too I think and shouldn't be judge as incompetent because he/she has a food blog. In fact, I know a successful doctor who is also running a very successful food blog too :)
    I have faith in you my friend and it's okay to question yourself from time to time. We all do that. Don't you dare letting go of Lime and Cilantro! (It's not a threat, it's an order!)

    I do agree with you on making ramen, it wasn't as challenging as I thought once you get the hang of the flour and water ratio and definitely help when you have a machine to help you roll and press (I would never do it by hand anymore!)

    1. Thank you for your encouragements so much Marv. I have been talking about with Ingrid how we both miss you. I see that you have been very productive on your blog recently. Loving all your new posts.

  5. I find so much inspiration from this post, especially the pictures! I think anyone no matter their profession should have outside interests. That's what makes them interesting and gets me excited about hearing their stories! So keep doing what you're doing - both medicine and food. I would be pretty sad if you stopped taking these gorgeous food pictures. =P

    1. Thank you so much Rebecca. I agree with you - one should not be defined solely through one profession. Life is short and we all should have liberty to explore as many experiences as we can.

  6. I think that was a horrible thing for your classmate to say! I don't know if this changes the higher up you get in medicine, but my impression from interviewing at med schools (I'll be an M1 in August) is that having cool side hobbies definitely makes you more interesting and desirable. And I think that with all the stress and exhaustion that comes from being in med school/residency/etc., having things that you really enjoy and can turn to outside of medicine can be a big part of what helps keep you sane and prevents you from burning out.

    I can see that cooking is something you're really passionate about, and I hope that you never lose the joy that you get from it, even if you have to retire or be less active on this blog due to residency demands. I started following you on Instagram cause I like Asian food (I'm Chinese) and on the medicine track, though I'm not much of a cook...maybe I'll try out some of your recipes sometime though! :)

    1. Congrats on getting into medical school Rebecca. I do think there is a stigma against people who do other things outside of medicine for various reasons, from both patients and co-workers. They don’t take you as seriously. But I have learned to not talk about it so much.

  7. I'm an internal med resident, and it's not uncommon for docs to have passionate, detailed interests outside medicine. We bring that same level of interest and commitment to medicine. For some of us, it's just our way of interacting with disciplines that are important to us. So, anyway. Your med school friend is being a bit shortsighted here. There are attendings who are writers, who are cooks, who build boats, who engage in activism, who edit journals or conduct reasearch, who really love RPGs, who are chess masters. Why not food? Cooking is so huge to so many people. And I've had so many diabetic patients from cultures whose foodways are such that our standard diabetes dietary advice just doesn't resonate. Food is huge in health. So, you keep doing you. It's amazing.

    1. Thank you so much for taking time for encouragement. I really need to hear that. <3 I hope you are doing well in your residency.

  8. I would love to have you as my physician. You provide healing for both the body and the soul, feeding the soul is as important as feeding the body.

    1. Aww thank you so much for your encouragement.

  9. As a family medicine attending, I will tell you that having things you are passionate about outside of medicine is something you want to keep as you advance through your training. Med school and residency can be extremely grueling so you want to have interests to pursue in your very scarce free time to remind you that you are a person foremost and not JUST a doctor. Your own mental well-being is important to maintain so that you can provide the best care for your patients. I agree with the previous commenter that your friend is short-sighted. Physicians whose whole lives revolve around medicine are the first to burn out. Also, food tends to be a good common denominator and will go a long way with helping to develop rapport with your patients. Good luck with your training!

  10. I very much like your publications are always perfect.

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