This ramen takes me back to Vegas. The time Brandy and I went to see our beloved Backstreet Boys. I still want to go back and see them and relive the 90’s all over again.
Omg, speaking of that — I saw this video on Facebook the other day where they showed current teenagers who Backstreet Boys were and quizzed them on it. It was hilarious. But at the end, they told them that BSB has a comeback tour and it’s in Vegas and one kid was like, “I feel like the people seeing Backstreet Boys in Vegas right now are all women in their 30’s trying to relive their 90’s childhood.” Um, he could not have been more accurate on that. I DO MISS CHILDHOOD. I will never forgive myself for wanting to grow up so fast.
While in Vegas, we also ate a lot of food and if you read my Vegas post, you’ll have seen that my favorite place that made a lasting impression on me was Momofuku. The chilled pork ramen that I had was SOO freaking good that I had to recreate it at home because I could not stop thinking about it. It also got to the point where I made reservations for us to go to Momofuku in DC because I just wanted to have this chilled pork ramen bowl again. We never made it there though because the traffic was too much and wasn’t totally worth the hour and half drive. Seriously, traffic in this area makes anything and everything so difficult.
The chilled spicy pork ramen seems like a lot of steps on paper but it actually really isn’t because as you’re doing one thing (like the cashews), you can be boiling water and/or mixing together something. Don’t let the number of steps deter you from making this awesome dish. It was a whole lot spicier at the restaurant but since I was making it at home, I could tone down the spice level.
Honestly, my favorite part were the candied cashews and the fresh ramen I was able to find at my local grocery store. FRESH ramen! It was far better than the packaged kind that you had to reconstitute. You know what I’m talking about — the thing everyone lived on at least once (or twice or thrice) in their college life!
The flavors and texture of this dish completely play with your tongue. It’s like really spicy but then the cool temperature of the noodles oddly cool down your blazing tongue. I don’t know how to explain it. You just gotta make it!!
Chilled Spicy Pork Ramen
For the spicy chili oil
- 1 tablespoon sichuan peppercorns
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 tablespoons sesame oil
For the spinach mint pesto
- 2 cups baby spinach leaves
- Handful fresh mint leaves
- 1/2 cup olive oil
For the candied cashews
- 1/2 cup cashews
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons water
For the pork and ramen
- 1 pound ground pork
- 20 ounces fresh ramen (see notes)
- In a small bowl, mix together the ingredients for the spicy chili oil and set aside.
- In a small food processor, process the spinach mint pesto until desired consistency. Set aside.
- For the candied cashews, put cashews, sugar and water into a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Once that happens, continue cooking and stirring occasionally for about 15 minutes or until the sugar crystallizes. It's okay if the cashews look weird together with the sugar.
- Line baking sheet with aluminum foil (or if you don't like to use foil for baking, parchment paper or a silicone baking mat works too) and preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Pour cashews into an even layer on the baking sheet then bake for 10-15 minutes. Watch them carefully every 5 minutes to ensure they don't burn. Everyone's oven is different so the time it took me to candy my cashews may not be the same as yours. Keep an eye on it!
- Bring a large pot of water to boil. In the meantime, in a medium skillet, add chili oil you made earlier and turn heat up to medium-high. Once heated, add pork and break into smaller pieces with your spatula or wooden spoon or whatever cooking utensil you use. Remove cooked pork and put in a bowl and set aside.
- Once water has boiled, cook ramen according to the directions on the package. Drain then toss with pesto.
- To assemble dish: in large bowls, evenly divide spinach mint pesto ramen. Top with pork then cashews. You can then choose to cover and put in the refrigerator to chill or eat them room temperature!