Cacio e Pepe Ramen: David Chang’s Noodles of DeathDecember 18, 2018
- JJ YuloWords
To me, a lot of what cooking is can be attributed to two things: logic and science.
You need logic to figure out which steps to first do, come up with the best way to attack a recipe, and finish attending to all the preparations that need to be completed. Logic is the driving force behind the concept of mise en place, a French term which literally means “putting in place.” It refers to the act of prepping then laying out for easy access all the ingredients of the day, streamlining your cooking process considerably.
If you read well-written recipes (i.e. ones I didn’t write) everything is laid out in logical progression, moving from one section to another smoothly. A trained or experienced cook can more or less figure out what’s going to happen in a recipe just by reading the ingredient list. The hardest tasks are tackled first, before moving on to the easiest–just like they taught all of us in school.
Now, if you’re like me (illogical), then there is always science to fall back on. If you know the science behind cooking, then you’ll never be caught flat-footed in the kitchen. (Also, for anyone who wants to be a serious cook, you should read Harold McGee’s On Food And Cooking. Trust me, you’ll thank me later.)
Today’s recipe is something I saw David Chang do (Yes, that Chang, the famous one), it’s called Cacio e Pepe. The guy clearly knows his stuff, and despite coming off as this badass cook when you see him on TV, deep down he’s really just a food geek who likes to eat.
This is one of my favorite pasta dishes. Cacio e Pepe literally translates to “cheese and pepper.” It has lots of cheese (of course), usually parmesan or pecorino, and even more black pepper. What you get is a nice, umami filled dish with the bite of freshly cracked black pepper. It’s wonderful as a side dish, or as a main course during a quiet meal at home.
Here’s the twist: we’re not going to use spaghetti–we’ll use instant ramen instead. Yes, it’s cheap, greasy, and chock-full of unnatural ingredients and artificial flavorings, but we all love this 3-minute meal-in-a-bag anyway.
Instant ramen is a great vehicle for Cacio e Pepe. Why? Because David Chang said so. Also, because instant ramen noodles were invented for one primary reason–to soak up flavor. Even though it’s already cooked, it’ll take on the taste of whatever you throw at it–in this case, cheese (or rather–cheese water). While this recipe might strike some people as being a bit unusual, don’t be afraid to try something new. Who knows, you might just love it.
Cacio e Pepe Ramen
Total Time: 15 minutes / Yield: 1-2 servings, depending on your appetite
- 1 cup water
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter (Anchor is my preferred brand locally)
- 1 pack Instant Ramen Noodles, ditch the spices and oil for another day (I buy the Japanese ones, like Nissin, around PHP 20 each because I’m a high roller)
- 1 cup cheese Parmesan or Pecorino, plus more set aside (I used supermarket bought Perfect Italiano shredded parm, which works well with this recipe)
- Fresh pepper, in a grinder
- Add water, olive oil, butter, and a few grinds of fresh pepper in a pan over medium heat. Eyeball the butter–it should melt and everything should combine.
- Add the cup of cheese and use a big spoon (or Chang uses chopsticks) to stir.
- When combined, add the noodles into the liquid and agitate them (move them around). What I like to do is get a spoon and baste the noodles (scoop the liquid onto the noodles). If it looks like too much liquid, you can scoop some out.
- After around 3-4 minutes, the noodles should look separated and rehydrated (think instant pancit canton looking), and the liquid should’ve been sucked in by the noodles.
- You can add more cheese if you wish, and definitely more pepper (I like topping it with an over easy egg and bacon).
- ENJOY! It really is quite tasty!