Japanese

Birria Ramen

by:
January 10, 2022
4 Stars
Photo by Yi Jun Loh
Author Notes

Over the past two years, I’ve salivated over countless videos of beautifully sloppy birria tacos being dipped into broth, taco-stand aromas almost wafting through my screen. But being stuck in Malaysia thanks to the pandemic meant that my burgeoning hunger for birria was never satiated. I could try getting them in Malaysia, yes, or even making them, but many of the key ingredients for proper tacos—chipotle and guajillo chiles, tomatillos for the salsa, and, most importantly, proper masa for the tortillas—are frustratingly tricky to find.

Thanks to the wonders of the internet, I chanced upon a dish that has the potential to scratch my birria itch, even without a Mexican pantry: birria ramen. Like its namesake suggests, the dish starts with a conventional birria, made the traditional Mexican way with beef or lamb, often short ribs or a fatty, sinewy secondary cut of beef like chuck. Braised low and slow in a broth fragrant with chiles and spices, the meat turns tender and the braising liquid rich and meaty. And instead of serving it with tortillas, the broth is used as a soup base for instant ramen noodles!

Many birria recipes use Mexican chiles like guajillo, ancho, and chipotle. But out of necessity when first testing, I resorted to using local Malaysian green chiles, dried red chiles, as well as some Charleston peppers. If you can’t find the called-for chiles in this recipe, to replicate some of that chipotle smokiness, char the chiles with a blowtorch or over a stovetop until they’re black.

Birria purists might say this recipe is inauthentic and sacrilegious to the true dish. But I like to think of it not as a muddled riff on true-blue birria but rather as a mash-up of two deliriously delicious dishes that bridges two disparate food cultures. —Jun

  • Prep time 30 minutes
  • Cook time 3 hours 15 minutes
  • Serves 4
Ingredients
  • Birria Ramen
  • 2 pounds (900 grams) boneless beef chuck/shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons (30 milliliters) vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, roughly diced
  • 4 dried guajillo peppers, seeds removed and roughly chopped
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 tablespoon toasted white sesame seeds
  • 1/4 cup (60 milliliters) distilled white or unseasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 cup (240 milliliters) canned chopped tomatoes or tomato purée
  • 2 cups (480 milliliters) beef stock
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 2 star anise
  • 4 whole cloves
  • 4 (3.5-ounce) packs instant ramen noodles, seasoning packets removed
  • For Serving
  • 1 small red onion, finely diced
  • 2 scallions, green and roots removed, sliced thinly
  • 2 tablespoons pickled jalapeño slices (optional)
  • Cilantro leaves
  • 1 large lime, quartered
  • 4 soft-boiled eggs (optional)
In This Recipe
Directions
  1. Season the meat liberally with salt and black pepper. Pour the oil into a large heavy-bottom pot, such as a Dutch oven. Heat the oil over medium-high heat until it just starts to shimmer and smoke. Working in 2 to 3 batches (whichever is needed to avoid crowding the pot) sear the beef for 2 to 3 minutes on each side, until browned and caramelized. Remove each batch of beef from the pot onto a plate or sheet pan when they’re done searing. Leave the rendered fat in the pot.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the onion. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes. (If any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot start to burn, pour in a tablespoon or two of water and scrape off with a wooden spoon or flexible spatula.) When the onions are slightly translucent, add in the chiles, garlic, oregano, cumin, smoked paprika, and sesame seeds. Sauté for another 2 minutes, then add in the white vinegar, canned tomatoes, and beef stock. Bring this to a boil over high heat. Use an immersion blender to purée the mixture until silky smooth. (Alternatively, carefully transfer to a heatproof blender and purée, then return to the pot.)
  3. Add the seared beef to the pot along with the cinnamon stick, bay leaves, star anise, cloves, and 3 cups of water. Bring this mixture to a boil over high heat, then season with salt to taste. Turn the heat down to low so it maintains a slow, barely bubbling simmer. Cover the pot with a lid and let this cook for 2 to 3 hours, until the meat is extremely tender and shreds with ease when pulled at with a fork or spoon.
  4. With a spider or slotted spoon, fish the meat out of the broth and give it a rough chop with a knife or shred it with a fork until it resembles pulled pork. Add enough water to the broth for it to be thin, like a classic ramen broth. Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the package. Serve and portion the noodles into bowls, ladle the birria broth over the noodles, and serve with a large spoonful of beef. Garnish with the onion, scallions, pickled jalapeños, cilantro, lime, and egg (if using). The dish is best eaten immediately.

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1 Review

BenBen January 13, 2022
Little Miner Tacos in the DC area does a birria ramen at one of their locations.