Thirty hours before you lift the rich, heavenly broth to your lips, Chef Weston Richards is plopping pork and chicken bones, along with fermented bean paste, dried kombu seaweed, and other assorted Asian secrecies, into a stockpot to start his version of ramen, the traditional Japanese noodle soup that’s trending atop the modern hipster food pyramid.
Into that luscious liquid foundation goes the star of the show: alkaline noodles that Richard makes by kneading together flour, water, and sodium carbonate, then hand-cutting them into medium, straight lines that prove slippery yet remain firm when subjected to the hot broth. To top it off, Richards — who now makes this concoction at Les Marchands Wine Bar & Merchant (131 Anacapa St.; 284-0380; lesmarchandswine.com) in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday night — tosses in charred pork belly, fried brussels sprouts, roasted garlic cloves, shiitake mushrooms, and a soft-boiled egg. And veggies needn’t fear: There’s also a version based on butternut squash with coconut milk, yellow curry, tofu, and more mushrooms.
A bowlful teaches an appreciation of truly savory umami flavors while exploring textural duality — these ancient recipe noodles are somehow both snappy and chewy — and people can’t get enough. Why is that? “Well, I make a damn good ramen,” said the bearded, tattooed Richards, who’s been perfecting his soup for four years and serving it at Les Marchands for about a year. “And no one else in town is making their own noodles.”