Nelson Garcia, a local chef, spent time working in restaurants in New York, including Watty & Meg, a Brooklyn new American restaurant that served hand-rolled pasta.
Throughout his time working in restaurants, he practiced hand-rolling pasta and preparing the dough, and he learned the difference in taste that freshly made pasta has.
“One of the most constant things we would do is roll out sheets of pasta, make ravioli and make gnocchi. Because they were constant on the menu. It’s a labor of love,” Garcia said. “It is absolutely fun. When I make it, I get into a flow state. It’s kind of a meditation, and it’s really therapeutic in a way.”
Send Noods Noodle Co., Garcia’s latest venture, is bringing the experience of freshly made noodles to Harrisonburg for delivery and pickup. Garcia prepares raw, locally sourced ramen noodle kits, which include fresh wheat noodles and broth to prepare the Japanese-style noodle soup at home. Customers can choose from add-ons including local vegetables, smoked brisket and marinated tofu, along with a separate selection of fresh egg noodles that changes.
“The point of me starting this was to show people what that product is. What does fresh ramen taste like, what does fresh pasta taste like and what’s the big deal,” Garcia said.
The ramen noodles come in a kit that serves enough for two people with a choice of chicken broth, pork broth or a vegan-friendly mushroom broth. The vegetables are sourced from local farms that include Wayside Produce and Portwood Acres.
Garcia said his product is ideal for vegans and vegetarians, since the ramen noodle is made without egg and customers can opt for a vegan broth and add-ins.
“I like to call it accidental vegetarian [and vegan,]” Garcia said. “Sometimes you end up making something really delicious without necessarily wanting to make it vegan.”
As opposed to most store-bought ramen, which is dried, Garcia said his fresh ramen gives customers the experience of a pasta that’s higher quality and made with local ingredients while saving them hours of hard work.
“We know how painstaking it is to do fresh ramen at home,” Garcia said.
Making fresh ramen is a laborious process that’s not easy to get right.
“You have to really, really work it to make it come together,” Garcia said.
The process of making ramen takes Garcia about 30 minutes per batch, and he said the dough is quite brittle, requiring advanced kneading. Also, the pasta must be laminated, a process of rolling and folding the dough before cutting, he said. Laminating assists with gluten formation, which gives the pasta its springy texture, according to an article by Niki Achitoff-Gray, former editor-in-chief of the Serious Eats culinary website and a graduate of the Institute of Culinary Education.
“Laminating is basically a process of folding the dough into a smaller package and feeding it back into the pasta maker,” Achitoff-Gray wrote in the article. “The main argument for laminating has to do with the final texture of your dough, but it’s also a great way to patch up any pesky holes.”
Garcia said the kits, which come with instructions, are easy to prepare. The ramen takes approximately two minutes to cook in boiling water in small batches. Garcia said the product also freezes well — simply drop frozen ramen into boiling water and it will cook similarly to the raw noodles.
“As soon as you drop them back in boiling water they will come right back to life,” Garcia said.
Garcia said customers can take the noodles even further at home by using them in their own recipes, adding extra ingredients to the ramen or stir frying the noodles.
“Our ramen is really versatile in flavor. You can go Italian, you can go Asian,” Garcia said. “The texture of it is really nice.”
Garcia said it’s important for the business to feature local partners. Garcia worked with his brother, David Garcia, at the Harrisonburg Farmers Market selling Virginia barbecue from Up N’ Smoke BBQ. Garcia incorporates a variety of local vendors into the ramen kits.
The wheat for the noodles is sourced from Wade’s Mill in Raphine. Garcia uses Virginia red wheat in the noodles, along with water and salt. Garcia said the product is non-GMO and contains no added preservatives.
“[Wade’s Mill] mills our wheat when we order it. As a culinarian that’s a unicorn,” Garcia said.
Garcia’s pork broth is made from Pork Stork brand pork, which is forest-raised pork grown in Orange County. In addition to being local, the owners of Pork Stork said the pork is ethically raised.
“Our pigs never see one day indoors,” said Frauke Bruns, owner and operator of the Pork Stork brand along with Doug Zemanek. “Our operation is animal welfare approved. The pigs live in the forest and eat what they can find. We use no medications to accelerate growth … no teeth-pulling, [etc.].”
Fans of Up N’ Smoke BBQ will recognize the smoked brisket that’s available in the ramen kits. It’s the same product that was available at the business’ farmers market booth.
Garcia said he wanted to offer fresh noodles that people can take home or have delivered to prepare at home for the colder winter months, when people might want something warm to eat at home.
Garcia said he’s planning on opening a drive-up window soon for even easier ordering at the commercial space the business operates in the Waterman Square Shopping Center. Customers mainly order online at send-noods.square.site or calling the business at (540)-300-5141.
“They gave us a wonderful season,” Garcia said. “We’d be nothing without the local produce. Because without that beautifully grown product, you can’t have anything beyond that. It really makes a difference.”