This southwest ramen is inspired by the flavors of the Sonora desert, by way of chicago.

We had an amazing bowl of Mexican soup with vermicelli at Chef Rick Bayless’s excellent Xoco grill in Chicago many years ago and were so enamored of it that we re-created it right when we got back home. Over the years our version has changed so much that it doesn’t really resemble the original anymore, but in our hearts it’s still an homage to the Xoco version. It’s the combination of the fresh and canned smoked peppers that forms the base of this soup’s incredible flavor. If you don’t have access to Fresno peppers or find them too spicy, you can substitute any red pepper, including red bell peppers; the roasting process is still the same.

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This is an excerpt from our upcoming book That Noodle Life, launching April 12, 2022 wherever fine books are sold. If you preorder before launch and register here, you can get this awesome NOODLES NOODLES NOODLES tote:

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Southwest Ramen

Ramen inspired by the Sonora desert
Serves 4

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5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 30 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Total Time 1 hr 30 mins


  • 1 lb potatoes baby/nugget potatoes preferred
  • 2 medium zucchini cubed
  • 5 medium Fresno chiles or chile of choice
  • 2 tbsp neutral oil
  • salt to taste
  • 1 lb pork belly
  • 7 oz chipotle peppers in adobo 1 can
  • 2 limes juice only
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
  • 24 oz fresh ramen noodles
  • 2 quarts beef stock sodium free preferred
  • baby arugula for serving


  • Preheat your oven to 425°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil. Place a wire rack on one of the baking sheets for the pork belly.
  • Combine the potatoes, zucchini, and Fresno chiles in a large bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch of salt and toss to coat, then spread in a single layer on the lined baking sheet. Rub the pork belly with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and season on both sides with salt. Place it on the wire rack. Roast the vegetables and pork belly in the oven until the pork belly is cooked through and tender, about 45 minutes, tossing the vegetables at the halfway mark.
  • Meanwhile, combine the chipotles and their sauce, the lime juice, 5 teaspoons of sugar, and the soy sauce in a blender and blend until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. No need to wash the blender.
  • When the skin of the Fresno chiles has blackened and charred, about 25 minutes, remove them from the oven (return the remaining vegetables to the oven to continue roasting with the pork belly) and transfer to a ziplock bag. Seal the bag and allow the chiles to steam until their skins have loosened, about 10 minutes. Remove and discard the skins and stems (you may want to wear gloves to protect your hands), and transfer the chile flesh to the blender, along with the garlic, the remaining 1 teaspoon of sugar, 1 teaspoon of salt, and ½ cup of water. Blend until smooth, then transfer to a small bowl, cover, and set aside. 
  • When the pork belly and vegetables are done, remove them from the oven and let rest. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Add the noodles and cook according to the package directions; drain well. Bring the beef stock to a simmer in a medium pot over low heat and hold. Slice the pork belly into ½-inch-thick slices.
  • Place 1 tablespoon of the chipotle mixture and 1 teaspoon of the Fresno mixture into each of four warmed bowls, then ladle 2 cups of beef broth into each. Divide the noodles among the bowls and top each with a few slices of the pork belly and some of the vegetables. Serve piping hot, with the arugula in a bowl and the remaining chipotle and Fresno mixtures alongside as condiments.


Top with thinly sliced onion and fresh cilantro leaves if desired.

If you live the Southwest and it’s the right season, switching out the red chiles for local greens (such as Hatch or Big Jim) will take this to a whole new level.

Try torching the chiles with a kitchen blowtorch instead of roasting them. It’s a little more hands on, but you’ll be rewarded with a far deeper, smokier flavor.

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Southwest Ramen
Amount Per Serving
Calories 816
Calories from Fat 344
% Daily Value*
Fat 38.2g59%
Saturated Fat 10.5g66%
Cholesterol 84mg28%
Sodium 2406mg105%
Potassium 784mg22%
Carbohydrates 92.7g31%
Fiber 12.2g51%
Sugar 10.8g12%
Protein 36.7g73%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.