It was a last minute decision to make Tonkotsu Ramen last weekend. I had a bowl of Goku Ramen in Paradigm and I had a really thirsty after feeling and it was quite expensive for that tiny bowl of ramen. So then I decided to put my hands to try the utterly delicious Tonkotsu Ramen in my very own kitchen.
Ramen (ラーメン, らーめん, 拉麺) is a Japanese dish of noodles served in broth originating from China. It differs from native Japanese noodle soup dishes, in that it is served in broth based on meat such as chicken, as well as in the type of noodles and toppings used.
Ramen is served with a variety of toppings, such as sliced pork (chāshū), seaweed, kamaboko, green onions, and even corn. Almost every locality or prefecture in Japan has its own variation of ramen, from the tonkotsu ramen of Kyūshū to the miso ramen of Hokkaidō.
Tonkotsu (“pork bone”) ramen is usually cloudy white. It is a thick broth made with crushed pork bones that have been boiled for hours. It is a specialty of Kyūshū (source)
I haven’t been to Japan and I don’t know for sure, if there’s any enoki or other condiments added to a bowl or Tonkotsu Ramen. I’ve seen some had different types of toppings to go along the ramen, with chashu(pork belly), ajitsuke tamago(half boiled egg) and spring onion being really popular.
So here I am, making everything from scratch, except for the ramen itself. I have found a back up recipe just in case I couldn’t get any ready made ramen from the grocery. Luckily I found them readily available, so I hurried and bought it.
The process of making ramen is long. While the real time cooking may only take up to 2 hours, you need about 12 hours to have everything cooked properly. I started mine at 12noon on Saturday and only had the first bowl on Sunday for lunch because the broth was cooking till 12 midnight!
There are many many recipes of tonkotsu broth, all actually seemed similar with using pork bones, trotter, chicken carcass and or wings or feet. I followed Serious Eats’ recipe quite closely with little adjustment to make the tonkotsu broth. It would seem like a very hard thing to do, but it’s quite simple and I may make it whenever I or my family have any ramen cravings.
First, the bones were brought to a boil. It’s when all the scum floats up. You’ve got to clear this out. So once it has come to a boil pour out everything and clean the junk.
So what you’re doing here is removing any brown-tinted things from the bones, which means blood, organs, deep marrow. Cold water and a chopstick would help. So once it’s done and cleaned, put them back into the pot and fill up with cold water. This way, you will not get the unnecessary scums and gunk in your broth.
I think there was about 6L of water in the pot. There’s no measurement markings in the pot so I can’t know fore sure.
So in goes the bones, trotter, feet, carcass. Also, in goes leek, scallions, mushroom, onion and garlic. to release the umami flavour, fry onion and garlic till its dark, it will release the sweetness of the onion and garlic while reducing it’s rawness.
I was at the butcher and they had a slab of pork fat. After boiling for 4 hours, it became so tender like jelly. It can be added to the ramen to increase it’s velvety-ness, but I didn’t add because I was too grossed out by it. I’m not kidding, althought it tasted really soft and tender.
I used an electric cooker to cook it as I had to leave the house for about 4 hours in between. I started at about noon with the first boil (to clean the bones) And it went to boil again about 12.30noon. The progress of cooking was long and the temptation to keep checking on it was hard to resist. As you can see, the colours tend to get milkier as it boils. I guess it’s good sign.
So I kinda learnt this trick from my sister’s confinement lady when she made a huge pot of stew or braised something, if your fridge is tight and limited with space, you can still keep the pot on your stove, with the condition that you DO NOT open the cover once you turn off the fire, right until you are ready to use it the following day.
I did it with this. As I finished boiling, it was about 1am, I left it on the stove top and went to sleep. The next day at 9am, I woke up and reheat the broth till it comes to a boil and strained it
The soup had the colour I was looking for, except, it was not salted in anyway.
And made a bowl to try for lunch
First bowl up, well, the broth had NO salt. So I used alot of the chashu gravy and some salt to season the broth. With the addition of Mayu, it was really yummy. Gelatinous and velvety I would say.
So what about the condiments ?? There are 2 which you need to make beforehand, the Chashu and Ajitsuke Tamago.
I made them in the afternoon and let them steep in the broth for maximum flavour. The chashu was so dark!! But the skin and fat WAS OMG SO YUMMY. It’s actually jelly like and very tender. Man, so guilty but so worth it.
Now first, to make the chashu, you would need a slab of pork belly. The butcher gave me a long piece and it still had the soft bones underneath, so I trimmed it and actually cut into 2. The long piece made a very huuuugggeee circle, so I cut to half and rolled them in semi circles instead.
This was easy. I had it in my Le Creuset Pot, and let it be in the oven for about 4 hours. I would say 3 hours is enough for that size. (about 1kg of pork belly) You would occasionally need to turn it so it soaks up on all sides. But I was very surprised it came up to so dark!! But it wasn’t overly salty, it tasted just nice and fragrant. I’m thinking its the Kikkoman Soy Sauce.
So anyway, once the chashu is cooked, you’ve got to chill it before slicing it. It would otherwise fall apart if sliced while its hot. Then, keep some of the liquid for the soaking liquid for Ajitsuke Tamago. It is a half boiled egg, steep in shoyu and other condiments. It has a brown exterior, fading into white and a very runny yolk. You can otherwise make up a concoction of soaking liquid for the eggs and it would work as well too. As eggs all comes in different sizes, it takes about 4 1/2 to 6 minutes depending on amount of eggs in a pot and the size of it.
To make Ajitsuke Tamago, have either the chashu liquid or make a fresh one yourself. Bring a pot of water to boil. Let it simmer and add eggs in, making sure they are all submerged in. Set a timer for 5 minutes and let it cook away. Once the time is up, pick them up and submerge them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. Then carefully peel the shells away and drop them into the soaking liquid for at least 4 hours. You would get a nice egg with runny velvety yolk with a hint of saltiness from the soaking liquid
Now that the 2 main components that you need to make ahead are done, here are some that can be prepared just before you assemble the ramen.
Mayu would be the black garlic sesame oil. It’s made by cooking pure sesame oil with grated garlic, till almost black, then blended and strained. I used a korean sesame oil for it, it smelled SO SO GOOD!
Fried Garlic, slice garlic thinly and deep fry them. I first fried them but it turned soggy, so I used the Philips Air Fryer to do so, hence some were more dark, but they kept crispy for the whole 2 days (or until they were completely gone)
Woodear Mushroom / Black Fungus, blanch them in hot water then cut into strips
Enoki mushroom and beansprouts, blanch them VERY quickly (like 5 seconds) in the boiling water before you cook the ramen.
Now to assemble, make sure you’ve got all the condiments cut and placed out.
Ladle out some of the broth into a smaller pot, add a few tablespoons of the chashu broth, bring it to a boil, add salt and white pepper if needed.
In another pot, bring water to boil, add salt to the water. blanch ramen in the water till it’s cooked. won’t be long.
Then get ready your bowl, pour 1 tbsp of chashu broth and 1 tsp mayu oil. Once the ramen is cooked and drained, pour the ramen inside and give it a stir.
Arrange sliced chashu, beansprouts, woodear mushroom, enoki and a sheet of roasted seaweed. Pour the hot tonkotsu broth over the bowl of ramen noodles, then sprinkle with spring onion, fried garlic and another teaspoon of mayu. Place ajitsuke tamago on top, and serve immediately.
So here’s the recipe (very long one)
- 1.5kg pig trotters, split lengthwise or cut crosswise into 1-inch disks (as your butcher to do this for you)
- 900g chicken backs and carcasses, skin and excess fat removed
- 500g chicken feet
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, skin on, roughly chopped
- 12 garlic cloves
- One 3-inch knob ginger, cut to 2
- 2 whole leeks, washed and roughly chopped
- 2 dozen scallions, white parts only (reserve greens and light green parts for garnishing finished soup)
- 200g whole fresh shitake mushrooms or mushroom scraps
- 200g slab pork fat
- 1kg boneless pork belly, skin-on
- 1 cup water
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 1 cup sake
- 1 cup mirin
- ½ cup sugar
- 6 scallions, roughly chopped
- 6 whole garlic cloves
- One 2-inch knob ginger, roughly sliced
- 1 whole shallot, split in half (skin on)
- 6 eggs
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sake
- ½ cup soy sauce
- ½ cup mirin
- ½ cup sugar
- (or chashu broth)
- 45ml sesame oil
- 5 cloves of garlic, grated
- Fresh ramen
- Enoki Mushroom
- Woodear Mushroom, blanched, sliced
- Scallion (spring onions), sliced thinly
- Fried Garlic slices
- Roasted Seaweed Sheets
- Fill trotter, carcass and chicken feet in a big pot. Fill with cold water and bring to a boil (takes a while) Once it comes to a boil, drain everything into the sink and wash with cold water. Wash and remove the dark brown stuffs (blood, marrow, organs) and drain them.
- Meanwhile, in a pan, pour oil and pan fry onion, ginger and garlic till almost burnt. Set them aside.
- Once they are clean, put them back into the pot (oh don't forget to clean the pot too) add leeks, scallion, ginger, onion, garlic, mushroom and pork fat. Fill up the pot with water, till it covers everything.
- Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that appears (this should stop appearing within the first 20 minutes or so). Use a clean sponge or moist paper towels to wipe and black or gray scum off from around the rim of the pot. Reduce heat to a bare simmer and place a heavy lid on top.
- Check occasionaly if you need to add any water (I may have added just about 500ml throughout the whole process)
- At about 3-4 hours down, check on the slab of pork fat, it should be tender. Remove and mince it with your knife, imagine cutting into jelly. Set that aside till ready to use, if using.
- Let it boil for another couple of hours. I boiled mine for 12 hours. Then strain the broth into a clean pot, squeeze juices from bones and leftover meat. The broth is ready to use.
- Lay pork belly on cutting board and roll up lengthwise, with skin facing out. Using butchers twine, tightly secure pork belly at ¾-inch intervals.
- Heat oven to 135 C. Heat 1 cup water, soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar, scallions, garlic, ginger, and shallot in a Le Creuset pot over high heat until boiling. Add pork belly (it won't be submerged). Cover with a lid left slightly ajar. Transfer to oven and cook, turning pork occasionally, until pork is fully tender and a cake tester or thin knife inserted into its center meets little resistance, 3 to 4 hours.Transfer contents to a sealed container and refrigerate until completely cool. When it's ready slice thinly and reheat in the tonkotsu broth. Reserve some of the chashu broth for Ajitsuke tamago.
- If not using the chashu broth, combine water, sake, soy, mirin, and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Set aside
- Bring water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Carefully lower eggs into water with a wire mesh spider or slotted spoon. Reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook for exactly 5 minutes. Drain hot water and carefully peel eggs under cold running water (the whites will be quite delicate).
- Transfer eggs to a bowl that just barely fits them all. Pour marinade on top until eggs are covered or just floating. Place a double-layer of paper towels on top and press down until completely saturated in liquid to help keep eggs submerged and marinating evenly. Refrigerate and marinate at least four hours and up to 12. Discard marinade after 12 hours. Store eggs in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in ramen soup to serve.
- Heat sesame oil and grated garlic in a small saucepan. Stir and cook until its dark brown (try not to burn it) Turn off and remove from heat. Transfer oil to a heatproof bowl. Then pout into a blender and blitz till garlic is fine. Strain and discard garlic.
- Ladle out tonkotsu broth (about 2 cups) into a small pot, add ½ tsp of salt and 3 tbsp of chashu broth. If you have kept the minced pork fat, add them here
- In another pot, bring water to boil. Add 1 tsp of salt. lightly blanch beansprouts and enoki mushroom for 5 seconds. Add ramen and cook till al dente (about 2 minutes)
- Meanwhile, in the serving bowl, add 1 tbsp chashu broth and 1 tsp mayu. Once ramen is cooked, drain water and lightly mix it in the bowl. Add condiments on top.
- Pour over hot tonkotsu broth, add a sheet of roasted seaweed and place ajitsuke tamago on top.
- Serve hot.