Ramen isn’t a dish, it’s an obsession. Both for those who eat it and those who make it, the ‘perfect’ bowl of ramen is an elusive idea; as swayed by personal taste as it is centuries of tradition.
Maybe you like adding miso for the extra umami, prefer keeping things simple with soy sauce (‘shoyu’), or want to try something unusual by stirring through a little black tahini for the creamy sesame flavour and rich, black colour.
You might like adding thick slices of rolled pork belly braised in soy, sake and mirin (‘chashu’) – with a ramen egg soaked in the same rich stock (‘ajitsuke tamago’) – or keep things vegetarian with a handful of shiitake mushrooms and a sprinkling of rehydrated wakame flakes.
If you prefer things a little spicy, a dollop of yuzu kosho or a sprinkling of shichimi togarashi finishes things perfectly, while a scattering of black sesame seeds or furikake, or a drizzle of green onion oil is perfect for those who prefer things mild-but-flavourful.
Like many dishes across many cuisines, however, the best bowl of ramen – however you prefer it – is the product of the best ingredients handled carefully. Spend 36 hours simmering pork and chicken bones for a rich tonkotsu broth only to add bland, overcooked noodles and the effort will have been in vain.
The recipe for slow-cooked tonkotsu broth below is slightly amended from J. Kenji Lopez-Alt’s incredibly well researched version on Serious Eats, and the chashu recipe is inspired by Adam Liaw’s excellent version. Both take time – though are well worth the effort – but we’ve supplied our own quick version for when you need a noodle hit in a hurry.
Prepare larger volumes of broth and the rolled pork, as both portion and freeze well. Then, when the craving for ramen hits, simply thaw a tub of soup and a few slices of chashu and add freshly cooked ramen noodles and the toppings of your choice.
Whatever your preferences, visit your nearest The Essential Ingredient store for quality ramen noodles, cooking sake, mirin, wakame flakes, shiitake mushrooms, shichimi togaroshi and many more traditional (and not so traditional) ramen ingredients, or shop online for delivery to anywhere in Australia.
To make the tonkotsu broth:
Place the pork bones and chicken wings in a pot and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for twenty minutes. Remove bones and discard water (this process removes blood and other impurities from the bones and helps ensure you get a light-coloured broth). Clean the bones well with running water and a new cloth (or a food-safe brush) and return to the cleaned pot along with the rest of the broth ingredients. Cover with cold water, ensuring all ingredients are completely submerged (but only just), and bring to a rapid simmer.
Scoop any foam, fat or scraps the come to the surface with a large spoon and discard. After 30-40 minutes, when the surface remains clear, drop the stock to a medium simmer, cover, and leave for 8-10 hours. Check regularly to ensure the stock is still at a slow, rolling boil, and to add a little water if levels fall below the bones.
Leave to cool slightly, then drain carefully, discarding the solids. Pass the stock through muslin cloth to remove any fine impurities.
Leave stock to settle for one hour, then carefully remove the layer of fat/oil from the surface and discard.
Return the stock to a pot and bring to a high simmer until volume has reduced by one-fifth. Stock should now be opaque and feel a little thick on the tongue. If the consistency is still too watery, simmer and reduce for an additional 20 minutes.
The stock can now be used immediately to make ramen, can be refrigerated for up to 5 days, or frozen in batches for up to three months.
T0 make the quick broth:
To make a ramen broth that’s ready in under half an hour, dilute bonito dashi crystals in 300mL of boiling water in a saucepan. Add chicken stock and bring to a simmer. Stir through miso paste and cook for another five minutes.
To make the chashu pork:
Roll the pork into a tight cylinder and tie with butcher’s twine. Place into a pot, cover with cold water and bring to a simmer. After 20 minutes, remove the pork and discard the water. Clean the pot and wipe any impurities from the pork.
Return the pork to the pot, add enough cold water until meat is just covered, and add dried shiitake mushrooms, sugar and salt. Simmer for an hour, then add soy, mirin and sake and simmer for a further hour, before removing from heat.
When pork and braising liquid have returned to room temperature, remove the pork, place in a large container (or wrap tightly in plastic wrap) and refrigerate overnight. Remove the mushrooms and reserve to serve with the ramen, then cover soft-boiled eggs in the braising liquid and refrigerate overnight.
Before serving, slice the pork thinly, and halve the rehydrated mushrooms and marinated eggs.
Optional: Pork slices can be quickly fried or grilled prior to serving, but can also be served chilled.
Bring a large pot of water to a rapid boil. Cook the ramen noodles for 6-8 minutes (or until cooked to your preferred tenderness). Distribute noodles between bowls.
Bring tonkotsu broth or quick ramen broth to a simmer and season with soy sauce, miso, salt or any other preferred seasoning.
Top with pork, egg halves, shiitake mushrooms and finely sliced spring onions.
Finish with any combination of the following optional toppings, and serve immediately: