I love ramen. If there is one food I am deeply sentimental about (other than a perfectly seared and rested steak), it’s this one. As Teresa and I were sitting about reminiscing our travels in Japan, missing deeply the likes of Suzuran and other ramen shops in Japan, I set out to make a batch of really good tonkotsu (pork flavor) ramen at home.
It’s hard to know how just how good ramen can be if you’ve only had the cheap packet instant stuff or americanized restaurant varieties. If you’ve had it in Japan, you know what I mean. That perfect bowl of broth, quality noodles, and Japanese style toppings like you would find in a little shop off a side street in Osaka or Tokyo. No, I don’t presume to think I can make ramen as good as those masters. I’ll still have to go back to get the really good stuff. But this came out pretty darn good.
This recipe, which is a combination of a few I have experimented with, beats almost anything I’ve had in the states so far. It’s deep and satisfying, the way ramen should be. And it’s not as time-consuming as some recipes I have found, which require a herculean 12+ hour effort. It still requires time to make the broth, so be aware. I will classify this dish as “easy-ish” because, while it does take some time to prepare the first day, it’s easy to throw together the next day. You can also freeze the leftover pork and broth for a quick second round in the future.
A nice slab of pork belly, about one pound.
Slice the skin right off, but keep the fat underneath.
Tonkotsu (not to be confused with tonkatsu) refers to the style of broth rich with pork flavor. So the pork goes in along with the ginger, garlic, and dashi broth. I had a chicken carcass left over from an earlier meal that week, so I threw it in for a bit, as well. Don’t worry if you don’t have a chicken lying around.
The finished pork and chicken stock.
Braising the pork belly in mirin, soy and sake.
The braising liquid is used to flavor the eggs. It’s also added later to flavor the broth.
Broth with liquid added before serving.
This stuff is really good… loaded with pork and soy flavor… might just be my new stir-fry secret ingredient!
Slicing up the cooked and marinated pork belly.
Make sure to blanch any raw veggies briefly in plain boiling water before serving. Bok choy is not a traditional Japanese topping, but I think it goes great.
Slicing up the soy eggs. They are salty and really good!
Ready for broth!
Tonkotsu Pork Belly Ramen
Makes about 4 servings. Adapted from Serious Eats and various other recipes.
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 1 piece of ginger (1 ounce or thumb-size), peeled
- 5 cups low-sodium chicken stock, plus more if needed
- 1 cup Dashi Stock (use powder from an asian grocery, or use bonito flakes in simmering water and then strain)
- 2 cups water
- 1 pound pork belly, skin and excess fat removed
- 1/2 cup sake (rice wine, optional)
- 1 cup shoyu (soy sauce)
- 1 cup mirin (sweet cooking wine)
- 4 boiled large eggs (place into boiling water for 7-8 minutes, then remove and run under cold water)
- Ramen noodles, store bought or homemade
- Optional: 1/2 sheet nori seaweed, raw scallions thin sliced, blanched corn kernels, blanched bean sprouts, blanched bok choy
- Crush the garlic with the side of the knife. Cut the ginger into 3 pieces. Heat the chicken stock, Dashi Stock, and water in a large pot over medium heat until boiling. Add the pork belly, garlic, and ginger to the stock mixture and cook for 1 hour. The pork should be completely submerged while cooking.
- Remove the pork belly from the stock and strain the stock through a chinois or fine strainer set over a bowl. Measure the stock and, if necessary, add additional chicken stock until you have 6 cups. Refrigerate the stock overnight.
- Place the sake, soy sauce, and mirin in a small saucepan over medium heat and bring it to a gentle simmer. Add the pork belly, decrease the heat to medium-low, and cook for 20 minutes. While cooking, turn the pork belly several times to ensure even flavoring. Remove the pot from the stovetop and let the pork belly and cooking liquid cool for 30 minutes. Then transfer the pork belly with the cooking liquid into a small sealable container (the pork belly should be barely submerged in the cooking liquid) and refrigerate for 2 hours.
- Remove the pork belly from the cooking liquid and transfer it into another sealable container, reserving the cooking liquid in the container. Refrigerate the pork belly overnight. Peel the hard-boiled eggs, add the eggs to the reserved cooking liquid, and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, remove the eggs from the cooking liquid, reserving the liquid. This liquid is used to flavor the ramen broth later. Cut the eggs in half lengthwise. Cut the pork belly into thin diagonal slices, about 1/4 inch thick and 2 inch square. You will use 3 to 5 slices per serving of noodles. Any sliced pork belly not used in this recipe can be frozen for later use. Cut the nori into 4 rectangles. Cut the scallions diagonally into thin slices.
- Add the noodles to the boiling water and cook them according to the directions on the package. While cooking the noodles, in another medium pot add the ramen stock and bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Add 7 to 8 tablespoons of the cooking soy liquid to the pot and bring it to a simmer. This is the finished ramen broth.
- Drain the noodles. Do not rinse the noodles in cold water. Divide the noodles and the hot ramen broth among the bowls. Garnish each bowl with the chashu pork slices (you may warm them in the simmering broth briefly if they are still cold), half an egg, and the toppings. Serve hot.