Ramen is a popular Japanese dish, and is usually seen in America in instant ramen, or cup noodle varieties - needless to say, these are about as representative of good ramen as Twinkies are of a good sponge cake. There are plenty of ramen shops around Boston/Cambridge, and I think at this point I’ve sampled pretty much all of them. My favorites would be Santouka, in Harvard Square, Sapporo, in Porter Square (not the Sapporo in Hmart, which is distinctly not as good), and Yume Wo Katare, in Porter Square. After seeing a handful of videos on Youtube of people making ramen from scratch, I decided to give it a try.
There were a few cool things for me to try for the first time when making ramen from scratch - making a bone broth, slow cooking/sous vide, and making pasta from scratch.
After browsing a large number of ramen broth, toppings, tare, and oil recipes online, I settled on a Tonkotsu-ish broth, Shoyu tare, and black garlic oil, with char-siu pork, nori, scallions, and bean sprouts as toppings. I would have thrown in a soft-boiled egg too, but I ran out of time. I was also disappointed that I couldn’t source any pork fat to really make the broth thick, but I wound up boiling it down a bit more and it thickened up on its own.
General directions: Start the tonkotsu broth early the day before you want to serve the ramen, and start the char siu pork about 6 hours before serving time. Start the remaining components about 2 hours ahead of time.
Tonkotsu Pork Broth
(makes about 6 large bowls)
- 3 lbs pig trotters, split. Note: I got pig trotters with skin still on. In retrospect, I think this made the broth too collagen-y. It was much stickier than other broths that I’ve had, so I would recommend either no skin, or at least removing some of the skin.
- 2 lbs chicken feet, declawed
- 2 tbs vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, skin on, halved
- 1 head of garlic, halved
- 1 3” knob of ginger, sliced roughly
- 2 whole leeks, washed thoroughly and chopped roughly
- 2 bunches of scallions, white parts only, roughly chopped
- 1 sheet of kombu
- Declaw chicken feet, and place in large stockpot with pig trotters. Cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Remove from heat when water boils.
- While pot is heating, in a large skillet, sautee the onion, garlic, and ginger until lightly charred.
- Once the stockpot has come to a boil, pour the water out. Carefully wash the pig trotters and chicken feet, removing any soft bone marrow with a chopstick (this would become scum in your broth otherwise).
- Return pig trotters and chicken feet to the stockpot, along with remaining ingredients. Cover with water and bring to a slow rolling boil. Cover the stockpot, and boil for about 12 hours, topping up the water as necessary to keep the ingredients covered.
- After 12 hours, strain solids out of the broth and return the liquid section to the stockpot. Skim any remaining solids off the top, and boil vigorously to reduce the volume to about 3 quarts.
- Once volume has reduced, store the broth in a sealed container in the fridge overnight. It will solidify into a tough gelatin, but will melt quickly when heated. Heat to a gentle simmer just before serving.
This recipe I modified from Serious Eats, removing the mushrooms and pork fat back because I didn’t happen to pick up mushrooms and couldn’t find pork back fat. I didn’t have the kombu in the first round of ramen, but included it in the second round, and felt that it mellowed and rounded out the flavor in a pleasing way, while the fresh vegetables had added a bit too distinct of a tang. Mushrooms would probably be another good substitute, or reducing the quantity of scallions somewhat.
Char Siu Pork
(Makes about 8 servings)
- 1.5 lbs pork belly, skin removed. Note: I doubled this recipe, but that was a bit too much to match the broth. 1.5x would probably be best.
- 1 scallions, green part only, roughly chopped
- 2 slices of ginger
- 1 garlic clove
- 150 mL soy sauce
- 100 mL mirin
- 100 mL sake
- 50 mL water
- 1 tbs sugar
- Rub in salt to season the pork. Dip the meat briefly in boiling water to blanch it, then tie it into a tight roll with butchers twine so that it cooks evenly. This is probably less necessary since it’s going to sous vide, but it nothing else, it looks legit. #doitforinstagram
- Prepare the scallions, ginger, and crush the garlic.
- Add the soy sauce, mirin, sake, water, and sugar to a saucepot and just barely simmer.
- Wrap the pork in a paper towel, and place in a plastic bag. Add remaining ingredients, and seal the bag, removing as much air as possible.
- Place in a water bath in a rice cooker on “keep warm” mode for 4-5 hours to simulate sous vide. Ensure that the internal temperature of the meat reaches 64 °C.
- Remove meat and slice thinly along the grain to serve. The slices will probably be too long, so cut them in half for a more normal-sized char siu slice.
This recipe I modified from a Jun’s Kitchen video, simplifying it just a bit. It turned out pretty excellent - soft without falling apart, and very flavorful. As I mentioned, I doubled the recipe, and did 1.5 lbs in each rice cooker. It fits perfectly in a 4-cup rice cooker.
Black Garlic Oil:
(makes about 20 servings)
- 15 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
- 1 cup vegetable oil
- 2 tbs sesame oil
- Place the garlic and vegetable oil in a small saucepan and fry/simmer lightly until the garlic turns nearly black.
- Let the mixture cool, then blend it until no chunks of garlic remain. Add sesame oil and bottle for future use.
This recipe is from Alex French Guy’s ramen addiction series, where he made a variety of different oils. I’d like to try some of the others in the future, but this one sounded the best and was the easiest since I had a lot of garlic left over from the broth. His recipe called for the garlic to turn completely black, but I thought that was a bit too far after tasting it. The good garlic smells also subsided around the time the garlic turned black, which was probably the correct indication of when to stop. Your kitchen will smell amazing while making this though. I’d be curious to turn the excess of this into a vinaigrette, but I’m not sure what sort of salad would benefit from a garlic vinaigrette.
(Makes about 20 servings)
- 1 3” knob of ginger, sliced roughly
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 3/4 cup sake
- 3/4 cup mirin
- Combine all ingredients in a saucepan and boil for about 5 minutes.
- Remove the garlic and ginger and bottle for future use.
This recipe is from Asian at home, who also did a bunch of other pieces of ramen. It’s a pretty straightforward shoyu tare, and can be used for other things too - most places that you could use soy sauce, you can substitute this and just achieve a slightly more complex flavor.
(Makes about 4-5 servings)
- 3 g baking soda, baked (see directions)
- 250 g flour
- 100 g warm water
- 3 g salt
- 1/2 cup flour/cornstarch, to coat prepared noodles
- Bake the baking soda at 275 °F for about an hour. This dehydrates the sodium bicarbonate, producing sodium carbonate, a stronger base. You can do this in a much higher quantity than you need, about a tablespoon. I used a muffin tin to keep it contained.
- Mix the dry ingredients, then pour in the water.
- Knead (a ton) until it takes shape. Once the dough holds its shape well, switch to the pasta maker to flatten the dough until it becomes supple and not crumbly at all.
- Flatten the dough with the pasta maker until it’s about 2mm thick, then cut into square noodles. Flour/cornstarch liberally to keep the noodles from sticking together.
This recipe also came from Alex French Guy’s ramen addiction series, and was my first attempt making noodles/pasta from scratch. It was pretty magical watching the dough come together, and the pasta attachment to our stand mixer made things pretty easy. Unfortunately, I was cheap and decided not to get the noodle-cutting attachment, so we cut the noodles by hand. That was a lot more difficult to do well than I expected, and our noodles turned out uneven. We also didn’t flour the noodles enough after flattening and cutting, which made them stick together more when cooking. The noodles should be fairly white with flour/corstarch.
Toppings and Assembly
Ingredients (per bowl)
- 150g ramen noodles
- 2 tbs shoyu tare
- 1 tbs black garlic oil
- 2 cups tonkotsu broth
- 4 inch square of nori
- 3 slices of char siu pork
- a small handful of bean sprouts
- 1 scallion, green part only, julienned finely
- Cook the ramen noodles.
- Place shoyu tare and black garlic oil in the bottom of a ramen bowl, then top with tonkotsu broth.
- Place the ramen noodles in the bowl, folding elegantly to show off.
- Place the nori square in the bowl, half in the broth, point up.
- Top with layered char siu pork, bean sprouts, and scallions.
- Take a picture and post it to instagram.
Assembly is very important for an appropriately aesthetic bowl of ramen, and after all, instagram likes are all we’re really after, right?
Overall, this recipe was a lot of effort. I definitely learned a lot and practiced some new techniques, but for how much ramen even at a decent ramen shop costs, I don’t know if I’m likely to do it again. I did get to check that one off the bucket list of things to make though! Thanks for reading :)