I’ve divided this blog post into several sections, based on the different components of a tonkotsu ramen. The last section is where I assemble everything.
You can begin prep for this the previous day to give you enough time to have everything ready in good time.
Here’s a quick summary of how long the whole process is likely to take. Of course, you can multi-task. But assuming you’re doing only one thing at a time, it’ll take a good 30+ hours, with no breaks or about 12 hours if you multi-task well. So plan accordingly.
Pork Fat – 3 hours cooking time + 8 -12 hours resting
Katsuboshi Salt – 5 mins prep time
Tonkotsu Broth – 12 hours boil time + 2 hours prep, clean etc.
Wheat noodles – 1 hour (kneading + resting + prep)
Menma Bamboo Shoots – 2 hours (prep, marination etc)
Chashu Pork Belly – 4 hours
Eggs – 30 mins
You can ask your butcher for fat trimmings and he’ll usually be extremely happy to give you a bag full of some dirt cheap. The butcher’s wife was around when I showed up at the shop that morning, and she ended up asking me how I wanted to use it. She seemed thrilled that I was trying to make my own oil with it and gave me about a kilo of fat, when all I might’ve really needed was a few hundred grams.
pork back fat or trimmings
- Cut the fat into small chunks, about an inch or two big and place them in a heavy bottomed pot.
- Cover the fat with water until the water is an inch above the fat.
- Bring the pot of water + fat to a boil and then turn the heat down to a simmer.
- Simmer the pot uncovered until you see a layer of melted fat and some soft solids. This should take about 3 hours.
- Add more water, if you think the water level has fallen and might dry the fat out.
- Strain the contents of the pot through a sieve, keeping aside the soft chunks.
- Refrigerate the liquid and the soft chunks separately overnight.
- The following morning, spoon the layer of fat from the liquid into a saucepan and throw the remaining liquid away.
- Add the soft chunks into the pan too and cook on low/medium heat until the fat has melted back into a liquid.
- Puree the mix in a food processor until smooth.
- You can cool the fat mix to room temperature and then store away in an airtight container in your freezer for upto 3 months.
- Don’t forget to label your container!
Katsuboshi is the most often used along with konbu (kelp) to make dashi – a seafood stock that add umami to most Japanese soups.
local dried fish
- Toast the dried fish on a pan for a couple of minutes or for about 3 minutes in an oven at 200 degrees.
- When it cools, combine equal parts of dried fish and salt and grind the mixture to a powder.
- This can be stored in an airtight container in your refrigerator for about 3 months.
The tonkotsu broth that is widely used in ramen bowls is simply pork bones cooked at a rolling boil for 12 hours. Cooking the bones this way extracts all the fat and richness from the pork and gives a resultant thick, creamy soup.
(makes 8-10 cups)
3 kg pork bones
8-10 cloves of garlic, skin on, smashed
2 onions, unpeeled and halved
2 bay leaves
12-15 black peppercorn
LOTS of water
- Put the pork bones into a large pot and cover with cold water.
- Bring the mixture to a rolling boil over medium high heat.
- When scum has formed on top of the mixture, remove the pot from the heat. Drain the water and rinse all the bones under cold running water.
- Add the bones to the pot again, cover the bones with cold water and bring to a rolling boil.
- Add the onions, garlic, bay leaves and peppercorn to the mix and maintain a rolling boil for 12 hours, adding more water if needed, every few hours.
- After 12 hours, remove the stock from the heat and allow it to cool. Discard the bones and strain the stock.
- The stock can be kept in the refrigerator for 2-3 days or frozen for upto 3months.
Read this blog post.
Chashu Pork Belly
Read this blog post.
Ajitama (Boiled eggs) and Menma (Bamboo shoots)
Read this blog post.
chopped spring onions
chilli-garlic paste (I used store bought, though you can make your own)
store bought dried kelp, which I re-hydrated
Fed a couple of friends some tonkotsu ramen last night. Recreated it this afternoon (after fixing some booboos from last night). This one has katsoboshi (dried fish and salt mix) and pork fat at the bottom. Followed by a creamy tonkotsu broth (pork bones cooked at a rolling boil for 8 hours). Then are the noodles (handmade, 50% wheat flour, 50% buckwheat flour). Next is the chashi pork belly (slow cooked for ~ 4 hours in a mirin + sake + soy + ginger + garlic liquid, though I think I overdid the pork this time, it was soft and yum, but just didn’t hold shape). Toppings are spring onions, kelp, ajitama (soft boiled pickled egg), pickled bamboo shoots and a chilli garlic paste. Apologies for the utterly slow video. I got the clarity on point this time, but screwed up on the speed. Heh. And you can see the leg of the tripod in the bottom left. 🙈
- Start with spoonful of pork fat and one of the katsuboshi salt. Remember, you hadn’t added any in the tonkotsu broth, so this will be your flavouring agent for the broth.
- Ladle in piping hot broth.
- Next, top the broth with a handful of noodles.
- Start adding your toppings – chashu pork belly first, followed by kelp, spring onions, half an egg, bamboo shoots and some chilli-garlic paste for that added kick.
- Serve hot. Eat immediately.