Tonkotsu Ramen

Ingredients

Ramen Stock

  • 3 kg (6 lb 12 oz) pork bones
  • 1–2 pork trotters, split lengthways (ask your butcher)
  • 1 boiler chicken
  • 20 g (¾ oz) dried shiitake mushrooms, tied in a muslin (cheesecloth) bag
  • 250 g (9 oz) pork back fat, cut into 2 cm (¾ inch) cubes
  • 1 brown onion
  • ½ bunch spring onions (scallions)

Masterstock Braised Pork Belly Chashu

  • 5 litres (175 fl oz/20 cups) Chinese masterstock (Essentials)
  • 1 kg (2 lb 4 oz) piece of pork belly
  • 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) cooking sake
  • 300 ml (10½ fl oz) mirin
  • 6 eggs, at room temperature

Ramen Dashi

  • 25 g (1 oz) dried kombu
  • 15 g (½ oz) dried anchovies
  • 20 g (¾ oz) bonito flakes (katsuoboshi)

Dashi Tare

  • 15 g (½ oz) dried kombu
  • 180 ml (6 fl oz) white soy sauce
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) soy sauce
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) mirin
  • 100 g ( oz) salt

Noodles

  • 2 teaspoons bottled lye water
  • 675 g (1 lb 8 oz/ cups) plain (all-purpose) flour

The Rest

  • ½ bunch spring onions (scallions), sliced into thin rounds
  • 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, to garnish

Method

Day 1 Ramen Stock

Put the pork bones, trotters and boiler chicken in a very large stockpot. Top with cold water and bring to the boil.

As soon as the water reaches a rolling boil, take the pot off the heat and drain everything into a clean sink. Wash everything really well under running water. Be sure to remove the grey coagulated blood and white protein from the crevices and watch for dirt between the toes of the trotters. Wash out the inside of the boiler chicken as well. This step is really important because it will mean the difference between a brownish stock and a beautiful milky one.

Clean the pot you’ve just used really well, removing any scum and debris. Return the pork bones, trotters and boiler chicken to the pot, add the bag of dried shiitakes and cover with water. Turn the heat up to high and bring to a rolling boil. Start skimming off all the scum that rises to the surface. Turn the heat down to medium to maintain a steady rolling boil. This will help any fat to emulsify with the stock.

After 5 hours, remove the boiler chicken and shiitakes. Keep the stock bubbling along, taking notice of the water level (if it becomes too low, top up with hot water).

At the eighth hour, add the pork fat to the stock. Reduce the heat: you want the stock simmering enough to melt the pork fat, but not at the rolling boil you had earlier. An hour later, peel and roughly dice the onion, and trim the spring onions. Add these to the stock, then turn the heat up to medium–high.

At the 10-hour mark, the bones should be calcified, which makes them very brittle. Bash the bones with a big wooden spoon or a solid wooden rolling pin until they break. Be careful not to burn yourself with the splashing stock. Once you have done this, scrape the bottom of the pot as the bones might catch.

Strain the stock into a large bowl through a fine sieve, removing all the meat and bone pieces. Cover and refrigerate to use the next day.

Masterstock Braised Pork Belly Chashu

Pour the masterstock into a large pot and bring to the boil. Roll the pork belly and secure it tightly with butcher’s twine. Add it to the masterstock and braise it for up to 4 hours, or until soft. Add the sake and mirin, then remove from the heat and leave for the pork belly to cool in the stock. Once the stock has cooled sufficiently, cover and refrigerate.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, then gently lower the eggs into the water. Set a timer for 5 minutes. As soon as the timer goes off, remove the eggs and plunge them into a bowl of iced water to stop the cooking process. After a few minutes, peel the eggs, and add them to the refrigerated masterstock pot with the pork belly.

Ramen Dashi

Pour the contents of the container into a large saucepan. Heat over a medium heat and, as the water starts to simmer, remove the kombu and set it aside. Add the dried anchovies to the simmering water, turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the bonito flakes and let them sink to the bottom. Strain the solids from the dashi and put them aside with the reserved kombu, as you will need these for the dashi tare.

Dashi Tare

Fill two 3-litre (105 fl oz/12 cup) containers with 2.5 litres (87 fl oz/10 cups) cold water. In one container, soak the kombu for the ramen dashi. In the other container, soak the kombu for the dashi tare. Cover, label which is which and refrigerate both containers overnight.

Pour the contents of the container into a large saucepan. Heat over a medium heat and, as the water starts to simmer, remove the kombu and set it aside. Add the dried anchovies to the simmering water, turn down the heat and let the mixture simmer gently for 30 minutes. Remove from the heat. Add the bonito flakes and let them sink to the bottom. Strain the solids from the dashi and put them aside with the reserved kombu, as you will need these for the dashi tare.

Noodles

Combine the lye water with 310 ml (10¾ fl oz/ cups) filtered tap water to make kansui water. Add the kansui water and the flour to the bowl of an electric mixer or food processor with a dough hook attachment. Mix until everything comes together and forms a dough. You can also do this by hand.

If the dough feels a little dry and brittle, add a bit more water. On a lightly floured bench, roll out the dough to a smooth thick(ish) rectangle. Fold it over and put in a zip-lock bag, making sure all the air pockets are squeezed out. Leave in the fridge for 1 hour to rest. This step is really important because the dough will soften and become pliable.

If you have a pasta machine, roll the dough out into thin sheets and cut into thin noodles. Alternatively roll it out as thin as you can by hand and slice into noodles that way.

The Rest

Remove the ramen stock from the fridge. All of the fat will have risen to the top and solidified, but don’t be afraid of this – the fat is really important to the flavour of the stock and texture of the dish, so leave it in. Put the stock in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.

Remove the pork belly chashu and eggs from the masterstock. Slice the pork thinly, and let it come to room temperature. Cut each egg in half lengthways.

Season the hot stock by mixing it with some of the ramen dashi and dashi tare. The ratio is purely a personal thing, so add each one slowly and stop when you’ve reached your own balance. The dashi adds umami, and will dilute the thick gelatinous pork stock, whereas the tare will add seasoning to the soup.

To Serve

Cook the noodles in rapidly boiling water until al dente – they should have a firm bite. Drain the noodles and transfer to a large serving bowl. Top with the pork chashu and ladle in the hot stock. Top with the eggs and spring onions, scatter with sesame seeds and then serve at once.

I think tonkotsu ramen is actually pretty easy to make. It takes a long time, but the steps are relatively simple. These photographed steps do help though, because it’s important to know what success looks like at each stage when you do it for the first time.