The Ramen craze has well and truly arrived in Kuala Lumpur. Over the last few months, quite a few Ramen joints sprouted, including the infamous Menya Musashi in One Utama (as well as Gantetsu), Hokkaido Santouka in Pavilion and many more. What’s not to love? We are after all a Noodle nation. I’m sure some of us are guilty of cooking the occasional instant ramen. But of course, those chemical-laden versions can be detrimental to our health, and they really have nothing on a bowl with broth that’s been simmered for at least half a day (48 hours for some) and toppings that have been carefully prepared.
Instead of visiting these places (which I will get to, eventually), I’ve decided to try my hands on making a satisfying bowl of Ramen, my style. So off I went with the research for recipes online. If you have done this before, you’d know that there’s no hard and fast rules for making Ramen. Often it’s a closely guarded secret for generations. There are also many regional differences. Thanks to great people like Marc from norecipes.com and Kenji from seriouseats.com who have provided detailed accounts of their Ramen making experiences, I decided I’d start with the basic Tonkotsu Ramen.
This is by no mean THE be-all and end-all recipe, as there are things I’d do differently the next time. But it’s a good home made recipe if you are craving for it. Firstly, the broth. Marc and Kenji have both used a mixed Pork and Chicken broth, while some only use Pork. Their recipes called for Pork Trotters and shanks. Personally, I’d rather a less greasy version (although to get the super thick gelatinous broth then trotters would be more ideal) so I went for just Pork shanks and Chicken carcass. Marc simmered his broth for 5 hours, while Kenji did 12 hours. I went for the middle ground: 8 hours.
So without further ado (as I can see this post is dragging longer and longer *scream*), here’s how I made my first ever Tonkotsu broth:
(Makes about 4 servings)
0.5kg Pork leg bone, cut into several pieces (ask your butcher to do so if you can)
1 Chicken carcass
1 thumb size Ginger, sliced thin
1 small Garlic trimmed but whole
1 teaspoon Cracked White Pepper
1 large Onion roughly sliced
In a very hot oven, roast onion, ginger and onion until very very brown, almost charred.
Fill the biggest pot you have at home with water and bring to boil. Blanch the bones for 10 minutes or until the ‘bleeding’ stop. Drain and wash the bones removing as much brown stuff as possible. Return the bones to pot filled with fresh boiling water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam or scum from time to time until none left. During this time you could add the onion, garlic and ginger when they are sufficiently cooked.
Cook the stock with lid on for 8 hours. Keep the fire medium-low for a rolling boil. If the water runs low, add more.
Charshu/Char Siu/Braised Pork Belly
This is probably the second most important part of Tonkotsu Ramen. It should be delicate, fork tender and bursting with flavours. I had wanted to roll my Pork belly as it’s said to produce juicier meat. However the cut that I’ve bought had a bit of bone in, so I just cut the strip in two and braise.
1 pound slab of Pork Belly
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin
1/4 cup sugar
3 whole garlic cloves
1 thumb size ginger, smashed with knife
1 small shallot, cut in half
1 cup water or more
Cut the slab of Pork Belly in half. Heat the rest of the ingredients in a small pot until boiling. Add pork belly. The liquid should almost cover the meat. Cover with lid, but not tight. Cook for 3-4 hours in low heat (slow bubbles), turning the pork occasionally. Test with a fork of skewer for tenderness.
Once the pork belly is done. Let cool and then chill the whole thing in the fridge for few hours. I did mine for 4. Overnight would be best.
To serve, cut the pork belly into desired thickness and gently heat up in the braising liquid.
Ajitsuke Tamago (Marinated Egg)
Ahh… My favourite part! Seriously, I don’t know why a lot of restaurants get this so wrong. I hate when I order Ramen only to be confronted with overcooked egg with powdery egg yolk. Eww. You know I love my runny egg yolks! It’s so so simple to make too. First, you bring a pot of water to a boil. Drop room temperature eggs super gently in the water and boil for exactly 4.5 minutes. Remove from water, peel under running cold tap or in a bowl of ice water. Handle the peeled eggs with care.
Then, in a zip lock bag, add equal part of soy sauce and mirin and a little water. Put the eggs in and seal the bag (squeezing all the air out so the marinade will go all around the eggs). Leave them in the fridge overnight. They will be good for up to 2 days.
Other toppings I’ve used:
Wood ear mushroom (Black Fungus) – I’ve used the fresh ones so I simply clean and chop them finely and blanch in boiling water for 2 minutes.
I forgot to use the Seaweed the first time but did for the second bowl.
As for the noodles, I’ve bought a packet of Chinese ramen as I couldn’t find the straight whiter type in the fresh noodles section. If you can’t get those, then the yellow curly ones (usually seen with other types of ramen) would be fine too. I was just being pedantic.
Time to put a bowl of noodles together!
First, make up the broth! I used the broth and braising liquid from pork to a 3:1 ratio. Then I just seasoned with extra sea salt and just a little extra shoyu. Done!
Cook the noodles according to directions on packet. Drain and add to bowl. Ladle the broth over. And arrange the toppings neatly on top.
My pork belly fell apart when I tried to cut it! I guess I should have chilled it further. But it says a lot about the tenderness!
Ahh! After so many hours of hardwork. I finally got to savour my bowl of Ramen. Is it worth it? Definitely! Beats the 2 minutes version any day.