Recreating the craft of a good ramen broth is not an easy feat at home. But where there’s a will there’s certainly a way, and I’ve engineered a belly-warming (and sinfully inauthentic) workaround for a rich, thick ramen broth at home, trading effort for time.
Initially, the aim was to recreate a tonkotsu ramen using a slow cooker for 20 or so hours then following with a rapid boil for an hour before straining and serving, but there was an immediate barrier: pork bones.
I’ve engineered a belly-warming (and sinfully inauthentic) workaround for a thick ramen broth at home, trading effort for time.
Butchers (both at the supermarket and independent) now rarely buy in secondary cuts, often ordering in popular cuts of meat instead. Living in an inner-city suburb, that made it difficult to find pork bones or trotters to use, and what's the use in a recipe if you can't make it.
With that in mind, I settled on a packet of smoked pork bones, a pork hock (both in the smoked meat/ham section) and some chicken wings which can all be easily sourced from the local supermarket.
The stock for this famous Japanese noodle soup is made from pork bones, which are boiled for hours, breaking down the collagen, marrow and fat, unleashing a creamy, white liquid. Traditionally, the eggs are boiled in the stock; add in step 3 of the recipe with the flavourings if cooking this way. You can make the stock up to the end of step 1 a day ahead.
Here's how to make ramen while you sleep
Starting around 5pm the night before serving, I placed all my meat in a pot covered with water, boiled for 20 minutes then discarded the water. This keeps the broth clear of impurities.
Then, I popped the bones and aromatics in the slow cooker, covered in fresh water, and cooked on high at a gentle rolling simmer (my slow cooker runs very cold so you may want to set yours to low or medium) for 22 hours, topping up with extra water once in the morning. Not pictured: the slow cooker in the laundry with the fan on and window open to reduce the rich aromas filling the house.
After that, I fished out the aromatics and picked off some large pieces of hock meat (for serving). Then, I placed all the bones into a huge stockpot with an extra couple litres of water and set to a rolling boil for an hour while finishing up some work.
Magically, just like the internet promised, the once-clear broth turned opaque as the fat, gelatin and proteins emulsified into the stock.
Finally, I strained off the stock and added miso, mirin and soy as the recipe suggested, checking for seasoning first, and served over al dente noodles, garnishing with leftover pork hock meat, sliced spring onion, bamboo shoots and a soy egg. Twenty four hours of waiting was gobbled up in fewer minutes and the ramen craving had subsided.
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