The abura – oil – comes from the rendered pork fat layered over a soy sauce blend called tare. Fresh ramen noodles are added to the bowl, followed by toppings, including marinated bamboo shoots, spring onions (scallions), nori (seaweed) and chāshū (braised pork).
Abura soba, contrary to its name, is not actually soba, or buckwheat noodles, but a dry-style ramen created in Tokyo’s Kitatama district in the 1950s.
- 1 tbsp kizami nori (finely shredded nori)
- 1 tbsp thinly sliced spring onion (scallion)
- ½ onion, finely diced
- rice vinegar and chilli oil, to serve
Chashu (braised pork) (see Note)
- 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) rolled boneless pork belly
- 1 tbsp salt
- 1 tsp sanshō (Japanese pepper)
- 1 litre (1 quart/4 cups) soy sauce
- 300 g (10½ oz) caster (superfine) sugar
- 200 ml (6¾ fl oz) sake
- 1 tbsp neutral oil, for frying
- ½ garlic clove
- 1 dried chilli
- 1 spring onion (scallion), green part only
Tare (see Note)
- 100 g (3½ oz) chicken bones
- 250 ml (8½ fl oz/1 cup) soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1 whole dried shiitake mushroom
Flavoured oil (see Note)
- reserved fat from tare and ramen broth
- 1 tbsp katsuobushi (dried skipjack tuna flakes)
Fresh ramen noodles
- 12 g (⅜ oz) Kansai powder or 20 g (¾ oz) bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour
- 1 tsp salt
- potato starch, to dust
Menma (marinated bamboo shoots)
- 1 400 g (14 oz) tin sliced bamboo shoots, drained
- 200 ml (6¾ fl oz) reserved braised pork cooking liquid
- 1 handful hanakatsuo (dried skipjack tuna flakes)
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
This recipe makes 1 serving, however the amount of condiments and braised pork will mean you will have leftovers either for more servings or to store in the fridge for a few days to use in other dishes.
This recipe needs to be started 1 day in advance.
Simmering time: 2 hours
- The day before you plan to make abura soba, prepare the chāshū for roasting. Season the pork with salt and sanshō and place in the refrigerator, uncovered, to cure overnight.
- The next day, place the soy sauce, sugar and sake in a saucepan over medium heat and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
- Heat the oil in a large frying pan over very high heat until it begins to shimmer. Carefully sear the pork belly on all sides until browned. Transfer the pork to a large, heavy-based saucepan and add the cooled soy sauce mixture, garlic, chilli and spring onion, along with enough water to cover the pork.
- Bring to the boil over medium heat, skimming away any impurities that rise to the surface. Cut out a circle of baking paper the same size as the mouth of the saucepan and place on top of the liquid; this will prevent it from evaporating too quickly. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours.
- Test that the pork belly is cooked by piercing it with a knife; it should go through easily. Carefully remove the pork belly from the cooking liquid and place on a wire rack. Refrigerate the pork until required (chilling the pork belly makes it easier to cut). Strain and reserve the cooking liquid.
- To make the noodles, you first need to prepare the alkaline solution that gives the noodles their springy texture and lovely colour. If you are using bicarbonate of soda, preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F) and line a tray with baking paper. Spread the bicarbonate of soda onto the tray and bake for 1 hour, stirring every 15 minutes. This converts the bicarbonate of soda into sodium carbonate, an alkaline powder like kansui powder.
- Whisk the kansui powder or sodium carbonate with 300 ml (10¼ fl oz) water; this is your alkaline solution. Place the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl and slowly trickle in the alkaline solution. Mix by hand until it forms a very stiff dough, adding more water if it is too tough to knead. The dough should be hard but malleable, and shouldn’t crumble.
- Roll the dough out into a rectangle as best as you can and feed it through the widest setting of a pasta machine. Fold the dough in half and feed it through the machine once more. Reduce the width between the rollers and feed the dough through again. Continue this process until the dough is approximately 3–4 mm (⅛ in) thick.
- Using a sharp knife or the pasta cutter on the pasta machine, slice the dough into thin noodles and dust liberally with potato starch to prevent it from sticking. Cover with plastic wrap and transfer to the refrigerator until you are ready to cook the noodles.
- To make the menma, place the bamboo shoots in a saucepan and cover with water, then bring to the boil over high heat and boil for 5 minutes. Drain and repeat the process two more times. This removes the tinned taste from the bamboo shoots and makes it easier for the marinade to be absorbed.
- Return the drained bamboo shoots to the saucepan and add the braised pork cooking liquid and enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.
- Place a sheet of paper towel on top of the liquid, followed by the hanakatsuo. Simmer for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool to room temperature. Discard the kitchen paper and hanakatsuo. Reserve 1 tablespoon of bamboo shoots for this recipe and transfer the remaining bamboo shoots and liquid to an airtight container.
- To make the tare, preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Place the chicken bones in a roasting tin and roast for 45 minutes. Strain the juices that have collected in the bottom of the tin and set aside with the ramen broth fat. Transfer the roasted bones to a large saucepan over medium heat and add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Transfer to the refrigerator to chill, then strain into a bowl and set aside.
- Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Cook the ramen noodles for 3 minutes (or follow the packet instructions if you are using store-bought noodles) and drain thoroughly.
- To assemble the abura soba, place the tare and flavoured oil (see Note) in the bottom of a warm serving bowl, followed by the ramen noodles. Top with the braised pork, menma, kizami nori and spring onion.
- Mix together just before eating. Add diced onion, rice vinegar and chilli oil to taste.
• You will need 2 tbsp of the tare, 1 tbsp of the flavoured oil and 1 piece of braised pork per serving. You can adjust the quantities to make less, increase the other ingredients and menma to yield 4 serves, or keep the leftovers in the fridge for a few days for snacks or other Japanese dishes.
Recipe from Tokyo Local by Caryn Liew and Brendan Liew, Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99