The great thing about this recipe, though, is that the individual components can also be enjoyed separately: the chāshū (braised pork) is brilliant with takana (spicy mustard greens) and rice, and the ajitama (soy-seasoned egg) can be eaten on its own, with rice or a variety of Japanese dishes.
This Tokyo-style shōyu (soy-based) ramen recipe calls for its various components to be made from scratch, so is best attempted over a weekend as a ramen project.
- thinly sliced spring onions (scallions), to serve
- nori (seaweed), to serve
Chāshū (braised pork)
- 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 clove garlic
- 1 dried chilli
- 1 spring onion (scallion), green part only
Menma (marinated bamboo shoots)
- 1 400 g (14 oz) tin sliced bamboo shoots, drained
- 200 ml (6¾ fl oz) reserved Chāshū cooking liquid
- 1 handful hanakatsuo (dried skipjack tuna flakes)
Ajitama (soy-seasoned eggs)
- 4 eggs
- 400 ml (13½ fl oz) reserved Chāshū cooking liquid
- 1 kg (2 lb 3 oz) chicken bones
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) pork bones
- 1 onion
- 1 apple, halved
- 1 carrot
- 2 spring onions (scallions), green part only
- 1 3-cm (1¼ in) piece ginger
- 1 4-cm (1½ in) piece konbu (dried kelp, see Note)
- 3 whole dried shiitake mushrooms
- 12 g (⅜ oz) kansui powder or 20 g (¾ oz) bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
- 600 g (1 lb 5 oz) plain (all-purpose) flour, or a combination of flours, such as 90% plain, 10% wholemeal (whole-wheat)
- 1 tsp salt
- potato starch, to dust
- 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 (optional)
- reserved fat from tare and ramen broth
- 1 tbsp katsuobushi (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 needs to be started 1 day in advance.
Simmering time: 2 hours
Cooling time: 20 minutes
Marinating time: 6 hours
- The day before you plan to make ramen, 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 for the ajitama and bamboo shoots.
- To make the marinated bamboo shoots, place the 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.
- To make the ajitama, fill a large bowl with iced water. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil over high heat.
- Prick the bottom of the eggs with a thumb tack or special egg pricker (see Note). This prevents the egg from splitting during boiling and creates an almost perfect oval shape.
- Carefully place the eggs in the boiling water and boil for exactly 6 minutes, transfer to the iced water using a slotted spoon. Set aside for 20 minutes to allow them to cool completely. After 20 minutes, peel the eggs and immerse them in the reserved chāshū cooking liquid. Transfer them to the refrigerator to marinate for 6–8 hours.
- To make the ramen broth, place the chicken and pork bones in a large stock pot, along with 1.5 litres (1½ quarts/6 cups) water. Bring to the boil over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 hours, regularly skimming away any impurities that rise to the surface, until the foam turns white.
- Add the onion, apple, carrot, spring onions and ginger and cook for 30 minutes. Add the konbu and mushrooms and simmer for 1 hour.
- Strain the broth into a container, discarding the solids, and chill in the refrigerator. After chilling, scrape off the solidified fat that has risen to the surface and reserve for the flavoured oil.
- 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 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.
- To make the flavoured oil, place the reserved fats and katsuobushi in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat. Cook for 5 minutes, then remove from the heat. When cool, strain the oil into a bowl and discard the katsuobushi.
- To assemble 1 bowl of ramen (simply multiply the quantities below if serving more than 1; this recipe makes enough for 4 bowls), bring 300 ml (10¼ fl oz) ramen broth to a boil in a saucepan over medium heat.
- Slice the chāshū into 5 mm (¼ in) slices.
- Fill a separate large saucepan with water and bring to the boil over high heat. Measure out 150 g (5½ oz) ramen noodles and place in the boiling water. Cook for 3 minutes (or follow the packet instructions if you are using store-bought noodles).
- Meanwhile, place 1 tablespoon tare and ½ teaspoon flavoured oil in a warm bowl and add the hot ramen broth. Drain the cooked noodles well and add to the bowl, mixing to incorporate the tare and oil. Top with 2 pieces of chāshū, 1 ramen egg, 1 tablespoon spring onion, 1 tablespoon marinated bamboo shoots, if using, and 1 sheet of nori. Serve immediately.
•Egg prickers are available from some Japanese variety goods stores or supermarkets.
• Konbu and kombu are both names used for dried edible kelp (a type of seaweed).
Recipe from Tokyo Local by Caryn Liew and Brendan Liew, Smith Street Books, RRP $39.99