Confession: I am the biggest soup noodle floozy. Wonton noodles, laksa, har mee, pan mee, pho, udon, assam laksa… to heck with monogamy, I love them all! And then there’s ramen…
My relationship so far has been short but intense. Many eons ago, my ramen experience was limited to crappy instant packets in high school and even crappier “Chinese-style” versions in food courts. I finally popped my cherry at Ryo’s Ramen in North Sydney and it was pure pure lust. It’s like everything that’s amazing about pork gets concentrated into their broth making it so magical that it makes angels cry. And then there’s the sweet depth of the dashi based and soy flavoured version. Amazing how so much pleasure can be sought from the simplest of dishes.
I’ve always wanted to go out and buy kilos of piggy bones and make this for myself. One, because I’m a sucker for punishment and long drawn-out cooking and two, because I’ve always been fascinated with Japanese cuisine, which I never do at home. I know the process is long and tedious and not a good summertime activity on a hot and humid day. But the overall experience was eye-opening and just about worth the buckets of sweat. Not to mention the frustration of achieving perfect semi-boiled eggs that are essential to me for a good ramen (ugh, it took 6 eggs before I got it right!).
I love the heavier collagen-y pork ramen (tonkotsu) but I also adore the lighter shoyu (soy) version so this was like my ideal combo – a magical pork stock lightened with dashi and flavoured with soy. I’ve made it a few times, tweaking here and there. I definitely won’t claim this to be the most authentic ramen but it sure is doing the job of kicking my lustful cravings. Because quite frankly, there’s too much road rage to be had from my place to Ryo’s Ramen. And I rather stay home (and happy) and play with my soup :P
Shoyu Ramen with Roasted Pork Belly
• 500g pork belly, skin scored
• Vegetable oil
• Sea salt
• 1kg of pork ribs, cut into smaller portions
• 1.5 kg pork knuckle bones
• 1 bulb or head of garlic, ends trimmed and broken in half
• 5cm piece of ginger, sliced
• 1 onion, quartered
• 10cm piece of kombu
• 60 – 80ml light soy sauce (or to taste)
• 40ml mirin
• 40ml sake
• 1 Tbl caster sugar
• 30g dried bonito flakes
• 10cm piece of kombu
• 1 L of water
• 30ml soy sauce
• 20ml mirin
• 20ml sake
• 2 tsp caster sugar
For the bowls
• 750g ramen noodles (or enough for 4-6 people)
• 2 nori sheets, each cut into four
• 3 eggs – semi boiled and halved (recipe at the bottom)
• Scallions, thinly sliced
• Kamaboko or Narutomaki (Japanese fish cake), thinly sliced
• Nanami togarashi
Get your butcher to cut the bones into small pieces (about 5-10 cm). This will expose the marrow, which means more flavour and ramen-licious goodness. Alternatively, if you can’t find knuckle then any leg bone or pork hock will do.
For the pork belly (chashu), preheat oven to 200°C. Place belly in a roasting tray and rub the skin with oil and a generous amount of salt. Roast until cooked, about 60 – 75 minutes.
Remove from oven and transfer the belly to another tray and line the top with baking paper or foil. Place another heavy baking tray on top of it and weigh it down with cans to make the pork level. Cool to room temperature and then refrigerate until cold. Thinly slice and set aside.
For the pork stock
Preheat oven to 200°C. In a large roasting tin, place the pork ribs then lay the ginger, garlic and onion on top. Cook in the oven for an hour until ribs are browned and the ginger, garlic and onion are golden and roasted. After 30 minutes, flip around the ribs and veges so it’ll brown evenly.
In the meantime, bring a large stockpot of water to a rolling boil. Add the pork knuckle bones and blanch for about 5-10 minutes. This is to clean off the gunk and gross blood stuff off the bones. Tip out the dirty water and thoroughly wash the stockpot. Rinse the bones under cold water, using your hands to remove any last traces of blood and other dirty gunky scummy stuff. Place back in the washed stockpot.
When the pork ribs are done, remove from the oven and transfer the ribs and veges to the stockpot. Pour out the bulk of the fat and then deglaze the tin with a little water, scraping the bottom. Pour out the porky water over the bones. Fill stockpot with cold water to come up about an inch above the pork and veges.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium heat to simmer, skimming the scum off the surface. Simmer for about 3-4 hours. The soup will turn into an opaque, porky, collagenic stock. If it looks like it’s reducing too much, lower the heat and top up with a little water to keep the bones mostly submerged.
Strain through a fine sieve into a clean pot and continue to simmer to reduce the broth to 2 litres worth. Add the kombu, soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar and bring to a low simmer to keep warm.
For the dashi stock
Combine bonito flakes, kombu and 1 litre of cold water in another saucepan. Bring to the boil, then simmer over low heat for about 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and strain through a fine sieve back into saucepan. Add remaining soy sauce, mirin, sake, sugar and bring to the boil.
Add the dashi stock to the pork stock, remove kombu and check for seasonings.
Meanwhile, cook ramen in boiling water according to packet’s instructions until al dente. Drain and transfer to bowls. Pour over ramen soup, then top with sliced pork belly, half a semi-boiled egg, scallions, nori seaweed, japanese fish cakes and nanami togarashi and serve.
Any extra pork stock or ramen broth can be cooled completely, then frozen for up to 2 months. Refrigerate it first so the fat can solidify off the top. Skim off the fat then freeze.
For a clearer stock, simmer over low heat for about 6-7 hours rather than medium for 3-4.
Suggestions for other toppings – buttered corn kernels, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots or wakame.
Soy Sauce Eggs (shoyu tamago)
Use fresh eggs straight out from the fridge and only put enough water to come up 1cm above the eggs.
Bring water to a boil then carefully lower cold eggs into the pot. Lower the heat to medium so that the water is gently bubbling (as in not violently so). Cook for about 7 minutes.
Plunge eggs into a bowl filled with ice water to stop it from cooking. When cold, carefully peel the shell off the eggs.
In a bowl or jug, mix a 2:1 ratio of soya sauce and mirin until combined (eg 250ml of soy and 125ml of mirin). Add cold, peeled eggs and set aside in the fridge for 60 – 75 minutes until it’s evenly brown all over.
Continue soaking if you’d like the eggs darker however don’t let it sit in the soy bath for too long otherwise it’ll get too salty. Don’t forget to turn the eggs every so often so it’ll colour evenly.
When ready, remove and slice in half.
Strained soya sauce mix can be stored in the fridge for future use. If any egg bits gets into it, strain the soya sauce then bring to a rapid boil and boil for a few minutes. Cool then refrigerate.
Recipe has been adapted and inspired from a few different recipes and cookbooks with special mention to Momofuku and Gourmet Traveller.
Glossary of ingredients:
Nanami Togarashi – a seven-spiced Japanese chilli/pepper seasoning (also known as Shichimi Togarashi)
Dried Bonito Flakes (katsuoboshi) – dried and smoked skipjack tuna that has been shaved into flakes
Kombu – dried kelp
Mirin – sweet rice wine used for cooking