Homemade Tonkotsu Ramen

by Yi on August 10, 2011 · 0 comments

Post image for Homemade Tonkotsu Ramen

It is almost impossible to not known the existence of Japanese ramen in New York City. With ramen shops literally on every street and cult followings of hot shops such as Ippudo and Toto, the latest ramen boom has helped popularize this Japanese comfort  soup noodle dish in the Big Apple.

While my obsession to ramen started several years ago, I did not have the courage to cook my own bowl of noodle until one year ago after eating a bowl of ramen that had more sodium than my whole week’s sodium intake combined. I decided to make a bowl of noodle that had just right amount of salt so I could actually enjoy the wonderful soup.

Making ramen at home is not for the faint of heart as it is extremely time consuming. Another challenge is that the authentic ramen recipes are scarce on the internet so you  have to rely on your own palate to determine what and how much ingredients to use.

The konkotsu ramen featured on this post is from one of my earlier attempts. This is by no mean a full recipe but rather something I’d like to share and get some feedback. I’d love to hear suggestions from all you ramen frenetic on how to improve the recipe.

Tonkotsu soup base is my personal favorite. This pork-bone based soup is milky, lip-sticking, reamy, thick, and full of intense pork flavor. Knowing nothing about making this soup I combine some of the recipes I found such as this one with my own ramen eating experience from various ramen shops.

The Soup Base

The pork-bone soup is the soul of this ramen. Although tonkotsu broth is all made of pork bones, I notice that each ramen shop adds their own variation to the soup. May it be a hint of smoky flavor or a subtle vegetable taste this extra flavor provides a balance to richness of the pork broth.

In my tonkotsu soup, I use a lot of marrow-rich pork shin bones. I also add pig’s trotters to increase the thickness and some chicken bones. To flavor the soup, I add fried shallot, scallions, garlic, ginger, onions, whole white peppercorn, and shiitake mushroom.

The creamy and opaque soup is achieved when the soup is boiled long enough so that all the fat, collagen, and bone marrow are completely broken down and emulsified.

Needless to say this process takes a long time. Some suggest 8 hours as absolute minimum while others go for as many as 60 hours as if cooking gas is free.

My finding is that if you boil over medium heat with a lid on, the soup starts to turn milky after about 4 hours. I let it boil for another 3 hours to fully extract the flavor from each ingredient. During the boiling, I periodically stir the soup, remove the gunk, and add more water.

Once the boiling is done. You first want to go ahead and remove all the ingredients from the soup. Then you also want to remove all the excess fat. To do that I normally cool it down and stick it to the fridge overnight so the fat and liquid will be solidified. Next day I just simply need to remove the top layer which is the fat only.

Now the soup is good to go.

The Meat

Kontotsu ramen is traditionally topped with Japanese chatsu which is braised or roasted pork in soy sauce braised seasoning. On this very attempt, I braise my pork using a Chinese recipe called red-cooked pork. It’s basically pork based in soy sauce, cooking wine, and some dry herbs. To my surprise the pork goes very well with the ramen.

Other Toppings

I like my ramen with many different kinds of toppings at once. Soft-boiled egg is something I’d always want in my ramen. My perfect version of soft-boiled egg is soft egg white with a creamy egg yolk that is 1/3 solid and 2/3 liquid.

Besides the egg, I have tried other toppings which are listed below:

Bean sprouts
Corn
Dried seaweek
Fish cake (Naruto)
Picked gingers
Seasoned bamboo
Seaweed
Scallions
“Wood ear” mushroom

The Noodle

Noodles with different thickness and curvature are used in ramen. Most of the ramen shops make their own in house noodle to suite their broth. My personal favorite noodle for Konkotsu ramen is medium thickness curly noodle. The medium thickness makes it easier for the flavor to penetrate while still hold the firm texture. The curly shape helps to get some soup with each bite.

Unfortunately at the time of this attempt I can only find a thicker noodle from an Asian supermarket.

To Assemble

Add the hot pork-bone broth to a large noodle bowl. Flavor it with sea salt to your taste. You can also flavor the soup with miso.

Add cooked noodle to the soup and gently mix the noodle with the soup.

Finally add the toppings of your choice.

By the way it is perfectly fine to slurp up the noodle when you are at a Japanese ramen shop so feel free to do so if you feel like it :)

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Bruce Ma October 24, 2012 at 10:16 am

Hi, thanks for sharing. I have been researching on how to make Tonkotsu soup base in the past month. I have tried three times already. However, the soup did not turning milky white as I expected. I want to develop a recipe that I will make over and over again. So to cook it over the stove for 60 hours is not acceptable for me. I am using a vacuum pot cooker for cooking (not a pressure cooker). The first two pots, although the soup was thick and tasty, they lacked the creamy white color. They were more like light brown. I used the same ingredients you used. Except for cooking time, what else am I missing?

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2 Yi October 24, 2012 at 11:04 pm

hello Bruce, thanks for visiting. The trick to make the milky white soup is to boil the soup over high heat for at last 2 hours. The vigorous boiling will break down the fat and collagen and turns the soup white. Make sure you use a large stock pot because 2 hours of serious boiling will reduce your liquid substantially. I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have any questions. Thanks.

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3 Bruce Ma October 25, 2012 at 7:32 am

Hi, thanks for the tip. The soup is now cooked for over 40 hours. When it reach 36 hours, I turned up the heat and cooked it for about 2 hours. The soup has turn a little whiter but it is still a light brown color. I think I am going to try again next week, but I may try using chicken feet instead of chicken bones. I seem to remember when my aunt made chicken feet with black eye pea soup, the soup was white. I don’t know if it will help but I am running out of idea.

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4 Bruce Ma October 26, 2012 at 9:46 am

Errr… failed! The soup stock was cooked over 60 hours, last two hours in high heat. The soup did not turn white. The fat was all gone from the bones and into the liquid. At the end, I was able to crush the pork bone with two fingers. I must be doing something wrong.

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5 Yi October 30, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Hi Bruce, did you try to boil the soup over high heat the first two hours? chicken feet will definitely be helpful too. Please let me know how it came out.

6 Bruce Ma November 28, 2012 at 3:30 pm

Hi Yi, the soup did not come out white. It was a light brown color. I did boil it in high heat. At this point I am not sure what the problem is. One thing I want to know, as I am boiling the soup, should I leave it alone or should I continue to scoop out the foam that floats to the top? Maybe I will try again this weekend. But I have already done 5 pots and I am about to give up. ):

7 Flora Tsang January 25, 2012 at 11:30 pm

I’m from SF, but am in NY for the week and will definitely be taking some of your ramen restaurant recs!

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8 Yi January 25, 2012 at 11:42 pm

Hi Flora, I am by no means an expert in ramen espeically when I talk to someone from CA….but here are a few of my current favorites in NYC:
If you like Tonkotsu: Ippudo, Minca
If you like chicken broth:Totto Ramen
General shops: Menkui Tei

I’d love to hear your feedback!!

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9 alice January 26, 2012 at 10:54 am

Hi Flora, I LOVE ramen. I was really impressed when I was in Minca last time. It’s a small little place with great pleasure to the taste buds.

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10 Yudith @ Blissfully Delicious October 15, 2011 at 1:49 pm

Wow, this looks great! Thanks so much for stopping by my blog so I got to discover your blog! :)

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11 Yi October 15, 2011 at 2:28 pm

Thanks for your visit Yudith!

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12 Nate @ House of Annie August 22, 2011 at 10:17 pm

Great job! I adore tonkotsu ramen. We can’t get any good ramen here in Kuching but at least I know I can make it from scratch.

Thanks for posting!

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13 Yi August 23, 2011 at 8:15 pm

Thanks Nate @ House of Annie! Hope you get to make it!

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14 tigerfish August 12, 2011 at 7:51 pm

What is better than homemade? And what’s better when it turn out so successful? I like that you added more vegetables to the bowl of ramen – so much more wholesome. And I love pork-bone based ramen :)

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15 Yi August 14, 2011 at 6:11 pm

Thanks tigerfish.

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16 Vivienne August 11, 2011 at 9:47 pm

amazing effort, not for the faint hearted for sure!! yeah, when i went to japan i found they like they ramen reallllly salty for some reasons! like how you added the trotters to increase the thickness of soup…yummy and beautify-ing with all the collagen hahaha.
oh, u guys have ippudo in NY? thats so cool – i tried ippudo in Tokyo – was pretty good!

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17 Yi August 11, 2011 at 10:52 pm

Thanks Viv.
Yup Ippudo is in NY. I have to say Ippudo is my to-go place for Konkotsu ramen – only if I don’t mind the usual 2 hour wait during the dinner time:)

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18 imabug August 11, 2011 at 9:12 am

most stocks freeze well once de-fatted so I would expect this ramen soup base to be the same. make a big batch and dispense into smaller pint or quart sized containers (not glass) and freeze. make sure to leave some room for expansion. Then you can bring out as much or as little as you need.

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19 Yi August 11, 2011 at 11:55 pm

Hi imabug, thanks for your visit!

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20 Wei August 13, 2011 at 10:54 pm

I do the same thing! I always have some soup stock in freezer, so I can fix a quick meal on weekdays. I cook beef tendon along with pork bones for the soup. When the beef tendon is soft enough, I would cook it with lots of tomatoes and pixian broad bean paste.

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21 Yi August 14, 2011 at 6:13 pm

yummm i love beef tendon! And yes Pixian bean paste would definitely add a lot of flavor to it!

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22 Fiona August 11, 2011 at 8:39 am

I want to make this at home but I am wondering how long you can keep the soup base?
I want to make a bunch at once so I can eat it for multiple times lol

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23 Yi August 11, 2011 at 8:25 pm

I agree with what imabug said. You can simply freeze the extra stock and use it whenever you want it. Let me know how it comes out!

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24 Yi December 1, 2012 at 4:23 pm

Hi Bruce, sorry to hear that the latest attempt didn’t work out. I think I’ll post a video showing the soup. Please check back sometime for the update. Thanks.

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