Ramen Stock

The plan in Tess’s Japanese Kitchen is to blog about the 7 ramen recipes in my Japanese-cooking project book. I spent 10 or 11 hours making 2 similar, but different stocks for ramen. It’s Passover, so who would cook pork now? Well. Mr. Tess is out of town,and the weather is still cool enough to steam up the kitchen making stocks, and they will freeze until I want them.

Ramen is a whole category of food that is essentially a Japanese dish of noodles in hot broth, topped with vegetables and meat. Japanese ramen can be differentiated by the flavor-base of the broth: shio ramen (salt flavored soup), shoyu ramen (soy sauce flavored soup), tonkotsu ramen (pork bone soup), and miso ramen. Ramen can also be served chilled, fried, or served without a broth. The noodles vary from thin and straight to thick and curly, from soft to toothsome. To see regional Japanese variations of ramen, take a look at rameniac. Of course I won’t be able to duplicate the regional specialties, but we will have at least a small taste of Japan.

I recommend that you watch the movie, Tampopo (1985), directed by Juzo Itami.

  • 2 pounds pork knuckles and rib bones (I used 2 pounds pork hocks and about 1/2 pound of rib bones and neck bones—I believe knuckles and hocks are the same)
  • 2 pounds chicken thighs with bones (I used chicken wings this time)
  • 1 small onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 leek, green part only
  • 1 ounce ginger (about the size of a ping-pong ball)
  • 1/2 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
  • one 4″ square of kombu*
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Basic Stock for Ramen Noodles
Ramen Sutokku
yields 2 quarts
1. Hack the chicken bones into a few pieces. Do the same with the pork bones if the butcher has not done it for you (these bones are very sturdy). Put plenty of cold water into a large pot, and add the pork and chicken. Bring the mixture to a boil, and cook for 1 minute.
2. Drain the pork and chicken, discarding the water. Rinse the pork and chicken under cold running water. Clean the pot.
3. Return the pork and chicken to the clean pot. Add the onion, leek, ginger, garlic, and kombu. Add water to cover the ingredients by 1 inch, and bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat to low, and simmer gently, uncovered, for 7 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the bones covered.

For this first type of stock, I was very careful to maintain the simmer so low that only a few bubbles at a time would break the surface. Gentle heat means that your finished stock will be clear.

4. Strain the stock through a sieve lined with cotton cloth, and discard the bones and vegetables. Add 1 teaspoon salt, stirring, and let the stock cool at room temperature. The stock keeps 1 week refrigerated, and can be frozen for later use. Leave the fat on the surface if you’re refrigerating the stock, but remove the fat before freezing the stock.
For the second stock, I used 2 pounds of pork hocks, 1 pound pork neck bones, and 3/4 pound pigs feet. The blanching of the bones and the ingredients were the same. But I cooked the stock on higher heat with a constant boil. The boiling helped to emulsify the fat and collagen which made the second stock somewhat opaque and white.
A very mini-history of ramen: Noodles in broth have been part of Chinese cuisine as much as 4 or 5 thousand years ago, but it was during the Meiji period in Japan (19th century, a time of Japan opening trade with the world) that ramen first came to Japan. Ramen became very popular in Japan, during the difficult time before World War II (Japanese incursion into China and Korea then military personnel returning home with a taste for Chinese food) and after the Second World War (rice and food shortages and influx of cheap wheat flour from the U.S.). In 1958, instant noodles were invented by the late Momofuku Ando, founder and chairman of Nissin Foods.

*Edited to add a picture of kombu.kombu package

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More in this series about ramen:
Ramen Stock:
Homemake Ramen Stock
Ramen Toppings:
garlic paste for ramenmenmachashu

Ramen Recipes:
shoyu ramenshoyu ramenHiyashi Chuka Soba Japanese Summer Ramen

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Can I Learn Japanese Cooking? Last Night of Passover: Japanese Cooking
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35 thoughts on “Ramen Stock

  1. Pingback: Shoyu Ramen « Tess’s Japanese Kitchen

  2. Pingback: easy miso ramen « Gourmet Traveller

  3. Kombu is giant kelp. It can be found at many Japanese or Asian stores, but is uncommon in a typical supermarket (though health food stores may have it). It comes dried, either in large sheets (which you have to cut yourself) or pre-sliced. When wet, it gives off a slimy film that is an important part of Japanese soup stock.

    I tried this recipe last week, by the way– it was delicious. I had some trouble, though– the recipe doesn’t say how you know when the stock is “done”– I kept adding water to keep the bones covered, but by the end, I had only a jar’s worth of stock (about two cups), far short of the two quarts promised. I don’t know where I went wrong.

  4. Hi janetching!
    I edited this post to add a picture of a package of kombu. It is a kind of seaweed, often labeled as “kelp” in Japanese stores. It is the basis of dashi, the basic stock of Japanese cooking. I contains natural glutomates, like MSG, that make the umami flavor which is so necessary for Japanese cooking. There are many brands available, so the package might look different.
    Thanks for reminding me that I should do some site maintainence to update the “essential ingredients” page for one thing—I was certain that information was on that page.
    Hope the picture helps?
    By the way, do you have a blog? If so, you are welcome to link your name in posts you write with open ID, if I am not a blog dummy?

  5. Hi Adam!
    Glad that you liked the recipe (s?— both the clear and the milky versions). This recipe is not quite the same as in my project book, but the concept of keeping the bones well covered applies. At least an inch of water, but be generous with the covering water! Don’t try to fit the bones into the pot efficiently, that is, well packed. Lots of bones, and lots of space. And you don’t want to cook the liquid down as if you are reducing a veal stock—grrrr! there is a French name for that?. I am no expert, but if your stock gells to the texture of Jello,or a bit softer when it’s cold, you are good to go. Did your stock firm up quite stiff? Perhaps you have a concentrated stock?
    By the way, do you have a blog/website as well?
    As always, your input is welcome.
    Tess

  6. Hello, Tess! I’m so happy to talk to you! I followed the instructions for “clear” stock, but I think I may have messed up because my stock was not clear– more like vanilla pudding. It did have a Jello consistency, and tasted delicious. I also followed your shoyu ramen and chashu recipes– pork flank is difficult to find, so I used pork chops instead.

    I love cooking Japanese, but I don’t know enough to have a website. I like this website for more traditional dishes and the bento websites (especially Cooking Cute) for “modern” dishes.

    Ever since I watched Tampopo, I’ve been searching for a way to make the perfect ramen. I like your recipe because it looks and tastes just like it did in the movie!

    I’m behind you all the way– keep posting delicious recipes!

  7. Adam,
    Huh. I wanted my milky stock more white, even like vanilla pudding! When I try this again, perhaps I’ll succeed. I made a lot of stock to do the recipes for my book project, but I don’t want to post only ramen recipes…
    If you try to make stock again, perhaps you’d get a more clear stock with chicken wings. When I make plain chicken stock, I never used thighs—wing-tips and the first joint with the 2 bones, plus back bones and ribs. Lots of water to start, never boil it hard, and strain at the end.
    Anyway, I’m glad to hear that you tried the shoyu ramen and the chashu recipes. The pork flank can be hard to find! I wonder, how did the pork chops work out? You want a lot of layered fat, and if I’d guess about a substitute, I’d say pork shoulder. Chops here are usually quite lean and dry; I think they are cut from the loin? Oh, but no, there are shoulder chops too. Huh.

  8. When I made my stock, I didn’t just use bones– I used bones with meat on them. I had pork spareribs and chicken thighs. The stock was the same color as your “milky” stock above.

    Am I supposed to use just the bones, with no meat on them? How do I do that– eat the meat off and put the discarded bones into stock? (Seems kind of gross)

    The chops were, in fact, quite lean and dry. But that’s kind of what I was going for– part of the reason I cook Japanese is to avoid excess fats. In Tampopo, they definitely use a boneless loin to put in the ramen, but loin is expensive (albeit delicious). Probably the reason pork flank is so hard to find is because 99% of the time, it’s immediately sliced into it’s most common form– bacon. I think loin would be closer than shoulder, though.

  9. No, not just the bones! Well, a lot of people make chicken stock from just the carcass of a roasted chicken, which is mostly just bones with a little meat still stuck on it. I was describing the wing section that has 2 bones inside and the wing tip which doesn’t have much meat but lots of collagen. (I save the drumette part of the wings to grill because they are delicious and fun to eat.)

    I should have just said “chicken backs.” (Necks are good too, but harder to get.) They don’t have a lot of meat on them, but the backs have lots of collagen as well. It’s the collagen that makes the stock gell and gives it the smooth rich “mouth-feel.”

    You’re right, stock making can seem kind of gross…

  10. I tried this again, this time with chicken wings and a lot of water covering– I was a little worried it would be too diluted, but it turned out GREAT! This time, instead of the consistency of pudding, it was the consistency of gelatin. I made the most beautiful, delicious ramen portions you’ve ever seen– I think you would have been proud.

    Wish you could have seen it.
    -A

  11. I fell in love with good ramen when visiting Kyoto. There is such variation in quality and I have been craving great ramen soup with pork slices on top! Yum!

    Your website is just fantastic. I can’t wait to make this broth and your Shoyu Ramen recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Hi Jessica,
    Good luck making your stock. Let me know if it tastes like what you ate in Japan—I’ve never been there! It’s getting cold enough for me to make some again.

  13. Hello, Tess.
    You may have already answered this question a million times but I admit I don’t have the time to go looking for the answer. If you have never been to Japan, how is it that you are so dedicated to mastering Japenese cuisine? Was there a restaurant or a meal at someone’s house that set you off? It’s very cool, what you are doing. Thanks for the great recipe postings! I hope you get to go to Japan sooner than later.

  14. Hi Carole!
    Welcome.
    Not particularly for you (because you found out your answer already) but for other readers :
    http://1tess.wordpress.com/essentials/about/
    The book I’m using is very good for people in the U.S. and perhaps other English speaking countries, who want to learn about Japanese food.
    I should revise the “about” page a little, because I’ve become more involved with learning about much more than the one book.

    But to answer the deeper question, “Why are you interested in Japan if you’ve never been there?” It must have been a book about Japan that I had as a child. I loved the pictures, poems, and stories. Origami has also been an important part of my life.

  15. I lived in Japan for 6 years. I am from the U.S., East coast, and while in Japan fell in love with not just Ramen, but many Japanese dishes, and even one special woman, my wife of 15 years, Rie. Though she can make most “nightly” Japanese dishes like Tamago-Donburi, and Gyoza, Tonkatsu pork, and of course Miso-shiru(monosugoku oishii soo desu), she never learned how to make ramen stock or noodles. I am the cook of the house now, I have attempted Ramen many times. But I always have issues getting the consistancy correct…I boil TONS of pork bones and add miso and shoyu(soy sauce) and Kombu(kelp), dashi, and garlic…and the soup comes out good…but just not what I had in Sangenjaya, Tokyo or when I was in Kumamoto(famous for Ninniku(garlic) ramen. I keep missing something and I don’t know what it is…maybe the fat content….or maybe the Asahi beer and steamy environment of a great Ramen-ya restaurant. I’m considering opening a ramen restaurant here and I need the secret ingredient….my wife says we need garlic-chives and red pepper along with the fat. What are garlic chives….in American Englsih….if you know please help me….onegaitaishimasu…..yoroshiku.
    Thanks, Chris.

    PS: You have to visit Japan to know Japan. It’s a wonderful place with the best people and food in the world in my opinion…my wife’s mom sends us homemade umeboshi every month…thats pickled plum. It goes great inside onigiri and yaki-onigiri.

  16. Jessica, I find that slathering a pork loin in salt and pepper and soy sauce for about 6 hours,letting it marinade, browning it on all sides, then roasting it slowly for the right amout of time brings out the tenderness I encountered in Japan. I use a light soy so it’s not oversalted. Cook it until it is JUST done at 130…when you slice it and pop it in the hot ramen it will cook a tad bit more…making it perfect. That’s what works for me anyway.

  17. riechris, Thanks for your comments! I would love to visit Japan; perhaps someday I will be able to go.

    It seems that making ramen stock (and especially the noodles) at home is not at all common: even on-line it’s difficult to find a recipe. This is the best I’ve found, but because I can’t read Japanese, I’ve not tried any of the recipes: http://www.geocities.jp/t_cognac_joyo/jisaku_ramen/jisakutop.html
    The auto translation is “poetic”
    http://www.google.com/translate?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.geocities.jp%2Ft_cognac_joyo%2Fjisaku_ramen%2Fjisakutop.html&langpair=ja%7Cen&hl=en&ie=UTF8

    If you can translate: I’m most interested in the noodle-making here:
    http://www.geocities.jp/t_cognac_joyo/jisaku_ramen/2008_0103/2008_01031.html

    Garlic chives are sometimes called Chinese Chives. A Chinese acquaintance allowed me to transplant a couple of clumps from her garden many years ago, and like chives, they re-seed themselves freely. I have so many that I planted some in the flower-bed at work because they get nice white flowers at summer’s end, and one day a Chinese woman was out there picking bunches of them! When I confronted her, she said it was bad to let them go to waste. She promised to bring a delicious Chinese dish, but promises are easily broken. Anyway, the seeds are commonly available in the spring in Asian stores around here. Or “Johnny’s Selected Seeds” has 2 varieties, the kind I have and a tall variety. (Allium tuberosum) They also have several varieties of chives, including “Nira” which I’ve seen for sale at the Korean grocery near my house.

  18. I laughed so hard when I read the auto-translation of the recipes you provided. Very thought provoking. I will try to convince my wife to work with me and translate how to make the noodles, as that is what I want to try first. I was intrigued watching shows in Japan of how they manually made the noodles by stretching the dough through their fingers over and over again until they turned into noodles. I’ll probably have to clean the whole house to get her to translate for me…nothing is free these days!!!

  19. riechris,
    Yes, the auto translations can be amusing, but to try to cook from them, perhaps not so wise. Let me know it you translate the recipe…

  20. Making ramen stock from scratch is hardcore! Miwa was just searching for a recipe on how to make it. I think that in Japan, with ramen shops literally everywhere, very, very few people have ever made ramen stock at home.

    You are a trooper!

    I will send this article to Miwa.

    Thank you!

    KyotoFoodieのPeko

  21. Peko-P,
    I’m sure few would!
    Did you see my comment above, (on January 11th, 2009 at 12:13 pm) with links to recipes in Japanese?
    `I will send this article to Miwa.`
    Who is Miwa?

    regards,
    Tess

  22. Pingback: easy miso ramen | Gourmet Traveller 88

  23. Hi Tess,

    You mentioned two versions of ramen stock. is there an advantage of one over the other for certain types of ramen? I think I am going to try miso ramen first. Which stock do you think would be best suited for it?

    • Hi Sally,

      I used the all pork one, though I don’t remember why. I’m thinking it was that miso settles in soup and the pork version is not as clear as the other one, so you wouldn’t necessarily notice. Or it could have been that I really like miso with pork.

      The pork only version is a little more work because the liquid is boiling and it’s necessary to keep an eye on the level and to add more water as it steams away.

  24. Hi Tess! I used your site for a ramen party I threw on my birthday! Thanks for all of the great guides – all were supremely helpful.

    I’ll be checking your site often! Happy new year.

    Jen

  25. Tess,
    Thank you for your website. I spent this afternoon making Momofuku ramen, which shares some similarities with yours but also asks you to roast pork bones then add bacon as well to the stock. I have 3 more cooking hours to go. I am excited to try some of your recipes.

    • Hi Liz,
      There is a Momofuku cookbook, right? I have been thinking of at least checking it from our library. Roasting the bones sounds good; not sure about bacon. But it certainly is a process.
      I need to fire up my old computer where I saved some links and recipes from a fellow in Japan who had maybe 10 or 12 different recipes for stock and a few for making noodles, all in Japanese.
      Maybe with more experience (me) I would be able to understand google translate better…

  26. Pingback: Miso Ramen: a night for a fire « Tess's Japanese Kitchen

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