Chashu: The pork on ramen!

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Japanese ramen has fans around the globe. Ramen has become a dish with infinite variations, so simple: just noodles, liquid and toppings. Yet its cultural place is complicated: it is not exactly a soup, nor is it only a noodle dish.
For many, it is a quixotic search for the perfect ramen: a culmination of delight.

Some toppings on this noodles + stock / mystical dish are used frequently. Slices of flavorful fatty pork belly is one such accoutrement. And very delicious it is; but it’s not beautiful to look at. Take a look, my readers at some lovely seasonal flowers before we approach the meat and bones of the matter.

The Korean, Japanese, and pan-Asian food stores in my area almost always have pork belly for sale in their freezers. A couple of my regular grocery stores sometimes have pork belly as well, though they sell it already thawed in their refrigerated sections, but most often they have it sliced like pale pink bacon.

Although the chashu is served as thin slices, one needs to cook it as a chunk of meat. The problem with buying pork belly from the freezer is that you can’t see exactly what you are getting.

Sometimes I have thawed it out to find nipples on the skin side. Other times the flank (as it is sometimes called) is, well, a flank which includes part of a rib bone.

I have also seen references to “side pork” which is (might be used?) sometimes used the same way as pork belly. I am thinking that it is not so rich and stripped with fat.

Never having butchered a pig, I think the best pork belly is a cut between the nipples and the ribs: there should be striations of meat and fat.
For this post, the belly thawed to resemble ribs rather than belly!
Take a look at my earlier post about chashu!

Simmered Pork for Ramen
Chashu
based on the recipe in
The Japanese Kitchen •250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
page 336

  • 1 ½ pounds pork flank
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half
  • 1 ounce ginger, about the size of a ping-pong ball peeled and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons sake
  • ⅔ cup soy sauce

Put the pork into a large shallow pot. The pot should be large enough to fit the pieces without overlapping. Cover with water. Add garlic, ginger, salt, sake, and shoyu. Bring the mixture to a boil, and skim the foam. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a drop lid and simmer gently for 40 minutes. I actually simmered the meat for an hour: my simmer was too gentle.
Remove the pork from the heat, and let the pork stand in its cooking liquid for 15 minutes.
Remove the pork from the pot, and let the broth cool to room temperature. Reserve the broth for making menma and shoyu ramen.
The pork in its broth will keep for a week in the refrigerator, or can be frozen.
To serve the chashu, slice it thinly and put it on top of a bowl of ramen.

Chicken noodle soup also has a followers around the world, and in some cultures it has mystical powers to heal illness.

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14 thoughts on “Chashu: The pork on ramen!

  1. Chashu-men is my all time favorite.

    Is there anything better than getting off the train at midnight on a cold winters night and smelling a little ramen shop in an alley somewhere?

  2. Thank you for the kind words.

    I do miss Japan, especially in the Winter (roasted chestnut carts, the yaki-imo man, niku-manju right out of the steamer).

  3. Thanks for the recipe, I am cooking the chashu as I type this. Adding some hard boiled eggs marinated in this juice as well for a topping to go with the shoyu ramen. Shoyu is a good one indeed, but I still think the spicy flavor of Sapporo Miso Ramen is the best!

    • Hi Jake,
      Oh, yes, I forgot about the hard boiled eggs. Yum! I’m embarrassed to say that the first time I made this recipe, I threw the liquid away because I didn’t know what else to do with it! YIKES!!
      It really is difficult to choose just one favorite ramen. But now that it’s summer here, I am leaning toward hiyashi chuka soba: nice and cool. Though this spicy pork and miso ramen is also wonderful.
      Ah: ramen love…

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  5. hi,

    is there a way to slice the char siew into thin even slice?
    i had the meat crumbling:(

    this recipe is amazing though! the taste was perfect!

    • I’ve had the best luck letting it cool in its broth, refrigerate, and then slice. Gently warm the slices in the broth.

      Most of the stores here sell the pork belly sliced, unless you special order. So I find it in the freezer sections of Asian stores. I can’t always tell which part of the belly I’m buying: nice layers of fat, meaty, or even if there are bones! The meatier cuts are easier to cut. But the layered belly is tastier.

      • oh i didn’t refrigerate it and tried cutting it after soaking it for 15mins since i wanted the meat hot on top of my ramen.

        i used the collar since my mom said belly is too fattening >.<

        i guess refrigerating it helps to cut the meat easily? i will try again :)

        • Yes, chilling the meat is the secret to thin cuts!

          Re the fat issue:
          fruit is sweet,
          candy is very sweet;
          each in its time is good to eat!

          You know? Sometimes you want just a little bit of chocolate instead of a big apple!

  6. Heey, I want to try this out some time. But could you make a video of it? It’s a lot easier to understand for me.

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  8. Had an amazing pork ramen at a little shop in Kyoto next to the Hattory. Small shop with 6 stools. So want to know how he made it, but if I can come close, I’ll be happy. Thanks.

  9. So much depends on getting the right piece of pork belly, with a good balance of fat to meat. Also enjoy the experimenting: ”The grand thing about cooking is you can eat your mistakes” — Julia Child.

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