Japanese ramen stock is an elusive elixor of aficionados, and I’m on a mission to make some amazing home-made ramen stock again this year.
I am not talking about the salty packets of concentrated liquid which come with frozen ramen noodles from Japan, or the food of students on a restricted budget.
I’m talking about a wonderful stock which can be used for making an assortment of different kinds of ramen, including shoyu ramen, ramen with pork and miso sauce, miso ramen, and I hope to try some others I’ve not yet made.
This stock is relatively easy to make, but it is not for the squeamish. It involves lots of bones and some scary cuts of pig all boiled together with “secret flavorings” in a large cauldron.
Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and caldron bubble.
——Macbeth Act IV, Scene 1, Wm. Shakespeare
If you want real ramen outside of Japan, restaurants might satisfy, but home cooking may be your best option. There are many different ramen broth recipes online—some I’ve found are made with turkey carcasses (??!!!), or beef bones. But to my mind (and remember that I’ve never been to Japan), the stock must be made with mostly pork bones. Tonkotsu or Hakata-style ramen is distinguished by its rich and milky pork-bone broth. Adding some chicken, especially parts rich with cartilage, adds to the rich mouth-feel of this mysterious ‘soup.’ The broth becomes “milky” by boiling it rapidly, uncovered for many hours, at a high temperature to emulsify the fat and collagen. Clear broth requires a long slow very gentle simmering.
Basic Stock for Ramen Noodles
based on the recipe in
The Japanese Kitchen •250 Recipes in a Traditional Spirit•
by Hiroko Shimbo
yields 4 to 5 quarts
- 1 ½ pounds of pigs feet, quartered
- 2 pounds pork neckbones
- 2 ¾ pounds of pork hocks
- 20 chicken wing tips
- 2 large chicken thighs with skin and bones
- 1 small onion, cut into quarters
- 1 leek, green part only
- 1 ounce ginger (about the size of a ping-pong ball)
- 1 head garlic, cut in half crosswise
- one 6″ square of kombu*
- 1 teaspoon salt
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 medium, and maintain a good boil, uncovered, for 7 hours, adding water as necessary to keep the bones covered. The boiling helps to emulsify the fat, liquid and gelatin into a whitish liquid. If you simmer very slowly, you stock will be much more clear. (See this: home-made ramen stock
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.
A small note to regular readers: I’m behind in keeping up with posting; I’m sort of feeling as if I’m chasing my own tail and not getting anywhere. Well, except for this sort of unplanned trip to Buffalo, NY. 13, 14, 15 May…
HMMM, this might be somewhere. It’s a nice hotel anyway! I’m enjoying it: there is something attractive about living out of a suitcase with minimal possessions, especially after building up so much excess junk living in one house for so many years.
Not to mention having house-keeping coming in to vacuum, make bed, clean bathroom, fresh towels everyday…