Making Tonkotsu Ramen

tonkotsu ramen

You have bones and you make soup. This simple economy that results in pork bone ramen is a great love of mine. AG also feels this love at Grab Your Fork with a ramen shop in Sydney.

Not for Perth though, I haven’t had good ramen here. Instead of pining, I have finally made my own. Most of the recipe came from a Japanese cookbook called 自分でつくるプロのラーメン“DIY Pro Ramen” and has enabled and frustrated my efforts. It’s a very busy book and the Japanese characters swim in front of me, laughing probably. It’s been more like the Voynich manuscript than cookbook. I was sure I was missing an important, whatever you do, don’t… line. The recipe ended up being a mix of recipes in the book, a bit of research on pork bone stocks, and the kind help of Keiko of the ah! Nordljus.

Tonkotsu Stock

release my porky delights
2kg of pork bones; 30cm piece of pork fat with skin; two pigs trotters; 10l of water

All the ingredients were bought at Wing Hong Butchers at 402 William Street in Northbridge. The place was heaving on Saturday morning, big run on pork bones. Not good for pop-in-the-oven crumbed schnitzel or whatever but great for getting all the bits.

The pig’s trotters are surrogates for a pig’s head, being an appropriate mix of skin, meat, fat, and bone. Just split them half way down. The bones are off-cuts from around the spine. Lacking is a couple of larger thigh bones, which no doubt have their own virtues. Not being completely sure about just putting the bones in water, I roasted the bones and the pigs trotters for half an hour before putting them in the boiling water. Roasting tends to make the flavour richer and you can deglaze the pan with a cup of water and add it to the stock. Let the bones and the trotters simmer away for half an hour making sure to scoop out any scum that rose to the surface. Roll and tie the pork fat and place in the water with the bones, skimming whatever comes up for another 10-15 minutes.

tonkotsu vegetables

4 onions; 5 carrots; a bunch of spring onions; two apples; one head of garlic; a large piece of konbu; a thumbsized piece of ginger.

Add all the ingredients. The only exception is the konbu which should be removed after 15 minutes. Konbu provides a natural form of the flavour enhancer MSG. Let it all simmer for 5 hours.

tonkotsu stock
Chasyu Pork

chashu pork
1 piece of pork belly; 1 cup of shoyu; 1/2 cup mirin; 1/2 cup of sake; 1 cup of the stock; a thumb sized piece of ginger – sliced.

Take a strip of pork belly, remove the skin and any bones and roll and tie. Let it cook in the stock for one hour and remove. Let it simmer for 20 minutes in the soy sauce mix and then leave to sit.

Assembly

Strain the stock. Using a trick from making Cassoulet, I pureed some of the pork fat and added it to the stock. Tonkotsu is unapologetically fatty.

Place a couple of tablespoons of the cha shu cooking liquid in the botom of the bowl. Add some eggs noodles and a couple of slices of cha shu. Pour the stock over, add a couple of strips of nori and garnish with finely chopped chives.

Tasting

It made me happy. I can see further room for improvement, the stock could have been stronger. Maybe it needs some chicken carcasses or the big bones. It would do for now, these people dedicate their lives to making thier ramen. My journey has just begun. I pondered this as I went off to see Shihad at the Rosemount, where I was assaulted by an unknown woman who squeezed my nipples. (hard!) With this and the huggy man of the QoTSA gig, I have to wonder what is going on in Perth’s live scene. On the night went. The Grapeskin Wine Bar will sell you a bottle of red wine at it’s after midnight gentlemen’s night, and if you’re hungry at 2am, then the City Garden ? Chinese Restaurant Shop 11, China Town, 66 Roe St, Northbridge will sell you food like ermmm szechuan chicken maybe.

Perth, it has everything.

45 comments

  1. Augustusgloop’s avatar

    We know you, They know me
    Extrasensory

  2. J’s avatar

    hi anthony, that looks spectacular…subscribing to the chinese master stock concept, i always keep a tub of mother ramen stock in the freezer that i use to boost the next ramen stock, being sure to once again save a tub for the next-next and so on. 12 vats of ramen stock later, i must say the stuff is virtually pork tea…good to drink, best not to be explained to sqeamish guests…

  3. deborah’s avatar

    Great winter warmer. Wonder if you could make this spicey for a good nasal cleansing at the same time.

  4. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    I have to give you a hand. Now, do you want the right or the left? I would personally never attempt to make this only because it costs so much more in terms of time and money to make this at home. Besides, good ramen can be found here if you know where to look.

  5. Kate’s avatar

    Apples. Hmmn.

    That is a prodigous effort.

  6. Anthony’s avatar

    J
    Very wise. I managed to save three tubs, two have been promised away, but one could build a fine lineage.

    Saffy
    The spice version is Tan-men although there are other variatiosn, one Ramen shop in Yokohama was called Hell Ramen.

    Reid
    It’s actually pretty cheap to make but time is a consideration and of course having your house filled with the smell of ramen. Terrible, just terrible.

    Kate
    Apples yes. The funny thing is when it’s just the bones you can actually smell traces of apples. I don’t know if they share the shame scents or some psychosomatic association has keyed in.

  7. Lex Culinaria’s avatar

    You totally amaze me with your ability to cook such complicated stuff. Seriously. I don’t think I coiuld pay attention long enough to cook some of the stuff that you cook, grasshopper. I’d give up after the third round of “wax on wax off” and go chuck some stuff into a pot just to be done with it!

    You are my hero.

  8. deborah’s avatar

    Hell Ramen! What a treat!

    Also, I think your new foray is taking photographs of pigs trotters. They look kinda sexy.

    Weird I am.

  9. Reid’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    Well, you know if the house were full of ramen smells, then I might just have to invite the neighbors over…then who knows, I might not get to eat any of this myself. =P

  10. Anonymous’s avatar

    Lyn
    Ah pish posh, it’s taken me two years to get around to making it. Surprisingly it’s one of the few things I do have patience for. Besides, once it’s simmering you can bugger off and do something else.

    Saffy
    I’m sure there’s a video of Miss Piggy as Cinderella somehwer out there. They are pale and dainty things, but odd you is : )
    Hell Ramen was hot but not thaaaaaat hot.

    Reid
    Tangentially there was a case in our local paper where a neighbour complained about another neighbours woodfired pizza oven beacuse of the smell. For shame. Went for a run around dinner time last night and it’s quite sad that there aren’t any cooking smells out there.

  11. Anthony’s avatar

    Oh that was me BTW

  12. pseudo chef’s avatar

    I love ramen – don’t know where to go for good ramen here though (and pho too).

    Perth indeed has everything – I’m not moving anywhere else now ;)

  13. Sue’s avatar

    Holy crap dude. I thought I was a stock drama queen, but this is going beyond dramatics! Looks delicious. I made pho stock the other day and was exceedingly pleased with myself. I do have a pet hate though; people over saucing pho with hoi sin or chilli sauce straight into the bowl. *sigh*

  14. Anthony’s avatar

    Hey PC
    I know, I’ve yet to find good ramen in Perth. Not for any lack of Japanese restaurants though.

    I’m not much of an authority on Pho but Phi Yen is pretty good for me.

    It’s lucky Perth has everything it’s a long way to the next place.

    Hi Sue
    Thank you. It’s a nice stock to have a go at. My first pork stock. I know what you mean about your peeve, espesh if they do it automatically. I usually add a bit of the minced garlic they have in the ramen shops to my ramen but never before tasting it. ’tis a terrible slur otherwise.

  15. keiko’s avatar

    Anthony, this looks fantastic – I must say that I wasn’t sure how good it would be, but you did a great job, I wish I could taste it. Your チャーシュー looks delicious too (I’m getting hungry!) You know Japanese are fanatical about Ramen (well, any food basically) and like you said, they dedicate their lives to making their own stuff… hmm.

    BTW, what’s wrong with having your house filled with the smell of ramen – I’m quite happy with it :)

  16. Robert’s avatar

    I’d like to vouch for this ramen. Tasty tasty.

    And I think my slurping was to the chef’s satisfaction?

  17. Anthony’s avatar

    Hi Keiko
    Thanks. I’d like to get it creamier in future attempts. I wish you could taste it so I could check if I get the Japanese seal of approval. The チャーシュー was nice but maybe it needed a little a little longer in the stock to get that super meltiness. Do many Japanese people make their own often, nobody seems to live more than 1km from a ramen shop?

    Nothing wrong with the house full of Ramen but I’d hate to find a long queue of salarymen outside my door : )

    Rob
    And there we were thinking Japanese were all refined like. An empty bowl is a happy chef.

  18. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    Damn you, you made me hungry and I think my only nearby option is bloody Wagamama next to the British Museum.
    Unless someone knows different.

  19. ChubbyCat’s avatar

    Looks delicious!! The chashu slices especially. So luscious and tender and moist.

    There is a distinct lack of accessibility to ramen around Perth, though I’ve been told there’s a fairly good one just off Hay St in the city.

    I’ve had hell-ramen in Singapore a few years back. There was a ramen shop in Far East Square that gave the option of adding spice paste (rated between 1 – 10 chilli) to your choice of ramen. At rating 4, my ramen soup was iridescent red with a healthy layer of chilli oil floating on top. When I finally finished eating, my ears were ringing, tears were streaming down my cheeks and sweat was pouring from the top of my head. The things we did in youthful ignorance…lol

  20. Anthony’s avatar

    Anthony J

    Food bloggers – bunch of of c**kteasers we are. I was concentrating too hard on the coffee in Melbourne, forgot to look for ramen.

    CC
    Tender porky love. Let mw know if you get to try the Hay Street place.

    Ha! Chilli rush is great. Imagine 10. Or 11 even.

  21. AnthonyJ’s avatar

    I ain’t in Melbourne. The British Museum was the clue.

  22. Anthony’s avatar

    A very cunning clue it is. I assumed the British Museum in Melbourne was an initiative by our PM to replace all this multicultural nonsense. Hope things are well for you over there.

  23. Anonymous’s avatar

    I’ve been looking for good ramen in Perth ever since that fateful afternoon i spent in Asagaya…

    Anyway, the best I’ve found in Perth would have to from Nao (on Murray St). The Chashu Miso ramen is the best!

    scola@westnet.com.au

  24. rameniac’s avatar

    that looks like a valiant effort my friend. i tried to make tonkotsu ramen and failed miserably. i boiled the soup for 14 hours, but i don’t think the fire ever got hot enough to truly break down the marrow. for now, i’ll stick to letting old japanese guys make it for me!

  25. Gracianne’s avatar

    That pork stock, simmered for 5 hours, must be fantastic. I like what j. says, “pork tea”.
    It’s like making cassoulet, you are right, a long process, but so satisfying in the end.

  26. Anthony’s avatar

    and it should just about be the season for it again

  27. buddha_belly_lover’s avatar

    I had a large package of pig’s ears, large package of tail and 2 pig’s trotters and decided to go at it for the stock. only put in the green onions, carrots and a head of garlic cos i dint have the rest,and it’s super rich , creamy, and delicious (i kept adding water throughout the cooking time to get the final consistency i wanted)- boiled it high for 6-7 hrs. its mostly unattended time.

    i know alot of soup recipes cook with meats/bones (eg chicken or pork) and seafood … i put two thinly shaved pieces of dried baby octopus in ..that gave it an extra layer of flavor. sooooo moneyyyyyyyy.

    somebody above wrote about trying to make the stock richer and creamier: the trick is to let the stock boil at high heat the whole time- while i heard that some tonkotsu ramen places strive to keep the soup relatively clear by slowly simmering- even for up to 12 hours after the first boil. i actually like it cloudy and thick personally.

    i soaked the meats overnight in cold water, then boiled it for an hour,throw out the water, rinsed the meats and the pot of all the scum, and then cook the recipe it again. that’s a method my mom taught me back home in Singapore, to get that too-strong pork bone smell out- i dont know how the pork is in Perth, but here in San Diego,Cali, it smells… Phhheeeeww..

    im gonna keep the stock and make ramen when i have time. im very interested in trying out the chashyu recipe.. im gonna cook the eggs in that sauce too and try to see if i works.

    thanks so much for the awesome recipe though!! =)

  28. Anonymous’s avatar

    anthony, you’ve been to jigoku ramen? which number did you go? i did #3 in 2006 and #4 last year. the owner, tanaka-san, remembered me and thought i was probably fit to handle the #4. pretty bloody spicy but still full of flavorsome goodness!

    best tonkotsu ramen i’ve tasted is just outside the north exit of the keihan hirakata-shi station which is almost exactly half way between osaka and kyoto. they also put a really nice finishing touch on the chashu by lightly flame grilling the thick slices just before plonking it in the soup.

    Matt.

  29. walking’s avatar

    Well Matt, that may be, however I’m not sure it can compare to the 24 hour (or at least open really late) tonkotsuria around the corner from Shibuya station. It’s been 8 years since I was in Japan, and I still crave this spot more than a few times a year. They boil in two huge steel cauldrons and serve the best hoso-men (thin noodle) I’ve ever had. The soup base itself is to die for, and the options of additives are plenty.

    In case you’re in Tokyo and want to try finding the place, cross the street under the bridge at Hachiko…I can’t remember what departmentos are that way, and they may have changed by now in any case. Bare left once you cross the street and head up one, maybe two blocks. Go left down a side street for about 20-30 meters. The place’ll be on the left….it has yellow decor and a couple tables set up outside…FANTASTIC!

    Cass

  30. Mr. Cussy’s avatar

    Thanks for the recipe, I’m going to try it tomorrow. The search turned out to be more difficult than expected because Google kept tricking me with, “Do you mean tonkatsu?”

    Anyway, the apples make this sound authentic as the chef at my old (now defunct) ramen place told me he put apples in his stock to my surprise.

    Also, regarding how to prepare the pork bones, I read somewhere else that it should be double boiled. This consists of:

    1) Boil pot of water
    2) Add only pork bones until water reboils for a few minutes
    3) Remove bones and wash under cold water, removing any blood, inards, etc. that may have leeched from the bones.
    4) Smash bones with hammer to make smaller pieces.
    5) Bones are now ready to make stock.

    Sounds strange, but then not really if you think about it.

    Thanks again!

  31. Anthony’s avatar

    Cheers all
    Just found people have been busy on this post. Digging the enthusiasm and will have take the advice on and get back to Japan and eat lots.

    (yeah google tricked me into wanting to kill for a pork cutlet)

  32. michikobud’s avatar

    As someone who lived in Kyushu for a while and developed a love of Tonkatsu ramen, I’ve been looking for a recipe that looks “right”. I think yours just might be it!

    I’m going to print this out and give it a try, adding Mr. Cussy’s bone breaking trick, and trying not to be squeamish when I buy (for the first time ever) pig’s feet.

    LOVELY, thanks for posting such a great looking recipe.

    Personally, I think I will welcome the three-day lingering smell of ramen.

    In Japan there’s a saying: the worse the smell, the better the ramen!

  33. guy’s avatar

    great to find this recipe. I just bought the pig bones. Teased my girlfriend in the shower with the trotters, that was fun. Now I have the whole lot on the simmer for a few hours and will start again in the morning. I’ll let you know how I go….

  34. guy’s avatar

    its done!

    Worked pretty well. But this first time it was hard to manage some things…. the evolution of the stock, which things to keep in or keep out (trotter skin….ugh.)

    But it was certainly authentic and the fattiness held up very well to big spoonfuls of chilli….

  35. Simon Krollpfeifer’s avatar

    Hi Anthony,

    I just found your nice article about tonkotsu.At the moment I am cooking the 2nd attempt – 35h so far. I have a very difficult time with the color of the stock.
    It’s always a light brown color, not the milky one that I am aiming for. Can you gimme a hint? Was your tonkotsu color alright?
    thanks a lot!

    1. Anthony’s avatar

      Hi Simon
      A lighter coloured stock usually comes from not browing the meat-vegetables and peeling the onions. But I’ve got a horrible feeling that the white colour in tonkotsu ramen is fat.

    2. Adrian’s avatar

      Yes it is fat ,and it’s goooooooooodd.
      I did roast the bones I also used about 10 times the amount of garlic stated cooked lid of half hour then pressure cooked for 3 hours.Now the most important bit guys.. Pork in Australia is of a poor quality compared to Japan so its not gonna taste the same,BUT you can fin Plantaganet free range pork made by the same people who make mount barker chicken,you get japanese taste from these pork bones,wing hong doesnt sell.Need a local butcher or 1 of the big wholesalers in Malaga.
      Best pho in Perth is trungs cafe near the Balga area their stock is proper beef stock made vietnamese style all the places in northbridge use a comercial concentrate stock available anywhere.

      Kai japanese in bullcreek makes awesome tonkotsu ramen(but mines the best).
      My wifes she’s from Kurume the birthplace of tonkotsu she beats me up if i get it wrong!

      1. Anthony’s avatar

        and a shout out for quality WA pork from Spencers Brook

      2. Adrian’s avatar

        YEAH at last some real pork is beggining to be available for to put on our plate!

        got a linley rack the other day but it had been pumped!
        If they bred some fat into it there wouldnt be any need for that rubbish

        W.A yeah !!!….going to try your spencers next .

        1. Christina’s avatar

          I have a questiona about pureeing the fat. Does the fat eventually emulsify into the soup?

          I will be trying this recipe, I will also try the cracking of the bones and the par-boiling if the bones/trotters/etc. are foul smelling. Thanks for all the tips!

          Also I have watched Tampopo, and it seems as though she makes a tonkotsu base, rapidly boiling prevents a clear soup, and its frowned upon in the movie. Does it really matter though? I like the milkly color of my ramen spot, but I would like to do this properly. Any thoughts?

          1. Anthony’s avatar

            Ahh no it doesn’t that much but it’s a beautiful thing.

            Tampopo is a lovely flick. I think the problem is that it makes a stock cloudy. The general trick is to start a stock with cold water and gently bring it to a simmer and this releases any blood etc to be spooned off the top. As a rule – boiling the shit out of it bad. But if you had filtered and clarified your stock then boiling away for a reduction is fair game.

          2. guy’s avatar

            hey anthony

            I’ve been making your recipe now for several months and it works pretty well, cheers.

            Now I want to have a stab at making Black Sesame Ramen, a favourite of mine during my time living in Tokyo. But I have little idea how to go about it…. Have you tried it? Any suggestions? I’m quite willing to experiment…!

          3. anon’s avatar

            konbu shouldnt be boiled together with the ramen. It is usually discarded just before water boils to prevent off flavours.

          4. anthony’s avatar

            Good point there anon. I’ll check where I got my 15 minutes from – it is longer than you’d do with dashi.

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