Citizens – This recipe will test your ultimate limits as a chef, for it IS The ULTIMATE Ramen!
Ramen is a Japanese dish with a translation of “pulled noodles”. It consists of Chinese wheat noodles served in a meat or (occasionally) fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork (叉焼 chāshū), nori (dried seaweed), menma, and scallions.
Nearly every region in Japan has its own variation of ramen, such as the tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen of Kyushu and the miso ramen of Hokkaido. Mazemen is the name of a Ramen dish that is not served in a soup, but rather with a sauce (such as tare), rather like noodles that is served with a sweet and sour sauce.
Ramen is a Japanese adaptation of Chinese wheat noodles. One theory says that ramen was first introduced to Japan during the 1660s by the Chinese neo-Confucian scholar Zhu Shunsui who served as an advisor to Tokugawa Mitsukuni after he became a refugee in Japan to escape Manchu rule and Mitsukuni became the first Japanese person to eat ramen, although most historians reject this theory as a myth created by the Japanese to embellish the origins of ramen.
The more plausible theory is that ramen was introduced by Chinese immigrants in the late 19th or early 20th century at Yokohama Chinatown. According to the record of the Yokohama Ramen Museum, ramen originated in China and made its way over to Japan in 1859. Early versions were wheat noodles in broth topped with Chinese-style roast pork.
The word ramen is a Japanese transcription of the Chinese lamian (拉麵). In 1910, the first ramen shop named RAIRAIKEN (来々軒) opened at Asakusa, Tokyo, where the Japanese owner employed 12 Cantonese cooks from Yokohama’s Chinatown and served the ramen arranged for Japanese customers.
Until the 1950s, ramen was called shina soba (支那そば, literally “Chinese soba”) but today chūka soba (中華そば, also meaning “Chinese soba”) or just ramen (ラーメン) are more common, as the word “支那” (shina, meaning “China”) has acquired a pejorative connotation. By 1900, restaurants serving Chinese cuisine from Canton and Shanghai offered a simple dish of noodles (cut rather than hand-pulled), a few toppings, and a broth flavored with salt and pork bones.
Many Chinese living in Japan also pulled portable food stalls, selling ramen and gyōza dumplings to workers. By the mid-1900s, these stalls used a type of a musical horn called a charumera (チャルメラ, from the Portuguese charamela) to advertise their presence, a practice some vendors still retain via a loudspeaker and a looped recording. By the early Shōwa period, ramen had become a popular dish when eating out.
According to ramen expert Hiroshi Osaki, the first specialized ramen shop opened in Yokohama in 1910.
After Japan’s defeat in World War II, the American military occupied the country from 1945 to 1952. In December 1945, Japan recorded its worst rice harvest in 42 years, which caused food shortages as Japan had drastically reduced rice production during the war as production shifted to colonies in China and Taiwan.
The US flooded the market with cheap wheat flour to deal with food shortages. From 1948 to 1951, bread consumption in Japan increased from 262,121 tons to 611,784 tons, but wheat also found its way into ramen, which most Japanese ate at black market food vendors to survive as the government food distribution system ran about 20 days behind schedule.
Although the Americans maintained Japan’s wartime ban on outdoor food vending, flour was secretly diverted from commercial mills into the black markets, where nearly 90 percent of stalls were under the control of gangsters locally referred to as yakuza who extorted vendors for protection money. Thousands of ramen vendors were arrested during the occupation.
In the same period, millions of Japanese troops returned from China and continental East Asia from their posts in the Second Sino-Japanese War. Some of them would have been familiar with wheat noodles.
By 1950, wheat flour exchange controls were removed and restrictions on food vending loosened, which further boosted the number of ramen vendors: private companies even rented out yatai starter kits consisting of noodles, toppings, bowls, and chopsticks.
Ramen yatai provided a rare opportunity for small scale postwar entrepreneurship. The Americans also aggressively advertised the nutritional benefits of wheat and animal protein. The combination of these factors caused wheat noodles to gain prominence in Japan’s rice-based culture. Gradually, ramen became associated with urban life.
Despite the garbage you’ve assuredly seen in an instant noodle cup, true Japanese ramen is transcendently flavorful and anything but instant. You’ll literally be working all day on this, multitasking more pots and pans than you think you probably own. Get help in the kitchen – you’ll need it!
Have I frightened you?
I know you are still with me, brave Citizens – gird your loins and do battle with this recipe just once and know the TRUE meaning of flavor!
Your reward is the ultimate bowl of noodle soup, and the knowledge you have made something previously found only in the finest ramen shops of Japan! A milky broth of pure flavor, the most toothsome of noodles, garnished with fatty pork belly, spicy condiments, a soft-boiled egg like you’ve never had and so many other items that I grow faint from hunger just describing them to you! One unusual item you’ll need for this recipe is baked soda – not baking soda! Details are here.
There are several recipes that follow and I’m indebted to some true ramen masters on Reddit for their expertise! Now – take a deep breath, caffeinate yourself heavily, and BEGIN YOUR TRUE PATH TO CULINARY GLORY!!! Know that I salute both your courage and tenacity in attempting this most formidable set of recipes!
Battle on – The GeneralissimoPrint
The Hirshon Ultimate Ramen
- Total Time: 0 hours
- The Hirshon Tonkatsu Ramen Broth:
- 2 1/4 kg ham bone
- 1 1/2 kg pork thigh bone
- 1 1/3 kg pork back bone
- 50 g garlic, cut in half
- 100 g carrot
- 25 g Japanese leek (negi)
- 10 g ginger
- 1 red pepper
- 12 l water
- Kelp Dashi:
- 30 g Laus kelp
- 40 g Hidaka kelp (The Food Dictator notes that if you can’t find these 2 types of kelp, just use the best-quality konbu kelp you can get. The more white powder on the kelp, the better!)
- 10 g dried scallop (available in Chinese grocery stores)
- 4 l water
- The Best Ramen Noodles:
- For one portion…measure everything by weight!
- 98.5g King Arthur bread flour (12.7% protein by weight)
- 1.5 g vital wheat gluten (aprox 77.5% protein by weight)
- 44 g water
- 1 g salt
- 1.5 g baked soda
- Optional: .1 g Riboflavin (this adds color, I usually estimate it)
- The Hirshon Miso Tare:
- 1 1/4 cups shiro (white) miso
- 1/2 cup aji (red) miso
- 1/4 cup hatcho miso
- 1/2 tbs. tahini
- 1 1/2 tbs. Yuzukoshō
- 3 grated garlic cloves
- One 3″ long piece of peeled ginger, pureed in food processor
- 1/2 white onion, pureed in food processor
- 2 tbsp. soy sauce (use more if needed)
- 1/4 tsp. Kadoya brand sesame oil
- The Hirshon Mayu (Black Garlic Oil) for Ramen:
- 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil
- 10 medium cloves black garlic
- 1/4 cup Kadoya brand sesame oil
- Chashu Pork (Marinated Braised Pork Belly for Tonkotsu Ramen) – source seriouseats.com:
- 2 lb. slab of boneless pork belly, skin-on
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1 cup sake
- 1 cup mirin
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 scallions, roughly chopped
- 6 whole garlic cloves
- One 2-inch knob ginger, roughly sliced
- 1 whole shallot, split in half (skin on)
- Japanese Marinated Soft Boiled Egg for Ramen (Ajitsuke Tamago) – source seriouseats.com:
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sake
- 1/2 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup mirin
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 6 eggs
- Kelp dashi:
- Wipe the kelps gently with a dry cloth.
- Soak the kelps and scallops in cold water for 15 hours.
- Tonkotsu soup:
- Put the bones in boiling water. Boil for 20 minutes, removing anyhimg that floats to the surface.
- Drain the bones. Wash off/remove any innards, blood, and other impurities under cold running water.
- Break the bones with a hammer.
- Put the bones and other ingredients in a pot, add water, and bring to a boil.
- Skim off foam. Keep at a rolling boil. Add additional water, if necessary.
- In about 8 hours, add the dashi (but not the kelps and scallops) to the pot.
- Keep at a rolling boil again for another 4 hours, to reduce the soup to 5 liters.
- For the noodles:
- Sapporo noodles are designated by a more minerally flavor and extra chew. So I up the protein to around 13.5% by weight, and increase the water content to promote gluten development. I think this also adds that great texture.
- Add baked soda and salt (and riboflavin if using) to the water, dissolve completely.
- In a bowl, gradually add water to the flour and wheat gluten, pouring on the outside rim and mixing as you do so. You’ll notice the flour turns yellow as this happens.
- Mix the flour with the water until the ingredients look ragged but moistened. Smaller pieces work better, but it will be fairly crumbly.
- Cover the bowl and let this ragged looking stuff rest for 30 minutes. This gives the flour granules time to fully absorb the water and alkaline salts.
- Squeeze the now rested ragged stuff between your fingers. If it feels like wet rice, go forth to the next step. If not, add a little water.
- Knead it forever. I currently throw it into a plastic bag and step on it repeatedly, which simulates the kneading process used in an industrial setting. You can instead use a rolling pin and smoosh it or use a dough hook on a mixer. You’ll want to knead until fairly smooth. This is time consuming. Be patient.
- When smooth, ball up, cover with plastic, and rest at room temp for an hour. This gives the gluten time to relax, and “ripens” the dough according to Japanese cooks.
- Pull out your dough. Portion into workable sizes (around one serving’s worth), and roll out to desired thickness, using potato starch as you go to prevent sticking. If you have a pasta machine, this step is infinitely easier. In the machine I like to run the portion through the thickest setting maybe 5-6 times until smooth, and then gradually run it through each descending setting until I get to my desired thickness. It starts out pretty ragged, but folding and re-passing will eventually smooth it out.
- Cut your noodles to your desired thickness. I like mine medium for miso ramen, so about the thickness of spaghetti, but feel free to go larger or smaller. You rule your ramen.
- To create “縮れ麺” or wavy noodles, like I’ve made, dust your new noodles with flour and squeeze them between your hands, kind of like making a snowball. After a moment, shimmy them around to loosen them. Repeat this process a few times.
- This squeezing/detangling action creates a wavy, irregular texture, good for carrying soup and looking awesome.
- Let these noodles sit, on the counter, for just 30 minutes to an hour or so, to reduce the moisture content and dry them slightly. This will allow the noodles to cook more gradually, and maintain a better chewy texture.
- The Hirshon Mayu (Black Garlic Oil) for Ramen:
- Combine canola oil and garlic in a small saucepan and cook over medium-low heat for 5 minutes.
- Transfer mixture to a heat-proof bowl and add sesame oil. Transfer to a blender and blend on high speed until completely pulverized, about 30 seconds. Transfer to a sealable container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.
- Chashu Pork (Marinated Braised Pork Belly for Tonkotsu Ramen)
- Lay pork belly on cutting board and roll up lengthwise, with skin facing out.
- Using butchers twine, tightly secure pork belly at 3/4-inch intervals.
- Preheat oven to 275°F. Heat 1 cup water, soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar, scallions, garlic, ginger, and shallot in a medium saucepan over high heat until boiling. Add pork belly (it won’t be submerged). Cover with a lid left slightly ajar. Transfer to oven and cook, turning pork occasionally, until pork is fully tender and a cake tester or thin knife inserted into its center meets little resistance, 3 to 4 hours.Transfer contents to a sealed container and refrigerate until completely cool.
- When ready to serve, remove pork belly and strain broth. Reserve broth for another use (like making ajitsuke tamago). Slice pork belly into thin rounds (it might help to cut it in half lengthwise first).
- Reheat pork belly slices in soup broth with noodles and other garnishes. Alternatively, heat a small amount of reserved broth in a skillet and heat pork slices in broth until hot or reheat with a blowtorch, charring its surface. Serve.
- Japanese Marinated Soft Boiled Egg for Ramen (Ajitsuke Tamago)
- Combine water, sake, soy, mirin, and sugar in a medium bowl and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
- Bring 2 quarts of water to a boil in a medium saucepan over high heat. Pierce fat end of each egg with a thumbtack to make a tiny hole (this prevents them from cracking and eliminates the air bubble at the end). Carefully lower eggs into water with a wire mesh spider or slotted spoon. Reduce heat to maintain a bare simmer. Cook for exactly 6 minutes. Drain hot water and carefully peel eggs under cold running water (the whites will be quite delicate).
- Transfer eggs to a bowl that just barely fits them all. Pour marinade on top until eggs are covered or just floating. Place a double-layer of paper towels on top and press down until completely saturated in liquid to help keep eggs submerged and marinating evenly. Refrigerate and marinate at least four hours and up to 12. Discard marinade after 12 hours. Store eggs in a sealed container in the fridge for up to 3 days. Reheat in ramen soup to serve.
- Congratulations – you’re almost ready to eat! You just have to get everything into a bowl!
- To quote the unmatched expert, ramen_lord from Reddit:
- Toppings. This bowl is topped with shaved cabbage, sliced green onion, korean nori, chashu, and soft-boiled eggs. (The Food Dictator note – With this style of Ramen, I would also add an appropriate amount of grated daikon radish to the Tare before using – for a spicier sauce use ‘maple-in-snow’ daikon – pierce a daikon with a chopstick, stuff in 1 small dried hot pepper, grate).
- Once you have the four parts… assembly time!
- Get everything ready. Bowls ready, toppings set in a line, stock hot (and combined if doing double soup).
- Add tare and black garlic oil to the bottom of the bowl. (maybe 1.5 tbs tare and oil per serving, but it depends on preferences, how big your bowls are, etc. Yes, Miso ramen is fatty. That’s what makes it tasty!)
- Drop your noodles into hot water. Stir with chopsticks to avoid sticking, but after the initial stir, let them cook. Total cook time is only around 90 seconds.
- Meanwhile, pour the hot stock into the tare-filled bowl, and whisk to combine thoroughly.
- Add your noodles to the tare/soup combo. Top with your favorites!
- Prep Time: 0 hours
- Cook Time: 0 hours
- Category: Recipes
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I would sooner fly to Japan to est a bowl of this than make it myself..but kudos for the recipe! If you make it, I will help..and by help I mean I will bring sake…and I will clean up after 🙂
Lindsay – no question it’s a bitch to make this recipe, but as you said it’s always good to know HOW to make a recipe even if you CHOOSE not to. 🙂
Thanks for taking the time to comment!
…and your offer to help with the recipe? Tempting! 😉
How about a spicy paste for the ramen? You have a recipe for that?
I have several! 🙂 try the Hirshon Sichuan Chili Oil or the Hirshon Guilin Chili Sauce as starters, there are several other recipes if you search under the “Condiments” tag. 🙂
Thanks for your interest, Citizen! 🙂