Monday, August 26, 2013

Cooking: Tonkotsu Ramen

One of the big reasons I enjoy cooking is because I am genuinely interested in how things work. To know what goes into making something is to appreciate the craftsmanship involved in the final product. On a personal level I have ruined my fair share of perfectly good ingredients (or if I'm Teresa Giudice "ingredientses"), trying to replicate something I had elsewhere. From the first foray into a recipe, to making the final nip and tucks to suit my tastes, the journey is as much a part of the fun as the final product.

Last winter I spent a solid week in Honolulu eating at ramen houses by day and izakayas by night. Some were obviously better than others, but to truly understand what you're eating I think you've got to have some kind of idea about what goes into cooking it. I knew I wanted to make a broth that was opaque, had creamy well emulsified appearance, and most of all had the same kind of stickiness you get on your lips after you've eaten a handful of good chicharrones.

Armed with a stash of the best noodles made in this country, I looked high and low for something worthy enough for my Sun Noodle no.22's. One of the first recipes I found was from www.norecipes.com. What I was looking for is not found in a foil packet. It isn't cooked in one pot. It certainly can't be made in two minutes. The recipe by Marc Matsumoto is one of foundation.

Here's the recipe link:

Tonkotsu Ramen with Kalua Pork and Salted Egg

 Since you've made it this far and can clearly read, I'll assume you can peruse the recipe yourself. Here are some of my thoughts on how things went:

I actually used chicken feet instead of a carcass. I think it's a nice blend of collagen and marrow. I switched it out 1:1 with the chicken bones.

Using Marc's method I ended up with onions that were more fried than caramelized. Next time I'll slow roast the onions beforehand. I think it would certainly add another dimension to the broth.

I need to give more thought to what I want to add to the bowl. I was so wrapped up in making the broth, mayu, and tonkotsu base - the other stuff seemed a bit of an afterthought. Some meaty mushrooms would have been the ticket.

We had this two nights in a row. The first night I used a barbecue pork. The chunks of meat were just too much. The second night Regina pulled out some kalua pork from the freezer - perfect choice. The smokiness of the meat and the ability to pick out small portions shredded meat worked beautifully. 

Ham bones cut into 2" sections fit the bill for "leg bones". You can call around to butchers doing their own sliced ham. The pigs feet, chicken feet, and pork cheeks can be found at a good Asian grocery. The pork cheeks will end up being your hardest thing to procure. (My Asian grocer was sold out, but I found a pack at my local farmers market (New Creation Farms).

Get quality noodles!

The pigs feet will be semi cut in half. Get a cleaver and lop those things completely in two. The goodness is in the middle. 

Make the mayu! It tastes like ass on its own, but there's something about the little flecks of burnt garlic that really do taste good.

Is it something I would make on a beautiful summer day in Cleveland? Not really (but I did). Will I be busting this out when the snow is flying outside? You bet! The Marc's tonkotsu is an absolute keeper.

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