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 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.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Cleveland : The Katz Club Diner

Doug Katz has opened a new spot out in Cleveland Heights in the old diner car space formerly occupied by a revolving door of tenants. The location has always needed to be one that is supported mostly by those living in the immediate area due to its distance from any highway access.

I stopped in with Regina for dinner a couple of weeks ago. A dessert counter greets you when you come to the front door. The dining area is to the left.

The dessert counter has a wide variety of desserts. Some of the stuff is a house made version of things like Twinkies and Ho Ho's, while others are more of the diner variety pies and cakes. Prices were reasonable starting at $2 or $3 and heading upward. Didn't buy anything, but then again I usually eat dessert at home.

Sitting at the Counter

The dining area consists of lunch counter seating as well as a decent number of tables and chairs. Waitstaff is dressed in smart black "diner-ish" outfits. 

I ordered the roast turkey with stuffing and cranberry stuffing. I thought the turkey was moist, the stuffing was good, and the chutney was solid. I don't know the provenance of the turkey, so it's hard for me to say what the price of something like this should be. 17 bucks seemed a bit stiff for what was on the plate.

Regina had the Baked Trout with tartar sauce and coleslaw. She liked the fact they didn't fry the trout and the portion was healthy. Tastefully done. Good not great. At $18, again, little stiff for something relatively inexpensive.

Katz Club Diner certainly has its champions (I have a number of friends that adore the place). It's clean,  well put together, uses quality ingredients, and offers a wide array of menu items. These are all things which come at a premium. Everyone has a different way of doing the mental math on value. For me, it's just doesn't add up. YMMV.

Katz Club Diner
1974 Lee Rd
Cleveland Heights, OH 44118
(216) 932-3333

The Katz Club Diner on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The Ingredient Hunt

It all starts with a recipe. In this case it would be the tonkotsu broth from  I have to say, there's nothing I like more than an ingredient scavenger hunt. It's not so much a function of the chase as much as it is learning where to find this stuff.

The recipe calls for 2# of pork leg bone cut into mulitple pieces, 1.5# of chicken bones, and 2 trotters cut in half. 

Let's start with the leg bones cut into multiple pieces. A call around numerous butchers in the Cleveland area yielded jack squat. Since I was heading out to Miles Farmers Market I figured I'd give it a shot. As luck would have it, Bo at the meat counter said he was going to have some ham bones ready in a few hours. News to me. You want pork leg bones? Ask for ham bones. BAM!!! One down.

Trotters (pigs feet) cut in half are actually pretty easy to find. I went with D&R Meats in Maple Heights simply because it was in the general vicinity to Miles Market. BAM!!! BAM!!! That's two down. 

The recipe calls for chicken bones, which I could have easily broken down a whole chicken, but I wanted to actually use chicken feet simply because I think the broth will benefit from the collagen in the feet than it would marrow in the bones.

By this time it was 7:00 o'clock and the butcher shops were closed. My options were dwindling when I realized....duh.....where does one buy ingredients for an Asian dish? An Asian market! I stopped over at CAM Asian Market over by the now desolate Randall Park Mall. BAM!!! BAM!!! BAM!!! That's three up, three down.

I was hoping they had a couple of pork cheeks for chashu, but the butcher told me they had sold out this afternoon. I've got enough to get my broth rolling, but tomorrow's will be another hunt....