Tuesday, 10 January 2012


I suppose you could say that 2011 is the year I really discovered ramen. From Momofuku Noodle Bar's pork ramen in New York way back in June, the love affair was ignited. There are a baffling array of regional variations of ramen, and not many cover them as well as the excellent first issue of Lucky Peach. Unfortunately it seems to be out of stock and they're going for £190 secondhand but Wikipedia gives you a rough outline.

I wasn't alone in these feelings though. Tsuru, the popular mini chain of Japanese restaurants famous for its signature chicken katsu sandwich, started up Tsuru Ramen; a sporadic ramen Saturday, offering different ramens in two sittings in advance of opening up a ramen shop. They take this stuff seriously, with a 5 day ramen slurping research trip to Tokyo scheduled imminently. Their events have been selling out.

I managed to nab a ticket to the Tonkotsu event. Tonkotsu (not to be confused with tonkatsu) is a speciality of Kyushu and it translates to 'pork bone'. The broth is milky from simmering the pork bones over a long time. It gets its appearance from the fat and collagen and what you're left with is an intensely porky broth for the springy noodles to swim in. Topped with a slice of tender, fatty pork and half a soft boiled nitamago (soy seasoned egg), this was an excellent and hearty bowl of noodles. You can keep up to date with events by following them on Twitter and checking out their blog.

More of a permanent fixture is Shochu Lounge's Ramen Mondays. Bizarrely it isn't advertised at all, even their website doesn't say they're open on Monday lunchtimes but this tip came from the ever excellent Mr Noodles. Underneath Roka on Charlotte Street, this sleek and expensive-feeling bar is usually the den of the well-heeled, sipping on shochu cocktails before dinner upstairs but come on a Monday lunchtime and you find instead a vat of bubbling water in the middle of the bar, with a chef dunking balls of noodles into nets to get lowered into the water.

Only two options of ramen are offered; Shoyu ramen has a clear, light broth and is flavoured with soy sauce. Again topped with a soy-seasoned egg, this was a touch more cooked, resulting in a fudgy consistency. Toasted nori went well with the broth, being crisp above surface and slimy below. Slices of pork are plentiful, the noodles a pleasing consistency - I value bouncy springiness firstly and foremost.

The miso ramen is an altogether richer affair. A thicker broth seasoned heavily with the flavour of miso, this one is definitely for the winter months. The broth is borderline on the salty front and was more of a slurpable one combined with the noodles than on its' own. Sweetcorn bobbed about for some welcome sweetness and the strong flavour of sesame was prevalent. This was a gutsy bowl which worked well with the chewy noodles.

Shochu Lounge on Urbanspoon

I decided it was high time I made my own. I followed the recipe for the ramen noodles from Lucky Peach issue 1 (top photo) which involved cooking baking soda in the oven and a lot of faff with the pasta machine but they weren't quite right; too mushy and not springy enough. Shop bought were better so I will omit the recipe until I get it right. But the broth of the noodles and the accompaniments were pretty damn good so it's here instead.

I based this on a tonkotsu-esque idea, but as I didn't have a huge amount of pork bones I supplemented it with oxtail for an even bigger whack of meaty flavour. To balance this out, I added some Chinese preserved radish which helped cut through the richness nicely. This kind of broth takes minimal fuss but a lot of time, so set aside at least a couple of days to make it. This recipe makes enough for about 6 bowls. It's rugged, but rich and comforting.

Oxtail & Pork Broth

1 oxtail, sectioned (into pieces...)
1 pork shank
3 large slices of ginger

Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the oxtail and pork shank. Boil for 10 minutes. Drain and rinse in a colander and clean the pot out. This is to get rid of all the horrible grey scum that will make your broth weird.

Add to a fresh pan of water, enough to cover and simmer very gently with the ginger for 10 hours with lid on in the oven at 100 degrees. It seems a lot but you can do this in a slow cooker. Drain, strain through muslin and chill overnight. Skim the fat off once it has solidified on the surface. there is a heart-stopping amount. Bring to the simmer.

Pork Belly

500gr piece of pork belly
1.5 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp salt

Rub the salt and sugar all over the pork belly. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Drain the liquid out and pat dry, then roast for half an hour on full blast and then turn it down to 140 degrees C and roast for an hour. Remove, leave to cool and chill. (This last bit is only necessary if you like neat slices.) To serve, remove the skin if you have it on and slice into inch-thick pieces to serve on top of your ramen.

Nitamago (Soy-seasoned eggs)

6 eggs
1 clove of garlic
1 slice of ginger
60ml light soy sauce
60ml sake
60ml mirin
1/2 tsp sesame oil

Bring the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sake and mirin to the boil in a small saucepan. Once it hits boiling remove and place in a container to cool. Carefully lower the room temperature eggs into a pan of boiling water and cook for 6 minutes. Remove and rinse under cold water until cooled. Very carefully peel and place in the cold soy sauce mix. Marinate overnight, turning once.

Other Bits

1 sheet of toasted nori per person
A handful of beansprouts, blanched
1 spring onion, slivered finely
A handful of rinsed preserved turnip or radish
1 tsp miso per person

So the rest is assembly really. Make sure the stock is bubbling heartily and assemble the cooked noodles in the bowl. Attach the toasted nori sheet to the side of the bowl (a smear of miso did this well) and ladle the broth into the bowl. Top with beansprouts, pickled veg, slivered spring onion and the tsp of miso so that it dissolves into the broth, and finally split an egg in half and settle on top. Serve immediately.


Anonymous said...

There is a correction regarding the recipe of alkaline noodles in the second issue of Lucky Peach. It is 4 teaspoons of baking soda instead of 4 tablespoons.

christina said...

The pork/oxtail broth looks absolutely delicious. Definitely will have to try this sometime!

Helen said...

Good effort on the ramen, Mabbers! Did you forget to call me to invite me over that day? You must have done ;) I'm bloody glad I got the first two Lucky Peach issues when I did. I am now VERY tempted to stick the first on EBay.

Hollow Legs said...

Anon - thanks - yep, saw that in issue 2 but I don't think that's it, I think the dough perhaps needs more kneading so that it's more elastic? Tough though as the dough is seriously hard...

Christina - thanks! Do let me know how you get on.

Helen - You were in Gloucs. ;) I'm really glad I got them too. I've annotated the shit out of them though so no ebaying for me...

Riocaz said...

I have been craving ramen for weeks... Decided to kill it with a visit to Wagamama Clink St yesterday.

The Miso broth was okay but the noodles were overcooked (too soft but thankfully not to complete mush).

And reading this today has just re-ignited the craving ;/ Oh well. :)

catty said...

Seems ramen craze is spreading across the globe! i just blogged about Ippudo HK! :) still my favourite i think, that and Ippudo NYC.

Tang said...

Great post Liz! I am a big fan of ramen, esp tonkotsu. I tried some insanely rich tonkotsu in Japan, it was so delicious.

I have never tried to make ramen at home tho. Your oxtail broth looks awesome! I am craving for one now... :P

Anonymous said...

Great stuff! My wife is from Kagoshima in Kyushu and I have become a tonkotsu ramen fiend from my visits there. Ramen is an obssession in Japan, really want to watch this film, a comedy about a search for the perfect bowl of ramen http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0092048/


Hollow Legs said...

Riocaz - Hello! I'm not a huge fan of Wagamama unfortunately, their broths always taste a bit dirty dishwater-y to me. Go on, try it out with your own ;)

Tang - thanks! I bet tonkotsu in Japan was amazing.

Paul Anon - I am becoming a fiend too, will need to visit Japan soon! I've been trying to track down Tampopo but Love Film don't have it :(

KatEzat said...

Oh please share the recipe for the noodles themselves! We are in Hamburg with no ramen in sight, even our Japanese friends are feeling the gap... I'll be keeping an eye on your blog for sure!

Mr Noodles said...

I have a good feeling about 2012 being the year that proper ramen makes it to London. As well as Tsuru, I heard that Toku (next door to the Japan Centre) is going to start serving tonkotsu ramen soon. Happy days!

PS: And thanks for the mention!

The Grubworm said...

I got my first taste of real ramen in Japan too. What a revelation that was. A lovely meaty broth, it's up there with good pho as a warming wonderful one-dish wonder. Haven't had anything to rival it since. Which is a shame.

Those recipes look like the real deal too, rugged and rich sound about right for January. They even feel kinda healthy (once the fat has been safely removed...)

Anonymous said...

London definitely needs some proper ramen. I've never made ramen at home (except the instant kind) so I'm very impressed your effort!

Su-Lin said...

Great effort! You might like this too: http://www.umamimart.com/2011/09/recpy-pasta-de-ramen/

Saw it a couple months ago but never got around to trying it. I want to see the effect the baking soda has!

gourmet traveller said...

Well done you, that bowl looks fantastic! I've been meaning to devote a weekend to ramen-making ever since I laid hands on Lucky Peach but all I've managed to do so far is dogear the page...

Siobhan C said...

I had a go at the Lucky Peach recipe too and it worked out well - the dough is really hard, but I put it through the pasta machine a LOT to soften it up. Looking forward to trying yours.


stevie said...

ah another day, another amazing meal fed to me by Mabbs! I made the mistake of having eggs for breakfast... ha. I LOVED the broth. Id just drink it instead of tea if it wouldnt mean id have to be airlifted into work.

HughTower said...

How creamy/milky did you get your broth to go using this method, Miss Legs? I ask because mine still seems pretty clear after its overnight simmer.

Hollow Legs said...

KatEzat - I will definitely do so when it works well for me!

Mr Noodles - I think you're right. I've heard this too so I'm keeping a close eye on them.

Grubbers - Oh how I wish I could visit Japan! I assure you, healthy they were not.

Chasingbawa - Thanks! I am also a huge fan of instant ramen.

Su-Lin - Oooh! That sounds awesome (if a bit messy) - will definitely try it, thanks!

Gourmet Traveller - thanks! It took me a while to get round to it too - since June, in fact...

Siobhan - That link doesn't work for me? :(

Stevie - you are too kind. More meals coming your way.

HughTower - Alas, it wasn't that milky / creamy, it was quite clear. Still packed a flavour punch though.

HughTower said...

Aah, that's alright then. I feel relieved.

Though I did find this perfectionist's recipe whilst sniffing around the subject.


J said...

Your Ramen looks amazing...just bought a couple of tickets to Tsuru's Ramen event and I can't wait!
@ http://feasttotheworld.blogspot.com/