‘Tonkotsu’ literally translates as pork bones. Which is an accurate description of this Japanese dish, which transforms an apparently useless pile of bones into heart-warming, lip-smackingly delicious ramen broth.
Any stock bones can be used to make the broth – be it the remains of a Sunday roast or a ham bone stashed away in the freezer. Adding skin and hooves makes it more gelatinous, and bones with meat on them intensify the flavours.
As ramen expert Ross Shonhan explains, this isn’t the kind of dish which sticks to any rules or follows strict recipes. So even though it is a Japanese broth, we got into the spirit of rule-breaking by using Chinese chilli bean sauce to bring wonderful warmth to this tonkotsu recipe.
For the tonkotsu broth Serves: 8
- 4kg of bones - can include pork, chicken and beef bones
- 1 onion
- 1 head of garlic
- 500g pork belly
For the ramen seasoning
To garnish the tonkotsu ramen
Method for making the tonkotsu ramen stock (8-10 hours)
- Put all the bones in a stock pot, cover with water and bring to the boil.
- Fry the onion and garlic over a high heat until blackened – the gently bitter, caramel flavours enhance the stock. Add to the pot.
- Keep the pot on a rolling boil - and top up the water throughout the day and skimming off any scum that gathers on the surface. The ideal cooking time is between 8-10 hours.
- The pork belly - used to garnish the dish - is best cooked in the broth. Add to the stock three hours before the end of cooking and boil for around 40 minutes. It is easier to slice the belly when cold. So if time allows, leave to cool and lay it flat in the fridge, cover with clingfilm and place a board or plate on top with something heavy pressing it down. Leave for two hours or overnight.
- Double strain the stock, and either serve straight away or leave to cool and then freeze or refrigerate for later.
- NB. It is difficult to provide exact ‘bone : stock’ ratios. But as a rough guide, we made 5 ½ litres of intensely-flavoured stock from 3.75kg of bones.
To serve the tonkotsu ramen
- Add the stock, kikkoman soy sauce and chilli bean sauce to a pan. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for around 5 minutes. If you are saving some of the broth for another day, allow 700ml of stock, and 1tsp of soy sauce and chilli bean paste per person.
- Add the noodles three minutes before the end of cooking.
- Finely slice the pork belly, and lay on top of the warming noodles – by the time it the stock has heated, the pork will be warm throughout.
- Ladle the broth and noodles into a ramen bowl, garnish with slices of pork, half a Nitamago egg, spring onions, nori seaweed and beasprouts (if using).
After a stage as a chef at a London Michelin-starred restaurant Nicola became obsessed with seeking the best flavours from around the world. She started Sous Chef in 2012, and is always sharing her knowledge of ingredients and writing recipes to showcase those products. Learning from the products, Sous Chef's suppliers and her travels, Nicola has written the majority of the recipes on the Sous Chef website, all of which are big on flavour.