Often generalised as a Japanese noodle soup, ramen is so much more than the standard soups often consumed en-masse in the UK. Far greater than the sum of its most basic parts, good ramen takes a fair amount of time to prepare, but the flavour makes all of the preparation completely worthwhile. And while the dish does take time to prepare, don’t be put off by the timings, as much of the preparation time is inactive, with almost everything best cooked in advance. It’s thus perfect as a dish to serve guests.
While almost every region of Japan has its own ramen recipe, this ramen takes elements from different recipes, crowned with slices of slow-cooked pork belly, which need to be chilled for at least six hours (or ideally overnight), before being thinly sliced and fried to crisp up.
Preparing the broth is also a labour of love, which produces the foundations for this comforting dish. It’s loaded with chicken wings, carrots, onions, kombu, shiitake mushrooms, spring onions, garlic, ginger, MSG, and a dash of the pork’s cooking liquor, which is imbued with mirin, sake, and soy sauce. Although not absolutely necessary, it’s worth investing in a high quality bottle of soy sauce as its presence makes a huge difference to the overall result. Once ready to serve, the broth is then poured over cooked noodles, shiitake mushrooms and jammy soy eggs, which also call to be prepared in advance. Finally top with chopped spring onions and a generous pinch of togarashi (also known as Japanese seven spice) on the egg yolks and tuck in. Although not 100 per cent authentic, this pork ramen is both deeply comforting and gorgeously restorative.
Prepare the pork in advance as it needs to cool down for at least six hours, or ideally overnight, before assembling the ramen.
The eggs need to be soaked in the pork’s braising liquor, so should also be prepared well in advance of serving.
Cook the noodles for the ramen in separate salted water. Cooking in the broth will add starch making the broth cloudy.
- 2.4 kg chicken wings
- 4 carrots cut into small pieces
- 2 small brown onions quartered
- 2 x 20cm pieces kombu
- 8 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 6 spring onions roughly chopped plus extra sliced for garnish
- 1 head of garlic halved
- 5 cm piece ginger sliced
- Cooked ramen noodles to serve
- Pork cooking liquid to taste
- 1 tbsp MSG
For the pork (to be made in advance)
- 90 ml mirin
- 90 ml sake
- Neutral cooking oil for shallow frying
- 4 cm piece of ginger sliced
- 4 garlic cloves lightly crushed
- 4 spring onions roughly chopped
- 1.5 kg rolled pork belly
- 250 ml soy sauce
- 70 g granulated sugar
For the soy eggs (to be made in advance)
- 2 soft/medium boiled eggs peeled
- Togarashi Japanese 7 Spice, to taste
- Pork cooking liquid
- Begin by preparing the pork, ideally on the day before.
- Preheat oven to 120C/Gas ½.
- In a bowl, mix together the soy sauce, sugar, mirin and sake.
- Place a large oven proof dish on the hob, over high heat. Sear the pork on all sides until browned, around 2 minutes per side. Pour over the soy sauce mixture. Add the ginger, garlic and onions. Then top up with extra water until at least half the pork belly is submerged. Cover with a lid and cook in the oven for 3 hours, turning the pork every half an hour.
- Leave the pork and cooking liquid to cool then transfer to fridge and chill overnight (minimum 6 hours).
- Once completely cooled, remove the fat from the top of the cooking liquid. Transfer the pork to a cutting board. Remove the string and slice into thin pieces. Before serving heat the pork slices in a non-stick frying pan until golden.
- Also make the soy eggs in advance. When chilling the pork, add the eggs to the cooking dish to soak overnight, if there isn’t space decant some of the liquid into a smaller dish. If possible, flip the eggs after a few hours.
- To prepare the ramen, preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Cut the chicken wings through their joints into smaller pieces. Spread the wings, carrots and brown onions out in a large roasting tin and cook for 45-60 minutes in the oven or until golden brown, flipping hallway through the cooking time.
- Over high heat, transfer the roasting pan to the hob and pour in around 500ml of water. Use a wooden spoon to scrape up all the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Then transfer the contents of the pan to a large stockpot.
- Place the stock pot over a high heat and add the kombu, shiitake, spring onions, garlic and ginger. Top up with 2.5 litres of water. Bring the stock to a simmer then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently for 3 hours, skimming the surface every so often.
- Remove and reserve the shiitake mushrooms. Remove and discard the chicken and aromatics. Strain the broth through a fine mesh sieve. Pour the broth into a clean saucepan. Season the broth with MSG add some of the pork cooking liquid to taste. (I use around 230ml).
- To serve, place the cooked noodles in serving bowls. Ladle over the soup broth. Top with the fried pork slices. Slice the reserved shiitake mushrooms and add the mushroom slices to the bowl. Add half an egg and sprinkle over the spring onion and some togarashi onto the eggs.
This article was updated on Friday 28th January, 2022.