Tonkotsu Ramen

IMG_3714On a warm winter evening, nothing can beat a warm bowl of noodle and soup, and one of my favorite noodle dishes is Japanese Ramen! The flavorful broth matched with the chewy but tender noodle with toppings like Tempura or Char Shu is just the perfect combination. Even though the wildly popular soy & miso broth are amazing with the curly, thick ramen noodle, my favorite on a cold winter night is a very special ramen, known is the west as Tonkotsu Ramen.

Tonkotsu ramen is a ramen dish that’s from Fukuoka, on the Kyushu island (southern end) of Japan, and it is a specialty in the region. Like many amazing dishes, like Pot-au-feu, Barbacoa, Mujaddara or Gumbo, it has a humble origin, and it is famous for the long preparation time. Invented as an affordable fast food for workers on the harbor and fish market, the soup broth is used cheap pork bones and affordable other ingredients, which is typically boiled for several hours. The dish is traditionally served with thin ramen noodles so they can be served quickly during the short breaks, and topped with sliced Char Shu, braised pork belly. In Japan, Tonkotsu ramen is also known as Hakata ramen, so when you are they, give it a try!

Today, we will make a version where most ingredients can be easily gathered in the western world, since a lot of ingredients are hard to find outside certain countries, so if you are a ramen snob or purist, please understand that even though this is not exactly the same as how they make it in Fukuoka, the flavor is similar, the ingredients are affordable and easy to find, and the most important thing of all is that it is DELICIOUS. Let’s make it! (Also, this takes about 24 hours to make, so be prepared.)

Here’s how to make one of the most iconic toppings for ramen: Cha Shu

You’ll Need:

  • 1.5 kg or 3.3 lb pig trotters (if you can’t find it, don’t worry, just use the same weight of pork soup bone (*ask your butcher), plus about 0.45 kg or 1 lb of chicken wings)
  • 1 kg or 2.2 lb chicken backs and carcasses
  • 1 large onion
  • 12 garlic cloves
  • 1 knob ginger
  • 2 dozen scallions, white parts only (save the greens for garnishing)
  • Optional: 1 pound slab pork fat back

How to make this:

  1. Cut the pig trotter crosswise into 1-inch disks (or ask your butcher to do it for you), bring a large pot of water to a boil, then place pork and chicken bones (and wings) in the boiling water to blanch them for about 2 min. Strain and wash all bones under cold water, removing as much as the dark marrow (actually coagulated blood).
  2. You now need to char the aromatics, if you have a blow torch, you can just char the surface of the onion, garlic, and ginger. If a blow torch is not available, heat the vegetable oil in a medium cast iron or non-stick skillet over high heat until lightly smoking, then add onions, garlic, and ginger, tossing occasionally until deeply charred on most sides, which takes about 10 minutes total.
  3. Place the bones in the pot with charred vegetables, scallion whites. Add water and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat, skimming off any scum that appears, then reduce heat to a bare simmer and place a heavy lid on top.
  4. Cooking until broth is opaque with the texture of cream, which takes about 14 to 16 hours, add a little bit of water to keep the bones submerged at all times, which is about once an hour after hour 4. (If you must leave the pot unattended for long period of time, top up the pot and reduce the heat to the lowest setting while you are gone. Return to a boil when you come back and continue cooking) 

  5. Once broth is pretty much done, cook over high heat until reduced to around 3 quarts. Strain the broth through a fine mesh strainer, then strain again through cheesecloth. Skim liquid fat from the top.

All you need to do after the broth is completed is to cook some thin straight noodles, which is traditionally used at ramen shops in Fukuoka, add a couple slices of Cha Shu, Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese pickled eggs), and enjoy!

Ps. These are the Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese pickled eggs), I soft boiled the egg and pickled it in a soy-mirin-sake marinade for about 24 to 72 hours in the fridge.

 

 

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Cha Shu

img_0874Cha Shu is a tender, salty, sweet, fatty, melt-in-your-mouth slices of braised pork belly. Though it originated in China, the Japanese adapted it and made it their own. It’s just the perfect topping for a bowl of lovely, warm ramen.

 

 

 

 

You Need:

  • 0.9 kg or 2 lb slab of boneless pork belly, with skin-on
  • 120 ml or 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 250 ml or 1 cup sake
  • 250 ml or 1 cup mirin
  • 100 g or 3.5 oz sugar
  • 5 scallions stem (aka the white part)
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 3 thick slice of ginger
  • 1 shallot

How to make it:

  1. img_3643.jpgIf the pork belly you have is in a long rectangular shape, you can lay pork belly on cutting board and roll up lengthwise, with skin facing out, then tie it up using butchers twine. If you don’t have a shape like that, you don’t have to do this.
  2. Sear the surface of the pork belly until the sides except for the skin on top is browned. Then heat 1 cup water with the soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar, scallions, garlic, shallot, and ginger in a saucepan until boiling. Place the meat in sauce and transfer it to a 135C or 275F oven, turning pork occasionally, until pork is fully tender which should take about 4 to 5 hours.
  3. Place it in a sealed container (ideally something here the meat can be fully submerged in the sauce) and refrigerate until completely cool (ideally 20 hr so the meat can absorb the maximum amount of flavors)
  4.  When ready to serve, remove pork belly and strain broth. Slice pork belly into thin rounds, then heat the slices with a blowtorch, charring its surface, then serve.

Katsu Curry

Japanese food is not only famous for its traditional dishes like sushi, ramen or the different “don”s, but also for perfectly incorporating western ingredients & flavors into traditional Japanese cooking, these dishes are called Yoshoku or western food. So, today, we are making an easy and fast dish that you can find almost everywhere in Japan.

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You’ll need these for the Japanese curry:

  • 3 cubes Japanese curry roux
  • 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 lb mushroom
  • 1 large potato
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1/2 medium sweet onion
  • 1 tbsp oil

You’ll need these for the katsu (fried pork chop):

  • 2 slices pork loin chops
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1 cup panko breadcrumb
  • oil for frying

How to make this:

  1. Slice the onion and mushroom, then sweat them in an oiled deep pan or pot over medium heat. Peel the carrot and potato, cut them into 1/2-inch or 1 cm thick cubes, add them to the pan/pot and sautée for about 1 min, then add the chicken broth, bring it to a simmer, cover and cook for about 15 min
  2. Pre-heat the oil to 170C or 340F. Lightly pound the pork chop, cover it with flour, drench it in the beaten egg, then cover it with panko bread crumb. Fry them for about 7 to 8 min
  3. Add the curry roux cubes into the stock with the cooked vegetable, stir gently while the stock is simmering for about 2 min or until it thickens
  4. Cut the pork chop, serve it over some rice and cover it with the curry sauce

Chinese Braised Pork Belly

The Chinese Braised Pork Belly or “红烧肉” is one of my favorite dishes when I was growing up, whenever my mom makes it during the weekends, there would be no leftovers. This recipe is very different from almost any recipes you will find because it’s my grandma’s and her grandma’s, it only has 6 ingredients and super easy to make, however, it takes a while to cook, so without further adieu, let’s make this! This recipe serves 2-3.

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You’ll need:

  • 2 lb pork belly (with all the lovely fat on)
  • 2 oz turbinado sugar
  •  1 1/2 cup Chinese rice wine (use a lager if you don’t have rice wine)
  • 2 green/spring onion
  • 3 slices ginger
  • 1 star anise

How to make this:

  1. In a large heavy-duty pot, heat over medium and melt the sugar until they turn slightly brown or barely caramelized
  2. Cut the pork belly into 1 1/2 inch cubes, then lower the heat to medium, sear each side for about 6 min or until most of the fat has come out
  3. Pour in the rice wine, add the green/spring onion, ginger, and star anise, bring it to a simmer and cook it for about 1 hour over medium-low heat
  4. Serve it with rice, vegetables or boiled egg

Feijoada

If there’s a national dish of Bazil, it is the feijoada, the black bean stew. Like many Brazilian dishes, this dish originated from Portugal (that’s why it uses so much pork and garlic), but uses cheaper cuts of meat and tenderizes it through slow, low cooking. So, let’s make it! This recipe serve 3-5 people

You’ll need: 1 lb dry black beans; 2 lb cheap cuts of pork (I used a mixture of 1 lb pig feet, 1/2 lb pig tails; ½ lb pig tongue, if you can’t find these, just use a piece of shoulder/butt with some bones & ham hocks), 1/2 lb bacon, 2 bay leaves; 1/2 lb smoked pork sausage (kielbasa will be the best, but andouille works too); 3 tbsp vegetable oil; 1 onion; 10 cloves garlic (yes, 10); salt

How to make this:

  1. Soak the dry black bean overnight in some cold clear water, drain and rinse the beans twice before cooking
  2. Heat up a large pot over high heat, place the beans, feet, tails, tongue, bacon and bay leaves in the pot. Pour in about 10 cups of water, bring it to a boil, then turn the heat down to low, skim any foam that comes up and cover with a lid, let is simmer for 2 hours
  3. Heat some vegetable oil over medium heat, then mince the onion & garlic, cook the onion for 10 min or until they are caramelized, then add the garlic and cook for another 3 min
  4. Slice the smoked sausage, then add them with the caramelized onion & garlic. Take out some of the beans, crush them and add them back to create a creamer stew. Cover and let it cook on low for another 1 hour
  5. Sever it with slices of orange, some rice, faraofa, and collard green

Lu Rou Fan (Braised Pork Rice Bowl)

There use to be a little Taiwanese cafe next to my old middle school, so instead of eating the disgusting food at the school cafetiria, my friend and I would sneak out and eat there, and we would order Lu Rou Fan (卤肉饭) every time, because it was fast, cheap, and absolutely delicious. The cook there would start cooking this huge pot of meat at around 7 in the morning, and by lunchtime, the pork is slow-cooked to perfection, with a thick, sticky sauce, and for a group of 12 years old, meat and rice was all we needed. This dish is super easy to make and has a really short prep time, you can start it in the morning before you leave and come back and eat it for dinner. Even though it is traditionally eaten with rice, you can put then in a steamed bun (or bao) to make a “Chinese sloppy Joe”, wrap them in a tortilla with some rice to make a “Chinese burrito”, or bake it in some puff pastry and turn it into a “Chinese meat pie”, the possibility is endless, just use your imagination! This recipe serves about 3 people.

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You’ll need: 1 lb skin-on pork belly (if you can’t find them, shoulder meat also works); 2 teaspoons oil; 2 sugar; 2 shallots; 1/4 cup rice wine (Shaoxing wine preferred, but any rice wine works); 1 tbsp Chinese five spice; 5 tbsp soy sauce; 2 cups water; 4 hardboiled eggs, peeled (optional)

How to make this:

  1. Cut the pork belly into 1/2 inch thick cubes, with the skin and fat on. Cut the shallot into thin slices, then fry them in a heavy deep pan or pot with oil until they turn golden
  2. Once the shallots are golden, turn up the heat to high and add the pork cubes to the same pan, you don’t need to add any extra oil since more fat will be cooked out of the pork while you are browning them
  3. After the pork are slightly browned, stir in the Chinese five spice and slightly toast them a little with just the meat and fried shallot, it should only take about 30sec to 1 min but will improve the aroma of the dish
  4. Pour in the rice wine, soy sauce, and water, place the peeled hard boiled egg in the pan with the sauce and meat, stay on high heat to bring it to a simmer, then cover and let it cook on medium-low for at least 1 hour (or up to 8 hours, turn the heat to low if cook over 3 hours and add 1/4 cup of water for every extra hour)
  5. While meat is being cooked, make some rice, 2 cups of rice (with 1.2 times water) would feed about 3 – 4 people
  6. Serve the braised pork on top of some rice with the egg and any greens, you can also sprinkle on some chopped green onion or pickled greens

Sausage Rolls

As British street food goes, the sausage roll is a quick and easy and delicious snack that you can eat wherever you want. It’s amazingly easy, and you can take it anywhere, so why spend 4 pounds for 1 when you can make 2 with roughly the same amount of money.

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You need:

  • 1/2 red onion
  • 3 pork sausages(about 1 lb)
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 sheet ready-made puff pastry
  • 1 egg

How to make this:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C or 350F degree
  2. Thinly slice the red onion, then caramelize them in a pan with some butter, till they are soft and golden brown
  3. Slice open the sausage and take out the meat, mix in with the onion, breadcrumbs, and nutmeg
  4. Roll the pastry out into a big rectangle with the thickness of a pound coin and cut it in half into 2 smaller rectangles
  5. Whisk the egg and brush on the edge of the puff pastry, place the meat in a long roll, then fold the pastry, seal it with the tip of the fork
  6. Brush on a layer of egg wash, then bake it for about 25 min

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(2 Golden & Warm Fresh Sausage Rolls)