What Is Tonkotsu Ramen?

Out of all authentic Japanese ramen recipes, tonkotsu is probably one of the most popular ones. If you were wondering – “What is tonkotsu ramen?” all information will be provided in this article.

Tonkotsu ramen is a traditional Japanese dish made of pork broth and dried ramen noodles. The traditional toppings are slices of braised pork belly and soft-boiled eggs. However, many other ingredients can be added as well, depending on the person’s preferences.

A bowl of tonkotsu ramen

Tonkotsu Ramen Is One of the Most Popular Ramen Dishes in Japan

When translated, the word “tonkotsu” literally means “pork bones,” which is, as mentioned, the main ingredient. This ramen recipe originated on the island of Kyushu in the city of Fukuoka. It is known for its unique texture and milky color, which comes from boiled pork bones and fat.

Broth Is the Most Important Ingredient of Tonkotsu Ramen

The broth is the key ingredient that brings uniqueness to this dish. However, in order to prepare a good tonkotsu broth, you will need at least half a day. Tonkotsu broth is made mainly from pig’s trotters, but other pork bones can be used as well.

If you have gotten used to cooking ramen in the microwave, know that such practices cannot be applied to tonkotsu ramen. This recipe requires patience and serenity, so don’t hesitate to apply the principles of a Japanese garden when making this delicacy.

How to Prepare the Broth to Experience the Special Flavor of Tonkotsu Ramen

The preparation of tonkotsu broth, on average, lasts from twelve to eighteen hours, and it should be cooked on a stovetop in a regular Dutch oven. Other types of kitchenware, like pressure cookers, will speed up the process, but the result won’t be as satisfactory. Here is what needs to be done.

Step 1Clean the pork bones thoroughly. The best way to do this is to place them in a pot filled with cold water and boil them. After that, you should take something thin like a toothpick and remove all residue from crevices (blood, organ, and marrow bits)
Step 2After everything has been cleaned, fill your Dutch oven with water and start boiling the cleaned bones. The recommended time is twelve hours, after which the pig’s trotters should be completely disintegrated. While cooking, you should skim everything that appears on the surface. If the bones are properly cleaned, all residue will appear in the first half an hour of boiling or so.
Step 3After the water starts to boil (there isn’t a precise time for this), a slab of unsalted pork fat should be added. The fat will slowly dissolve and impart a slightly gelatinous texture which is the main characteristic of tonkotsu ramen. Although this step is not mandatory, it should be done if you want to achieve the full flavor.
Step 4Depending on the region of Japan, you can often find people adding onions, garlic, and ginger to the broth while boiling. Some people even like to add chicken bones to further enhance the flavor. However, if you are preparing it for the first time, go with the pork bones only first to experience the genuine flavor. This is another step that is not mandatory.

Finally, Noodles and Toppings Should Be Added

First of all, if you are thinking about whether to use real or instant ramen noodles, know that authentic Japanese ramen cannot be prepared with instant noodles. Ideally, you should go to an Asian supermarket and look for dried Japanese ramen noodles.

If you can’t find any, Italian spaghetti can act as a substitute. However, when boiling spaghetti, two tablespoons of baking soda should be added in order to achieve the chewy texture of Japanese ramen noodles.

When it comes to toppings, there are some traditional ones, but you can experiment if you want to. Here is what can be added:

  • Chashu – Chashu is braised pork belly marinated in soy sauce. Usually, two or three slices are added to the bowl.
  • Eggs – Tonkotsu is always served with soft-boiled eggs.
  • Seasonings – The traditional tonkotsu seasonings are sesame seeds, nori (dried seaweed), and chili bean paste.
  • Mushrooms – Mushrooms are regular additions to ramen dishes, and shitake mushrooms are often used with tonkotsu.

Preparing Tonkotsu Ramen Is Definitely Worth It as the Flavor Is Extraordinary

If you love this Japanese dish, but your only experience is ramen from Amazon, spending some of your free time to prepare this delicacy is definitely worth it. Tonkotsu ramen is often referred to as a dish for colder temperatures as it can be quite strong depending on the amount of pork fat. Nevertheless, it is always pleasant to try something different, even more so when you take into consideration that Japanese cuisine is generally healthy.