After that in-depth post on making your own stock or bone broth, I think I might have given the impression that I'm really good at making perfect stock.
I try, and heck, to me, that's the right way! There are so many types of bone broths anyway, and the Japanese tonkotsu ramen broth is an example of how different the idea of 'perfect' is. I mentioned how in most Chinese stock/soup-making, the aim is to get a very clear and light soup. Tonkotsu broth is the opposite. It's so decadently thick and rich with the collagen and fat from pork marrow bones that you get an almost milky white broth.
The first time I tried it, I did it the way Marc Matsumoto from No Recipes suggested- mixed with chicken bones, complete with ginger, tahini, and burnt garlic (he has a really great detailed post and he's probably eaten and made a lot more ramen broths than me). Then I came across Shizuoka Gourmet, whose broth was the complete opposite, with just one ingredient: pork bones. I loved the simplicity of it. Tonkotsu broth is, after all, essentially, about pork. There's something poetic about how just putting in effort and time transforms a pile of pork bones to a delicious broth rich in flavour (and nutrients). I still kept Marc's tips on using pork leg bones for the marrow and connective tissues, and the tahini for an added nutty aroma and richness. The burnt garlic oil as a final flourish isn't a must, but it is pretty awesome.
Tonkotsu Ramen Broth/Stock
To make about 2 litres of broth base
1.5 kg pork leg bones
7 litres of water
To serve (for 1)
2 1/2 cups of broth base
1 heaped tsp tahini (sesame seed paste)
1 serving of ramen noodles
unrefined sea salt and white pepper, to taste (or use miso instead for miso tonkotsu ramen)
Toppings (up to you)
squidgy yolk hard-boiled eggs, beansprouts, seaweed, black wood ear/cloud fungus, shredded leftover pork from the bits hanging on the bones, toasted garlic and ginger, toasted sesame seeds, chopped spring onions, seaweed, black garlic oil (see below)
1. In a deep large pot, blanch the bones in boiling hot water to remove the blood and impurities. Drain the water and scrub the pot before filling with fresh water and bringing to the boil.
2. Add the bones again and keep skimming off any foam or scum, about 20 min.
3. Cover and let simmer on a low fire for 15 hours. (yes, no typo. What I did was transfer to my slow cooker, pre-heated and kept on high, through the night.)
At the start- pork leg bones, with the lovely marrow and fat we want
After 2 hours- see the oil that will get emulsified with the stock to get our creamy broth
After 15 hours- concentrated broth heaven
The bones after that - bleached dry of all their goodness
4. Filter to get your tonkotsu broth base.
5. To serve, blanch the noodles in boiling water for 1 minute or till slightly less done (as it'll continue cooking). Mix the ingredients for the soup and pour over the noodles, then top with choice of toppings. Slurp and enjoy!
The broth was deliciously rich and so creamy you'd think there was something more than just bones and water. You'll see that the latest attempt (not this photo, the one right at the start) was slightly more successful. I slurped all of them down very happily anyway, and knew right after that this was thick with collagen because my lips got all sticky. I heard from my Japanese classmate that in Japanese ramen places, you had to finish your ramen and slurp down the whole bowl of soup or you'll start getting the evil eye, so I'm just keeping up with tradition(:
You'll notice I haven't given much attention to the other components of the tonkotsu ramen. The toppings are really up to you, but purists would say the noodles are perhaps just as important as the broth. The ramen master will probably be using handmade ramen noodles, but I think I would starve if I had to start making the noodles too. I did use fresh egg spaghettini, handmade by Phil from Pimlico farmers' market...
The thing about the elusive tonkotsu ramen broth, is that there is no definite recipe to follow. It's that heavily guarded secret and the only way to get hold of it is by, I don't know, begging a ramen master to let you train under him for 20 years, or some kind of despicable means? Or you could just research and experiment yourself, which is what I did. I hope you enjoyed the recipe, but keep on visiting your favourite ramen place!
Oh and lastly, the 'burnt' garlic oil if you're interested:
Black ("Burnt") Garlic Oil
1/4 cup sesame oil
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1. Over medium low heat, toast the minced garlic in the sesame oil, stirring occasionally until it is very dark brown. Turn the heat down to low and let it cook until it is black. (I kind of chickened out and stopped at the dark brown/copper stage, see photo.)
2. Immediate transfer hot oil and garlic to a heatproof bowl, let cool completely and blitz with a hand blender until you get a uniformly black (or copper) oil. It will taste slightly bitter but is fantastic when you add just a little bit to the broth
Black garlic oil for Black Friday (: