Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Tonkotsu Ramen Broth

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'm not.

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 (:


  1. The pictures are mouth watering :)

  2. you're a brave girl leaving your slow cooker on all night! I'd be so worried about it that I don't think I'd sleep. But the results look simply delicious.

  3. Shuhan, congratulations for these amazing photos! Your tonkotsu ramen looks fabulous!
    I think there must be a kind of telepathy... I also made for the first time pork broth to make tonkotsu ramen a week ago. (I must check if it's still edible because I have completely forgotten it in the fridge.)
    I see you are also Shizuoka Gourmet's visitor ;-)
    Burnt garlic oil is something I must absolutely try. Very "food geeky" ;-)

  4. Wow, you made tonkatsu ramen from scratch!! The taste must be heavenly! I've never made ramen stock from scratch, probably one day when I am not too lazy ;).

  5. Great post Shu Han! And an unusual (to me) use of tahini!

  6. I often make broth, indeed even today from some turkey giblets. I am a huge fan of ramen noodles too.

  7. I am no expert in soups and broths too, and I've heard from some, indeed the leg bones are the best. I must try this broth one day, with tahini and burnt garlic.. err, I think I'll chicken out too and let it stay golden.

  8. munaty: thank you!

    little macaroon: it's quite safe...I think? it's a traditional kind with a claypot!

    sissi: haha we really seem to be telepathic! will be sure to check yours out! haha yes i also visit shizuoka gourmet! the geeky burnt garlic oil is from no recipes hehe.

    coooking gallery: haha it's not that bad, there is not much work involved, just time!

    anna: thanks! yes, i was quite surprised to see tahini there too!

    stephen: cool, turkey giblet broth! must go check that out.

    wendy: oh i think leg bones are good only if you want the rich milky broth., not the chinese clear soups though! haha.

    1. The butcher told me, if I don't crack the bones open but leave them whole, it's great for clear soups. I don't know, haven't tried yet

  9. That looks good! I want to give it a go to make the broth!

  10. Wow, 15hours of broth, must be very sweet and flavourful. I always like the ramen soup, must try this one day. Thanks for sharing.

  11. Yummy! Great post!!! So it's really just the pork bones alone that made the soup?!!! Your final dish looks like the classic ramen noodle dish, just that you added bean sprouts! WELL DONE! :)

    Btw, I've acquired a liking for sushi now- surprising?? HAHA. I think that's because I've finally eaten very fresh and well-made sushi, at itacho sushi- will bring you there when you are back in sg, then maybe you will change your mind about sushi!

  12. Just what I would need now! I'm feeling a bit unwell, so that would be a perfect lift-me-up dish. Delicious and warming.



  13. Shu Han I have nominated you to do the Food Bloggers Unplugged challenge. I was nominated by Dom at Belleau Kitchen and having completed the challenge myself I thought you may like to have a go! I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

  14. wow! The ramen looks so, so, good!

    I don't eat pork, but thanks to your recipe, I think I can adapt to something suitable..

  15. I have wondered about making broth with pork bones! I've tossed a couple into other meat broths but I've found it odd that (other than the ham hock that's added to some stews) it's used so seldom in Western cooking. I *love* Tonkatsu Ramen and yours looks sensational.

  16. Kudos to you for making your own Tonkotsu stock! and you've nailed the half boiled eggs for this ramen dish!

  17. Big thumbs up for your dedication to broth! Your photos are wonderfully clear and bright - I'd be interested to know what your food photography tips would be?

  18. mycookinghut: please give it a go! the ingredients are so simple!

    sonia: it is really thick with flavour(:

    shuqi: wow really, i like sushi la, I just find it overrated. ah, ok, but that'll be all the way in june next year ):

    rosa: get well soon! you should prbably drink clear soups when you're sick though, this is quite rich.

    elaine: i did it!!

    anh: good idea to try it with other bones!

    susan: it's odd, because it's the most popular type of bone used for asian broths!

    shirley: yay thank you!

    kate; thanks! i really am not a photography expert. my advice would be to take everythign in daylight. it makes the food look 200% better. and to just "copy" from other brilliant food photographers!

  19. Oh my goodness.. This is FRIGGIN' amazing, Shu Han!! This is really my fav kind of tonkotsu broth. Thick, rich in collagen and fats, and even sticky in the mouth too! Genius... Will have to attempt this one day! THANKS!! =D

  20. That looks pretty incredible. I have such a ramen addiction too...

  21. Thank you for stopping by my blog. This looks so delicious and I could really eat a bowl or two right now. I've bookmarked it and gonna give it a go sometime soon. I'm a follower now hope to a see you around mine : )

  22. I just bought a slow cooker to try this!

    1. Wow that is dedication haha! Let me know how it goes x

  23. I'm interested to try this but not sure what is tahini? Any pictures? Is it the sesame seed dressings for salad or dipping for shabu shabu? Thanks.

    1. it's ground toasted white sesame paste. Found some photo off google:

      but there are LOADS of brands you could check out :)

  24. Thanks, Shu Han! I will source for it. :)

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  26. Can I cook in the slow cooker on high for the entire 15 hours? After blanching and cleaning, of course. Also, do you think the finished broth is freezer-friendly? I'd like to make a large batch and save some for later. Lastly, how long do you think the garlic oil will keep? Please advise, and thank you in advance! Can't wait to try!!!!

    1. If you cook it on high for the entire 15 hours you won't have any broth left! Does your slow cooker have an auto switch function? And yes it freezes well. Garlic oil will keep for a week to couple weeks, if you keep it cool and always dip with a clean dry spoon.

    2. Well that's not good! Lol, and no I just have the basic low-high-warm crock pot. I think I'll just simmer on the stove for about 7 hrs then in the crock pot for another 7 or 8. About how much broth did you have after the 15 hours? I'm starting on it today after lunch. I'm so excited!! Thanks for your reply and for the recipe!! :)

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