Call ramen Japan’s soul food. Thin wheat noodles in a rich broth imbued with meat, veggies, and toppings, it’s a soul-satisfying meal in a bowl. Japan has almost as many types of ramen as it does sushi, making it one of the country’s most popular foods. and judging by the recent proliferation of hip, upscale ramen joints in America, this savory noodle dish is now a favorite here, too.
Bitten by the ramen bug, our food editor/test kitchen manager, Diana Andrews, embarked on a quest to master the recipe. Under the tutelage of Japanese chef Mamie Nishide, owner of the Japanese Cooking Studio in New York City, Andrews learned to make chashu ramen, the rich pork-broth version that’s topped with slices of salty-sweet, meltingly tender braised pork belly (aka chashu). Andrews’s results were so transcendent—and so surprisingly accessible—that we knew we needed to share the secrets with you. “Once you try this recipe, you’ll never go back,” Nishide says, “and my students are always delighted to discover that the process is much easier than they expected.”
Making the broth takes time, but it’s an easy process that unfolds smoothly. You can work on the dish over the course of two days, and once the elements come together—the flavorings in the broth and marinade, the noodles, and the toppings of succulent pork, marinated soft-cooked eggs, and sliced scallions—you’ll discover that the resulting whole is vastly greater than the sum of its parts. As Andrews says, “It’s satisfying on so many levels, and the return you get for your investment of time is worth every minute.”
Making Chashu Ramen, Step by Step
Tips for Ramen Success
- Most of the dish’s components (the broths, eggs, and marinade) can be made up to two days ahead.
- If you like, double the broths and marinade and freeze half to make another batch of ramen later.
- The pork belly becomes very tender during cooking. Tying it with kitchen twine before cooking will keep the meat together.
- Let the pork cool to room temperature in the broth and, again, in the marinade. This helps the meat stay moist and juicy, and allows it to absorb maximum flavor from the liquid.
- Pricking the wide end of an egg’s shell with a pin or egg piercer before boiling allows the cooked egg to have a smooth, round end. Some cooks also believe that piercing the shell helps prevent the white from sticking to the shell when you peel it.
- Peeling boiled eggs while they’re submerged in cold water or under running cold water helps loosen the shell from the egg.
- Adding the reserved pork marinade to the ramen broth a bit at a time lets you decide how rich to make the broth.
How to Make Homemade Ramen Noodles
You can use store-bought dried, fresh or frozen ramen noodles for the dish, or make your own fresh noodles. Fresh noodles add a distinctive tang, chewy-firm texture, and a lovely golden hue. If you have the time and inclination, they’re worth making from scratch–and it’s kind of fun too.
Here are the steps involved: