Alex, who in our family is the most ramen-obsessed, has made it her mission to make the best homemade ramen. The first step — make the perfect chashu. Ever since our Ippudo experience, we had been dreaming of the slices of chashu with melt-in-the-mouth layers of pork fat in the bowl of ramen. It was a good peg.
Making the perfect chashu took two attempts over two days. In the first experiment, I followed the procedure in Just One Cookbook. A slab or pork was seared in a hot pan then braised in a mixture of pork bone broth, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar, a few cloves of garlic, a few slices of ginger and half an onion (note that the braising liquid was my own concoction). While the pork fat did reach that desirable level of melt-in-the-mouth tenderness, at that point, the meat had a dry mouth feel.
I took another slab of pork belly and, this time, we rolled and tied the meat (as though we were making porchetta) prior to searing and braising following the procedure laid out by J. Kenji López-Alt in The Food Lab. The result was what we had been dreaming of. The rolling and tying did the trick of keeping more of the meat’s moisture.
Obviously, we need to perfect two more things — cook the perfect soft-boiled eggs and make a tastier (more balanced) miso broth. Those we will do next time. Meanwhile, the chashu pork recipe is ready for sharing.
The perfect chashu (braised pork) for ramen
- 2 slabs of pork belly each about 6" x 6" and no more than two inches thick
- 2 tablespoons cooking oil
- 1/4 cup light soy sauce (I used Kikkoman)
- 1/4 cup sweet rice wine (sake or mirin)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1/2 onion
- 4 slices ginger
- 2 cups pork bone broth (do not substitute water)
- Lay the pork belly flat, skin side down. Roll it into a log. Using a piece of kitchen twine, tie up the pork tightly so that it retains its shape during the long cooking time. Repeat for the other piece of pork belly.
- Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan. Sear the rolled pork on all sides. Roll them around the hot oil so that every inch of the surface is browned. Alternatively, deep fry them for about two minutes.
- Place the browned pork in the slow cooker. Add the rest of the ingredients. Set the slow cooker to LOW and leave the pork to cook for 8 hours.
- Turn off the cooker and leave the pork to continue braising until cool.
- Transfer the pork and braising liquid to a covered container and chill for at least four hours (overnight is recommended).
- Slice the chilled pork thinly. The slices can go directly on bowls of ramen.