Experiments, Ramen, Recipes

Ramen Chashu: Phase 2

November 20, 2014


Hey, Hsien here again! So, on my previous post, I attempted The Food Lab’s rolled pork chashu. The rolling of the pork belly didn’t work out so well, but the flavor was still amazing, so I’m just going to throw the rolling element out and forge ahead. Last time, while the tenderness of the pork belly was amazing, I felt it could have just used just a tad more seasoning and flavor. Gotta be careful, though – there’s a ramen place sort of near me that has okay ramen, but their chashu just tastes like soy sauce. We want it to taste like pork, with just the right soy and salt level. So we’re gonna mix things up a bit this time, but not TOO much. I don’t want to end up with a pork belly that is vastly different than the last batch, and then not be able to identify exactly which element it was that made the difference.

The experiment this time is to:

  1. Up the shoyu content of the braising liquid slightly
  2. Season and sear the pork bellies prior to braising in order to introduce some caramelization to the flavor profile
  3. Use less braising liquid so we get a true braise instead of a boil
img_4383Pork belly from the same Korean market (still “boness”!). They do sell a bone-in version, and cooking meat on the bone always imparts more flavor, but I’ve never worked with bone-in pork belly. Also, I like being able to slice it right out of the pot; I’m not sure how much extra work the bone would add. Maybe I’ll try it in the future.
img_4393Season with salt and pepper lightly on both sides. Not too much salt, since we’re going to braise these guys in soy sauce for hours.
img_4407Put some canola oil or olive oil (light, not extra virgin!) in the pan. 1-2 tbsp, just enough to coat the pan. Set the stove to medium high heat and wait for the pan to heat up. My favorite way to determine if the oil is hot enough: put my fingers under running water, then flick some water into the pan (for any comedy fans, I was reminded of this clip: Hannibal Burress Pickle Juice). If it starts sputtering and spitting up oil (don’t put your face near it), you know it’s ready. Or, you could just wait for the oil to get a shimmer-y look to it. My way’s more fun. This picture shows a bit of both – it’s shimmer-y, and you can see the water droplets popping.
img_4410Stick your pork bellies into it, then don’t mess with them for a minute or two. Let them sear. I ended up only cooking two bellies because three crowded the pan too much. Sorry for the awkward framing – I’m trying to hide how dirty my stovetop is.
img_4412Check for some color. That side’s done. Now do the other side.

Take your pork bellies out and put them aside on a plate or something. Now add 1/4 cup sake to the pan to deglaze. Use some sort of spoon or spatula to scrape up all the burnt bits on the bottom of the pan. That’s all flavor. There’s going to be a lot of oil and sake sputtering up during this phase. My hands and glasses ended up covered in it, and it was intense enough that I wasn’t able to grab my phone and take a picture.

Turn off the heat temporarily, then put the bellies back in the pan. Add your dry braising ingredients, then the liquid. Same recipe as the last post, but we’re upping the soy sauce content. And since we already used the sake to deglaze the pan, we’re omitting it from the ingredients list.

  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup soy sauce*
  • 1/4 cup aji-mirin
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 shallots, peeled and halved
  • 1 bunch scallions, trimmed
  • 1 inch knob ginger, roughly chopped

*was previously 2/3 cup. I know I said in my last post that I was only going to up it by 1-2 tbsp, but I thought about it some more, and decided that if it’s going to be diluted by over 2 cups of other liquid, that might not be enough. Especially if it has to slowly penetrate 2 thick slabs of meat.

img_4413This time, even though we’re using mostly the same recipe as before, we’re only going to add enough liquid to come about halfway up the pork. There will likely be some leftover liquid, since I didn’t bother to scale down the recipe. Toss it out, or drink it if you’re a goddamn monster. Just like last time, set your oven to 275-300 degrees, get the braising liquids simmering on the stove, then cover the pot with foil and put it in the oven for 3.5 hours.
img_4392Beverage during the cook. This is a “bee sting”, a favorite from the Maryland Rennaisance Festival. It’s 1/3 Berrywine Plantations Medieval Mead (not sure of its availability outside of Maryland and the surrounding area – use whatever mead you can get your hands on), 2/3 Kelly’s hard cider. And yeah, I’m drinking it out of a badass handcrafted dragon mug. My tasting buddy covets this mug and usually demands to use it, but I’m cooking effing ramen today, so I’m using it! MY mug!<.div>

img_4414I don’t know if this is strictly necessary, but I’m going to flip the pork halfway through the cook, since it’s not completely submerged this time.
img_44183.5 hours later, and it’s done. Let it cool on the stove, stick in some boiled eggs to marinate in the cooking liquid, and stick it in the fridge overnight.


img_4419So, here’s the sliced pork belly that I forgot to take a picture of last time. Along with some chopped scallions.
img_4421Final bowls: one with bamboo for me, one with corn for my fellow taster.


We both agreed that the pork came out way better. It was definitely more salty and flavorful, and the tie-less cooking method didn’t seem to have any negative effects on its tenderness. My tasting buddy commented that the fat-to-meat ratio was a little heavy this time, but this was due to the cut, not the cook. The pork belly I bought this time was marked down in price from the others, and I’m guessing that was why. Personally, I felt the soy sauce flavor was a little heavy. Maybe next time I’ll scale down to 3/4 cup of soy sauce for the braise. Also, the pre-braise sear didn’t seem to add much, except it made the bottom of the belly a little tough. So maybe I’ll just skip that step next time.

img_4425I bought some naruto fish cake to add to the ramen for presentation and flavor, but unfortunately, I completely forgot to use it. Next time.

As for the broth, I scaled down on the shiitakes this time (I added maybe 5 total), and upped the bacon to 3 strips instead of 1. As the broth was simmering, I was afraid it would be too bacon-y, as all I could smell was bacon, but the finished product was excellent. The bacon added some nice salt content and fattiness to the broth. I still didn’t detect any smokiness, though, even though I used smoked bacon. David Chang’s Momofuku broth uses bacon from Benton’s, which, being small-batch and hand-crafted, probably has a much more potent smoke content. I don’t really need the smokiness though, so I might just let that be for the moment.

All in all, another successful ramen cook! I have a few ideas for the next go-around, so look for another post soon!

Soundtrack for the cook

Chvrches, Cults, Crystal Castles. All “C” bands.

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