Chasu Ramen, “Tonkotsu” Broth / by jared

Oh ramen, my dear ramen.

So, one of my food pet peeves is hearing tv or radio commercials reference ramen as the cheap crappy food that college kids survive on. That is NOT ramen. Cup noodles or even maruchan is not even close. It's gross. I refuse to eat it- even if it's 10 cents a packet! Authentic ramen may be the fast food of Japan, but it is also ridiculously good (unlike fast food in the US). Everywhere you go in Japan, you can find ramen stands/shop. Depending on where you are, each region has their own regional specialty. And everyone has their well kept secret on how to make the stock, on the lock down. Unless you marry into a family, you will never learn their secret! There are a few basic types to choose from-soyu ramen (or soy sauce based), miso ramen (miso based) and our favorite shio ramen (flavor with salt) One particular shio ramen is tonkotsu, originated from Hakata region in Fukuoka. The broth is made by simmering pork bones until the stock is white and milky. We had our first taste when we visited Fukuoka a few years back, and that is where I fell in love with real ramen. The bowl of noodles were topped with tons of chopped scallions, minced fried garlic, and a few slices of pork. The soup was so incredibly intense and full bodied. Ever since that experience we have been trying to find that taste back in Chicago.

Its been bitterly cold here in Chicago, so what could be better than making our own chasu ramen to keep us warm. Usually we make the trip to Santouka in Mitsuwa Marketplace in Arlington Heights, which is the closest to the ramen in Japan that you will find here. But rather than fight the traffic, we decided to stay in and make it ourselves. Jared has attempted many times to get the stock white and milky. But not having a huge vat of bones that simmers for days on end, it is difficult to make the soup at home. In the past, Jared was able to get the soup white, but lacked the body. So this time, he cheated and added a few ingredients to get the taste, texture and color. The thick milky broth was satisfying and flavorful with every slurp, but we are still a ways to go before opening up a ramen joint. Plus, I could tell that he had cheated! So until we have perfect the recipe, we will refrain from putting it up. But if you know how to make authentic tonkotsu ramen, please do share with us. =)

We didn't make them, but bought the raw ramen noodles from our local Asian market

Pork belly simmered in soy, mirin, sake, ginger and a little five spice powder. Jared has gotten really good at making this!

And lunch is served, with tons of raw minced garlic, scallions and sliced pork belly

We leave you with a clip from the quintessential Japanese comedy film about ramen, Tampopo.