Tonkotsu inspired Ramen
Updated: Jul 19, 2021
At this point I always try to keep it short, but this time I have to go a little more into detail.
I love ramen and one of the most common variations is tonkotsu ramen.
I've been thinking for a long time how I could make a vegan version inspired by it, but as you can read below, this is not so easy due to the original ingredients.
A small disclaimer, I will talk a lot about the original preparation with animal ingredients in the following paragraph.
If you know this will spoil your appetite, you may want to scroll down to the ingredients and how to prepare them.
Tonkotsu translates to"pig bones". That makes it pretty clear what the main ingredient could be. Different parts of pork are cooked for hours with other ingredients to make the broth for this dish.
The special thing about this broth is that the long boiling separates the collagen and gelatine from the animal ingredients, transfers into the broth and gives it an incredibly smooth, rich, almost creamy mouthfeel and a light, milky, cloudy appearance.
If the soup gets cold, it will even gel.
Of course, I can't replace the taste of such a broth, mine has a rather nutty aroma due to the sunflower seeds used.
But similar to vegan "eggs", it is sometimes simply a matter of the mouthfeel and the appearance, simply of the role of the component, that it plays in the overall dish.
Duration: 2 hours (+ 1 night)
Makes 2 servings
Tonkotsu inspired Broth
1500g hot water
15g kombu seaweed
8g dried shiitake mushrooms
100g spring onion
100g sunflower seeds
2g agar agar
2 servings of ramen noodles
Toppings of your choice, I recommend spring onions, chashu-style seitan, eggs halves and enoki mushrooms
Ma-Yu or another spice oil
For the broth, first add the dried shiitake mushrooms and the kombu seaweed to the boiling water to create an umami base for the broth. Let them sit in it for 20 minutes. In the meantime you can roast the onions, garlic, ginger and spring onions (I only recommend using the light part) in a pan without oil. Don't put too much work into peeling the onions and garlic, the peel also adds flavor to the broth.
Then you can take the Kombu and mushrooms out of the broth (you can save the mushrooms and possibly sauté them as a topping for the ramen) and add the remaining vegetables and salt. Then cook the broth for an hour without a lid. Then cover it, let the broth cool down and then put them in the refrigerator overnight so that the vegetables can give off the last bit of flavor.
Since it theoretically only continues the next day, you now have time to prepare other ingredients, for example if you want to make half eggs or marinate a little seitan. I put the eggs in a marinade made from mirin, soy sauce and some sake so that they get the typical ramen egg color from the outside. I made the seitan from a quarter of the bacon recipe. I left out the liquid smoke, however, as the chashu meat normally served with Tonkotsu ramen has no smoky note. I then simply rolled up the individual layers like a roulade, wrapped them in baking paper and foil and baked them for 2 hours at 140°C. The next day I seared it on all sides, mixed the marinade of the eggs with 5 spices, a little ginger and garlic and then used it to deglaze the seared seitan and sear it until the liquid was almost completely boiled away.
But toppings are of course up to you and none of these steps are absolutely necessary for a delicious serving of ramen. But tonkotsu ramen are traditionally eaten with chashu, egg & spring onions, so these components go very well here.
The next day, the cold broth can then be poured through a sieve and then mixed with the agar agar. You can now roast the sunflower seeds in a pan. Now boil the broth and mix it with the roasted sunflower seeds. Now puree the soup until it has a really fine, creamy consistency and then season the soup with a little soy sauce. Don't make it too salty, after all, the right flavoring in ramen comes from the tare. Keep the broth really nice and hot until serving, due to the fat content of the sunflower seeds and the agar agar, the soup otherwise gels just like real Tonkotsu when it cools (which can be remedied by reheating).
Then you just have to cook the ramen to your desired consistency, traditionally you eat the ramen in Tonkotsu a little harder, and then put some tare and spice oil in your serving bowl. Then comes the soup. Then add your noodles and top them with a little more spice oil and the toppings of your choice.
Then you can already enjoy these delicious ramen.
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