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Tonkotsu Ramen Broth...something went wrong

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 

This is my first post, but I read some of the threads here when I was researching making my first batch of Tonkotsu broth. I finally jumped into the stock pot as it were and made a batch. The final result was thick deep milky white and set up super stiff when it was cooled in the fridge. The mouth feel is crazy velvety.

But... First of all the smell while it was boiling was strange... strong... somewhat 'stinky'. And the smell remains in the broth after I heat it back up. The flavor of the broth is... harsh. Very very porky, but those funky flavors of pork that are soo good in the background are really strong. Plus there are whispers of flavor that are just... nasty. Overall, I can eat a bowl of Ramen made with this broth but I don't want to drink the broth down to the last drop.

I am looking to see if anyone could look at my recipe and give me any pointers on rounding out the flavors and mellowing the palette.

Here is what I did:

5 lbs Pork Feet cut up into six pieces each
5 lbs. Pork Neck Bones cut up into pieces
5 lbs. Pork Shank cut up
2 whole chicken's worth of bones

Put the whole lot of bones in a large turkey fryer pot and bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Drain liquid and rinse the bones off well. Wash the pot out.

Put the bones back into the pot and add 4 gallons of purified water. Add aromatics:

1 Bunch green onions
1 Large sweet onion
1 Medium Yellow Onion
8" square piece of Kombu
1/2" Dried Shitake mushrooms
1/2" Cup dried sardines
4 oz. sliced ginger
2 Heads of garlic cut in half
4 large carrots snapped in half
1/2" Cup Bonito Flakes

Bring back to a slow boil and skim the scum for 30 minutes. Cover and raise heat to a vigorous rolling boil for 10 hours adding distilled water as needed. The boiling was hard enough that it boils off 1/2 Gallon of water an hour.

Drain broth through a colander and discard the solids. Return stock to the pot and reduce to 2 gallons. Place the pot into an ice bath and cool as quickly as possible. Store in containers and refrigerate.

Here is how I made my Ramen bowl:

2 tablespoons of Chashu broth
1-1/2 C. Tonkotsu stock
1/2 tsp. Salt
1 Tsp of fried garlic in oil (Just barely brown garlic in and equal amount of oil)
A few drops of sesame oil

Add stock, add Chashu broth, add cooked noodles and add toppings (Chashu, Soft boiled egg, Negi, Menma, Nori)

Here is how I made the Chashu (Turns out super yum. Wife asked if I had Jesus come and make it for me.)
4 lbs. Pork Belly or Pork Loin (Turns out really well for anyone who doesn't like/need all the fat in the meat)
1-1/2 C. Soy Sauce
1/2 C. Sake
1 C. Mirin
2 Oz. Ginger
1 Bunch Green Onion
8 Cloves Garlic
1 t. Salt

Cut the Pork Belly into 6" Pieces and remove the skin. Sear in a hot pan till golden brown and delicious. Add the rest of the ingredients and simmer covered for 1 hour. Turn off the heat and let the pork cool in the broth. Remove and the pork and store in the fridge till cold. Strain the broth for use as Seasoning in Ramen.

Thanks for your help everyone!
post #2 of 26
that sounds REALLY yummy :D a tonkotsu (tonkatsu?) without a katsu, though? I'm..kinda confused.

I never made a pork broth so I couldn't say much, however, I can't help but think that its flavor is kinda overflowed. Either cut the pork a little or emit the chicken altogether, I would say?

And the velvety taste is probably due to the fat, have you tried skimming the impurities and the oil when the broth's boiling?
post #3 of 26
Thread Starter 
This broth is tonkotsu meaning pork bones in Japanese. I hear that it is supposed to be quite at bit like the Chinese pork milk broth. Tonkatsu is a pork katsu or cutlet.

A good tonkotsu broth is supposed to be an emulsion of the pork stock, marrow, and fat. The rapid and heavy boiling is what makes that process happen. It is just that when dealing with something this "powerful" the small details need to be spot on. At least that's what I'm speculating at the moment.

And that velvet mouth feel is a big plus. Most people describe a good tonkotsu broth as being very "creamy"... Some ramen places even add fatback into the pot to raise the fat content of the broth.

I went to a good ramen house last night and had their tonkotsu ramen again. This time I really focused on the flavors and smell. I think my version may be too concentrated. As I sipped the ramen-ya's broth I could pick out all of the same flavor notes and smells my broth had. Its just that the volume has been cranked up on mine.

Could I achieve the same results of not boiling my broth down by adding water. So in other words, if I dilute my broth by 1/3 with water will it be the same as if I had simply not boiled the broth down as much?

Also, normally one would use the large leg bones in addition to other bits. I am wondering if the heavy use of pig feet and neck bones to make up for not having thigh bones could cause the harsher flavor? I imagine that pork feet taste different than pork thigh bone and likewise with neck bones... And since this stock is made by boiling the bones heavily I wonder if more of the individual character of the various bones comes out?
post #4 of 26
Oooh, and wow, this is the first time I've heard of this. Everyday's a learning day XD it seems very unique, and very heavy and creamy (as opposed to most of the Japanese ramen / soba, which tastes are mostly...subtle). I thought the velvety taste is a bad thing! And the name too. My bad.

Hmm, I'd say diluting it would be a better idea, because longer time on the fire = longer flavor? But then it might cause that same aftertaste.
post #5 of 26
My first thought was that you should be blanching the pork bones and such, but you did that. Pity, really -- it was a great theory!

Okay, my first guess is the kombu, dried sardines, and bonito flakes.

1. NEVER, EVER boil kombu. Not ever. It will turn slimy and produce a funky taste that's hard to describe. Flavor should be extracted from kombu between 140 and 180 degrees F, and if you go above that it's shot.

2. Bonito flakes and dried sardines (niboshi, I assume?) extract best around 180-200, and it is usual to say that they too should never, ever boil when making dashi. I don't know what happens if you do boil them, but it's generally accepted that it's a bad idea.

3. These products are fabulously variable in quality, and store a good deal less well than the people who sell them would like you to believe.

So, I'd advise as follows:

A. For the next batch, omit these things entirely and see what happens. If that works, great. If it mostly works, but lacks that subtle whiff of Japanese food, i.e. dashi, then try

B. Take the broth made in this way (i.e. no dashi-makings), and bring it to about 150F. Drop in a piece of best-quality kombu, lightly wiped, and hold the temperature there for 1 hour. Remove the kombu. Now raise the temperature to 185F, add bonito flakes, and remove from heat. As soon as the stuff sinks completely -- about 30-60 seconds -- strain fine.

I would advise you not to use both niboshi and katsuo-bushi (bonito flakes); these don't really go together as a rule, and you've got too many things going on here, so I think you should start isolating.

Other points:

1. That looks like a lot of onion and not a lot of scallion. I suggest replacing one of the onions, or better yet replacing both, with leeks. Cooked for a while, leek plus scallion are a good substitute for negi.

2. That looks like a huge amount of garlic to me. Are you sure you want to do that? I mean, great if you're making pistou, but it rubs my mental palate the wrong way in a bowl of ramen. Maybe cut that by half?

But I'd just change one thing at a time, and I would definitely start by removing the whole dashi thing: there I know for SURE that those ingredients do not respond at all well to what you're doing.

Obviously the other major possibility is that there was something wrong with one of your pieces of meat, but let's assume not. I'd be surprised, actually, because I think you'd have smelled it when you did the initial blanching.

Good luck!
post #6 of 26
Just a note:

Soba should be fairly subtle. Udon should be sort of subtle. Ramen should never, ever be subtle. It's essentially thought of as Chinese junk food, and it's supposed to be greasy and over-intense. Periodically various agencies in Japan go on these campaigns to encourage people to stop drinking the soup when they finish the noodles, because it makes you fat and gives you heart disease.

This is part of why the whole ramen-crazy thing (of which the film Tampopo poked such brilliant fun) is so weird: it's like being a hard-core connoisseur of pushcart scrapple or hot dogs or pretzels or something, and yet there really are a lot of people who are a lot MORE crazy about ramen than even that film suggested.
post #7 of 26
This sound like quite a recipe! I agree with Chris to keep the whole dashi seperated.
You could make a dashi and add the stock to the pot instead of water.

It's my second year in Japan and I will try my hand at tonkotsu ramen recipe this winter. My Japanese girlfriend thinks I am insane, tonkutsu will stink up the whole house for hours and hours, but I will wait for winter, shut the kitchen door close and open all the windows.

Making chicken or pork stock is simply not something that the average Japanese house wife does, it a restaurant thing.

I made shoyu ramen last winter with chicken bones and everybody loved it.

Keep on experimenting and post your result.
post #8 of 26
Really? O_O;
Here ramen are still..subtle. Not as subtle as soba or udon, but still Japanesely *is that a word?* subtle. The taste still full of miso or dashi, only with slightly more taste. Chinese lamian (I thought of it as the near-cousin, if not the same) is far richer, much to my delight. Buuut that's the appeal of ramen, I guess.

And.... well, I agreed, Japanese are CRAZY about almost anything. It's part of their campiness and seriousness ! I've watched a Japanese TV show that talked about ramen and a manga that talked about it too and it was...inspiring. XD
post #9 of 26
Agreed, too. Dashi and katsuobushi was pretty fragile. I just found out the other day that miso was supposed to be treated like that too, never be boiled. D:

Even chicken stock is rare there? That's surprising!
post #10 of 26
Where I live, I have never seen a whole chicken for sale. Japanese have toaster oven or really really small oven anyway. My girlfriend mother have a real oven and it's about 3/4 the size of a regular oven.

In order to make chicken stock, I had to special order bones from a butcher, it's called tori-gara.
post #11 of 26
The Japanese always say that, yes, but at the risk of digression, let me just say that this is a standard over-simplification. If you bring miso to boiling temperature or above, it develops a sharp, slightly bitter taste, dimly reminiscent of a dark roux in gumbo or something like that. To the Japanese taste, this is a bad thing in soup, and to be fair I've never really experimented with it in a soup context. But on the other hand, that same flavor is extremely useful and much-loved when associated with grilling, broiling, or the like. You can mix up coarse miso, mushrooms, scallions (negi), and some spices, spread them thickly on a Japanese magnolia leaf (which is huge and thick and non-toxic), and grill the whole thing gently; then you eat the mush off the leaf with a spoon. It's like eating mid-autumn with a spoon. But that's not what they want in miso soup.
Yes, quite rare, except in ramen, whose broth is usually partly pork, partly chicken, with the accent on the pork. Nobody makes it at home.
post #12 of 26
Where do you live? There are other ways....

First of all, try a freestanding chicken butcher. If he's doing a brisk trade, he should be able to sell carcasses, which may be called tori-gara and may just be hone, depending. I used to buy them for Y100 apiece, from a very large (roughly 3 kilo) whole chicken, so that's about 1.25 kilos of beautifully stripped bones for $1.25.

Second, if you want whole chickens for roasting or something, try Jusco. Weird, I know, but there you are. The ones I saw there were generally quite small -- sort of like large game hens -- but not especially pricey.
post #13 of 26
I live in the deep inaka in Hiroshima prefecture. The closest Jusco is about 90 km away, but I will go next Friday. The butcher in my village doesn't deal with chicken, mostly beef and pork.

I had no problems ordering tori-gara, but it took 3 days. It was indeed very cheap.

I found some very good good cut of meat at Jusco, I made some pork roast the other day.

I am amazed by the reaction of my girlfriend family to ordinary North American food, they are simply addicted to simple stuff like macaroni and cheese.

My girlfriend mother is an amazing washoku cook and she has been teaching me everything. I guess I pay her back by showing her how to make eggplant parmegiana!

Thanks for the suggestion, destination Jusco!
post #14 of 26
Aah, so in the end it's a matter of when to use it?

And again, I'm surprised. So much flavor missed... Well, they -do- have dashi and so, but...the rich taste of chicken broth.. I guess that's what we call cultural differences.

And that's some pretty bargain for the bones. Here the price of everything is probably cheaper than in US, and that still screams a bargain. I guess they think of it as wastes?
post #15 of 26
washoku? Is it Japanese home cooking, IINM?

I'd read a Japanese cookbook once and man am I drooling. Even though I don't understand a word >_>; But they do take inspiration on other country's dishes, even in ramen, no?

And I just found a place which sells tonkotsu ramen, apparently. I'm so happy~!
post #16 of 26
Japanese cuisine in general, but in this context home cooking, yes.
Especially in ramen. Ramen is generally thought of as Chinese food, not Japanese. The dish is also often called chuka-soba, meaning "Chinese noodles." Thus the use of a chicken-pork broth, which essentially does not exist anywhere in washoku.
post #17 of 26
Ramen is Chinese, tempura is from Portugal and curry rice is from England.

My school lunch today will consist of ketchup spaghetti, now I really wonder where they digged that one up? Japanese food interpretation of foreign food is often weird, sometime delicious, sometime raises questions...

I strongly recommend the Elizabeth Andoh book about Washoku, it's a great introduction to the real japanese home cooking.

I am Canadian and our perception of Japanese cooking is often off by a mile, once you have lived in Japan, you discover a whole universe of taste.

I wrote an article about seasonal cooking for an Hiroshima based web magazine
Wide Island View Blog Archive An introduction to seasonal eating in Japan

I have a couple of basic recipes on that web site and I will add some more in the near future.
post #18 of 26
I believe ketchup spaghetti arose during the Occupation, when American products -- including ketchup -- were readily available and fairly cheap. It began as a substitute for tomato sauce, I'm told, but to my mind that does raise the question of just how much tomato sauce was really available before the War.

On a sort of related note, did you know that Worcestershire sauce, which is the stuff they put on tonkatsu (not tonkOtsu!), first caught on because the Japanese assumed it was sort of the English equivalent of soy sauce? Same thing with ketchup: the American equivalent of soy sauce. You know, it's a sauce you use in absolutely everything, for that authentic home-style taste, right? So when you make breaded pork cutlets, just like they do in England, you put on authentic English sauce, just like they do in England. Right? :o
post #19 of 26
Thanks Chris, I didn't think about that one!

Tomatoes are simply delicious in Japan, my region produces great tomatoes including one that looks like an Italian tomatoes. A 90 years old farmer told me they were American tomatoes, but I will never complain when I am given free tomatoes.

I also doubt tomato sauce was available before the war!
post #20 of 26
hee, nice article you wrote there :D

I'm currently very intrigued about Washoku, actually. It's...yeah, another side that's very mysterious about Japan, but I guess that's also the case with American or Canadian or Indonesian home cooking; it's a secret only known from kitchen to kitchen.

spaghetti with ketchup, nutrition and simplicity aside, sounds good and a quick fast food. >_>; This is from someone who made stir-fry spaghetti with peanut sauce.

Japanese do have their own take on international food. I've visited a restaurant that made pasta dishes, Japanese style (think spaghetti meets ramen) and yeah, even though the visible ingredients are mostly italian (basil, ham, tomato) the taste was very subtle.

the origin of tonkatsu sauce is simply hilarious. XD I guess we have to salute Japan for their creativity..
post #21 of 26
A..related story of my own. Just visited a ramen shop, now this one seems to be an authentic one. Their soup is so rich and creamy, I ordered a miso one and it's...so...creamy. My stomach just cried a little.

They also have tonkotsu but it's sold out D: due to shipping problems. But there it's said that the soup was simmered over 3 days?

I'm happy and full.
post #22 of 26
Interesting, I've found that Hong Kong interpretation of western food is similar in spirit to Washoku, though probably with a more British slant. My aunt makes spaghetti sauce with ketchup, have macaroni in broth and PB stuffed french toast for afternoon "tea" and our recipe for "portugese chicken" is it being baked in a yellow curry and coconut sauce.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
post #23 of 26

"Wife asked if I had Jesus come and make it for me"




As if Jesus would have anything to do with pork preparation, cooking and eating.


Too funny!

post #24 of 26

Sorry not super experienced, but I find that when I cook with pig trotters etc (generally anything with pork skin from the leg area..) you need to scrub the skin VERY thoroughly before cooking with salt and the edge of a knife to ensure you remove all the stickiness and dirtiness. Then wash off the salt with water. Then proceed as you did, ie. with an initial parboil first, starting from cold water so all the impurities rise up and then discard that water. Should not be stinky after that. If all else fails, I find ginger helps take care of the fragrance. Hope that helps!

post #25 of 26

Before you blanch the pork bones, try soaking them in several changes of cold water overnight to draw out blood, much like how you would prepare sweetbreads. And when you blanch them, I think you should do it on low to med heat. Looking at the amount of bones you used, I think it should take anywhere between half an hour to an hour (definitely more than 3 minutes) to bring the water to boil. Last but not the least, I'd definitely brown or even char the onions. Take a look at this: http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/02/rich-and-creamy-tonkotsu-ramen-broth-from-scratch-recipe.html

post #26 of 26
You are missing the most important ingredient
MSG! I know a lot of people are against this but all japanese know, if you don't use MSG in it, you shouldn't call it ramen. It will hide the smell and give it the umami flavor. All major top ramen places use it and ramen doesn't taste good without it.
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