Authentic Pork Tonkotsu Ramen is to die for. But it’s a bit much for a small galley.
Making real pork tonkotsu ramen requires a long, drawn out process. Most small galley cooks – including me – will shy away from dedicating the whole galley, and most of the remainder of the boat – to the steamy project for the necessary 12 plus hours. So when you can’t get the real thing, make this easy faux version.
This Pork Tonkotsu Ramen recipe does not aim to reproduce the real thing. At best it’s a pale facsimile of authentic tonkotsu. At the same time, it’s not a complete abandonment of cooking, which is what happens when I open a packet of instant ramen. (Like David Chang, founder of New York’s famed ramen restaurant, Momofuku, I enjoy eating that raw, as if it were a big, curly cracker.)
Authentic tonkotsu will remain a treat for a special occasion. The special occasion being when one is within reach of a Japanese restaurant that knows how to tackle the dish. Like Nom, in Pensacola, Florida, which is where I had the gorgeous soup shown above.
Home from my Florida trip, I was dying to repeat the experience of eating tonkotsu. None of the Japanese restaurants in my area served tonkotsu ramen, so I had to do something about it myself. I researched how to make tonkotsu and learned how involved it is. While it looks simple, the process of making this soup calls for painstaking assembling of ingredients, long cooking, and constant oversight.
The tasty meal outlined here uses the basic idea of tonkotsu, and readily available ingredients, to create a good-tasting, stop-gap, tonkotsu-like meal in a surprisingly short time, in even the littlest of galleys. I cut to the chase, just going for a quick pork broth, a few sliced veggies and a poached or boiled egg. I got a slightly smoky flavor that nods toward the roasted pork belly by either using bacon, or browning the meat in bacon fat before simmering.
Japanese chefs will gasp in horror at the way I do it. I eagerly invite them to teach me how to make the real thing on board a 32 foot sailboat. I can think of nothing better than to see David Chang making his famous Momofuku Tonkotsu in my little galley. Yeah, that goes on the bucket list.
Smallest Galley Faux Pork Tonkotsu Ramen
- 1/4 lb pork. This can be a pork chop, a slice of pork roast cut into slices and browned in bacon fat. Or just use bacon.
- 2 tsp Better Than Bouillon Roasted Chicken Base,
- 2 cups water
- a garlic clove, minced
- minced ginger
- a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, or a squirt of Sriracha
- soy sauce
- green onion
- sesame oil
- 1 package ramen noodles
Simmer the browned pork, bouillon, water, garlic and ginger in a medium saucepan for about an hour. Remove the pork slices and set aside.
In a separate pan, cook a package of ramen noodles – not instant – according to package directions. NOTE: because water and fuel are limited at sea, I skimp on the water. I also boil it first in my Revereware Tea Kettle. (I chose Revereware because the thin copper bottom reduces the time, and hence the fuel it takes to bring the water to a boil.) If we’re at a dock, I use my Electric Kettle.
After the noodles are cooked and drained, divide them into the serving bowls and set aside. Use the pot to boil a cup of water and poach (or soft boil) 1 egg per person.
While the eggs are poaching, add a selection of vegetables to the broth, add a little soy sauce, a few pepper flakes or a smidge of sriracha and simmer:
- 1 small onion, sliced thin
- 1 cup shredded cabbage, bok choy, broccoli shreds or spinach
- a few sliced mushrooms
Ladle the broth and vegetables over the noodles, add the egg and slices of pork.
Top with a sprinkling of green onions and a drizzle of sesame oil.
Extra Credit for Foodies
For an entertaining introduction to the lore of real Pork Tonkotsu Ramen I recommend watching Season 1 of Mind of A Chef featuring David Chang.
If you’ve had a spectacular Pork Tonkotsu Ramen tell me where in the comments and we can go into raptures together. And if you make my version, I’d love it if you’d let me, and my readers, know how it goes.