Since posting my recipe for Tonkotsu ramen two years ago, I’ve been getting requests to make a non-pork version of the rich collagen laden broth. Well… here it is finally!
Tori Ramen (鳥ラーメン) is nothing new. People have been using chicken stock to make ramen since the early days of ramen’s popularity in Japan. Sadly, it just doesn’t get as much respect as its unctuous porcine cousin. It probably has to do with the fact that chicken contains a lot less marrow fat than pork, so it’s almost impossible to get the same richness in the soup. That’s why chicken stock is often used in lighter styles of ramen such as shoyu (soy sauce) or shio (salt)
But getting a rich stock isn’t totally impossible. What chicken lacks in fat, it makes up for in collagen, especially in the joint areas and skin. Because chicken wingtips have a high ratio of cartilage and skin to meat and bone, they’re perfect for getting a rich sticky broth.
If you’re looking for an exact replica of Tonkotsu ramen, you’re going to be disappointed, but in many ways, this chicken ramen is better. First of all, it takes a lot less time to make. Secondly, while it may not qualify as healthy, it’s certainly healthier than a broth made of pork fat. Lastly, the relatively mellow flavors of the chicken stock base allow all the other flavors to shine through. To put it simply, it’s more Pierce Brosnan than Daniel Craig.
I usually top Tonkotsu ramen with Mayu (burnt garlic oil), but since the burnt garlic might overwhelm the milder chicken, I made a fried scallion oil instead. After mincing the white parts of a few scallions I fried them in sesame oil until they were just shy of burnt, then I added a splash of soy sauce to the hot oil which bubbles up furiously, caramelizing around the scallions and giving off a savory aroma that will make you want to lick the air around you.
Since topping this chicken ramen with pork chashu would negate the benefits of a purely chicken ramen I came up with a chicken chashu you can use as a topping. Since it’s hard to get good ramen noodles in the US, I like to make my own noodles, but thin Chinese style yellow noodles will work in a pinch. Add some scallions menma and boiled egg and you’ll have a world-class ramen worthy of any ramen shop with a line wrapping around the block.
- Bring a kettle full of water to a boil. Lay the wing tips and chicken bones in a clean sink, then pour the boiling water over the chicken. Wash the chicken with cold water, scrubbing off any clumps of blood. This step solidifies some of the blood on the chicken so you can wash it off and it doesn't end up in your soup.
- In a small saucepan, add the leeks, ginger and garlic, then cover with vegetable oil. Gently fry over medium low heat until the aromatics are dark brown, but not burnt (about 30-40 minutes).
- Add the kombu, wingtips and bones to a pressure cooker and cover with 10 cups of water. Bring it to a boil uncovered, then skim off the scum that floats to the top. Continue skimming until you don't see any more scum. Remove the kombu and discard. Drain the fried leeks, ginger and garlic and add them to the pressure cooker.
- Turn off the heat and seal the lid on the pressure cooker. Set the pressure to high and the bring the cooker up to pressure over high heat (you should hear whistling). Turn down the temperature until there's a gentle whistling sound coming from the pressure regulator. If it's hissing violently your heat is up too high, if you don't hear anything your heat is down too low. Cook for 1 hour.
- When the stock is done cooking, let it cool to room temperature. Pour it through a large strainer into a large bowl. Squeeze the solids with your hands to extract as much liquid as possible. You'll notice that the liquid starts turning a creamy white. This is what gives the soup its body so be sure you get every last drop. Pour the strained soup through an extra fine sieve (such as a tea strainer) into a clean container. You can either stop here and refrigerate the stock or keep going.
- If you refrigerated the stock, it should be fairly easy to scrape off the excess fat with a spoon. If not, use a fat skimmer to skim off the extra fat and set the fat aside. In either case, you want to leave a little fat behind. Measure your the soup. You should have about 6 cups, if you have more, you should boil it down to 6 cups, if you have less, add water.
- To make the caramelized scallion oil, add the sesame oil along with about 2 tablespoons of chicken fat that you've skimmed from the soup to a small saucepan. Put the saucepan over medium heat, then add the minced scallions. Fry the scallions until they are medium to dark brown in color. Turn off the heat, then carefully add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. The oil will sputter, so be very careful. This caramelizes the soy sauce, giving it a wonderful toasty aroma.
- To make the soup, add the 6 cups of strained stock to a pot, add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of salt, and the soy milk and gently heat.
- Boil your noodles according to the package directions or make a batch of homemade ramen noodles.
- To finish the ramen divide the noodles between four bowls, pour the soup over the noodles then top with your choice of toppings. I served this with a soft boiled egg, menma, shredded scallions, and chicken chashu, but what you top it with is up to you. Boil your noodles according to the package directions. Put the boiled noodles in the bowl and add the toppings. Cover with the hot soup, then drizzle on some of the caramelized scallion oil. Serve immediately.