Lockdown Ramen Obsession

My last post was about ramen. How much I was missing it, and how I was unable to obtain it within my 5km lockdown zone. Then with the easing of the 5km restriction to 25km, I was still unable to make it to any of my favourite ramen restaurants, and was feeling very disenfranchised about it. My ramen deprivation became a bit of an obsession.

After complaining and moping around for an extended period of time, I decided to take matters into my own hands. It did not look like we were getting out of lockdown anytime soon, and I had become quite morose about my ramen situation. I had purchased a box of make-it-at-home Ichiran ramen from the local Asian grocer, who is incidentally more than 5kms away, but less than 25… it was time to get serious.

Ichiran Ramen is a chain of ramen stores in Japan, which started in 1960, in Fukuoka. Originally Futaba Ramen, with the name change occurring in 1966, the store expanded three decades later and the chain was born. By 2017, Ichiran had 65 locations in Japan and had also opened three stores in New York, one in Hong Kong and one in Taipei. Ichiran makes only tonkotsu ramen, pork based broth and you have several options including spice level, noodle softness/firmness, garlic and toppings, such as egg, black fungus and spring onions.

I have written several blogs about our experience at Ichiran, in both Japan and in New York. You can read about the restaurant in Manhattan here, and our experience in Japan here. Ichiran is my favourite ramen in Japan, and I love the ticket vending machine, the booths, the music, and everything about the place, not least, the incredibly delicious ramen. I love the everyday-ness about it, also. It really is an experience.

Now, to try to replicate this awesome dish at home. I was unsure of how good the packet broth would be, but suspected the noodles would be good. The scariest part of trying to cook this dish was, for me, perfecting the charshu pork. I love pork cooked like this, very melt-in-the-mouth and so flavourful. Not only is charshu a time consuming dish, it was also my first time cooking pork belly, so I was a little intimidated. The pork belly is rolled, trussed, grilled and then poached for 2 hours in a delicious sauce of soy, cooking sake, ginger and sugar. Then it must rest for at least 8 hours, but preferably overnight.

The ramen itself was super easy to make. We added the traditional accompaniments of egg, black fungus, spring onion and, of course, the charshu pork. The broth was fatty and full of umami deliciousness. The pork was so delicious. Super Sake Boy suggested it was the best he had ever had. This bowl of ramen was so good and so satisfying, after months of deprivation. I was so happy that I had taken the plunge. We had enough pork to make it again, a week later, and this time I switched out the fungus for corn. Again delicious and my mouth is watering just thinking about eating it. My ramen craving was finally quelled. However, writing about it has stirred my desire to eat it, once again.

My mum is a ramen fan and is coming to stay this weekend. I haven’t really seen her since June. I am going to make the charshu pork with her one night and we will enjoy eating this fabulous ramen again, together. I will try to cook the broth myself, at some stage, but Super Sake Boy is reasonably horrified at the thought of cooking pigs trotters, so I think we will stick to the Ichiran box set for the moment.

You can read more about Ichiran’s story (in English) here. All of the instructions are available in English and there is a QR code on the box which takes you to a tutorial video.

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