My Favourite Ramen Stock

ramencRamen (ラーメン) is a famous Japanese soup, composed of stock, noodles and different toppings. I don’t think I have ever met anyone who didn’t like this huge, filling, comforting bowl of goodness. I tasted ramen last year during my first trip to Japan and fell in love with it. Since I haven’t seen it in my city’s restaurants, I decided to make it at home, but it took me many months to find the right stock making method. Since then I have been preparing it all year round, but it becomes a staple when cold autumn days arrive.

I read everywhere that stock was the most important and difficult part. There are four main types of ramen: shio (very clear, with salt added to stock), tonkotsu (pork bone-based stock), shoyu (soy sauce + chicken stock) and miso (with miso added to stock), but every good ramen shop has its secret special methods and ingredients, often mixing dried fish, chicken and pork bones. Not to mention regional ramen versions… I have read about ramen stocks prepared for dozens of hours, of secretly kept recipes… I saw Tampopo too (if you haven’t seen it, you are missing one of the biggest gourmet moments in film history!). I knew the ramens I had tasted in Japan were based on chicken stock and since I had been making my own stocks for at least ten years, I thought it would be a piece of cake. I was completely wrong. The stock prepared the traditional European way has always been perfect in my Western and even Chinese dishes (such as Mapo Dofu), but simply didn’t work as a basis for ramen. It is difficult to explain why but something crucial was missing and my soups tasted like European chicken stock with noodles; not like ramen.

I finally was saved by a recipe found in “Japanese Farm Food”, a fascinating book written by Nancy Singleton Hachisu, who runs a farm in Saitama prefecture with her Japanese husband. Thanks to her unique insight into the Japanese cuisine (she is one of the rare foreigners living in the countryside) and her passion for food, this book is a precious item and I strongly advise it to every fan of Japanese cuisine (though rather not complete beginners). Her method, based on previously baked chicken and vegetables, reminded me of the recipes I saw on some US and British blogs and which surprise many cooks who, like me, use the traditional raw carcass. Actually this stock-making process (probably practiced by many of you regularly) creates a perfect ramen basis. Throughout the months I gradually adapted Nancy Hachisu’s recipe to my taste, but the changes are tiny. It is still her miraculous method and still the best chicken stock for ramen I have ever made. (Even though, after several experiments, I still prefer the traditional raw carcass method in both Western and Chinese dishes).

TIPS:

The recipe is quite easy, though it does take time (and a bit more efforts than the traditional raw carcass method). Depending on your preferences, you have a choice between a chicken carcass and, if you wish to use the bird’s meat in the ramen afterwards, cut up chicken pieces (but they must be on the bone!) or a whole chicken (but I would advise cutting out breasts: they will dry out in the baking and then simmering process). My favourite – and cheapest – way is to take a whole chicken, cut off the breasts, the legs and leave only the carcass with wings as the stock basis. I prepare another dish with legs and grill/roast breasts separately to serve them afterwards as a ramen topping.

The more you bake the carcass and the vegetables, the deeper the taste will be and the darker the colour of course.

Below is a list of my favourite toppings, some being obviously not traditional at all (my beloved courgette, for example). I am crazy for yuzu koshou here with its slight bitterness, but many people dislike it, so taste it first (it will change the taste of the whole soup). I also like adding soy sauce before serving ramen. Check Wikipedia for the list of traditional toppings.

Strained stock will keep for at least four days in the coldest part of the fridge (I have never tested a longer period).

Preparation: 3 -4 hours

Ingredients (serves 4):

1 chicken carcass (or a whole chicken if you want to use the chicken meat in the soup afterwards)

1 leek with leaves

about 5-6 cm fresh ginger

1 medium carrot

1 shallot

2-3 tablespoons oil (one that supports well high temperatures)

4 portions of Japanese noodles (my favourite noodles are thin, very curly yellowish wheat noodles)

freshly grated black pepper

soy sauce (I use low-sodium to have more soy sauce taste but not too much salt)

My favourite toppings (I usually don’t put them all at the same time):

half-boiled egg (hard-boiled is ok too)

sliced roast or steamed meat (chicken, pork, beef)

chopped spring onions or chives

crunchy sediments from taberu rayu (the jar is on the photo above; see the recipe here) or simply chilli oil

yuzu koshou (a paste made with chilli and yuzu peel)

shichimi togarashi (Japanese hot seasoning)

soy bean or mung bean sprouts

frozen green peas

blanched or grilled courgette

Preheat the oven to 235°C (450°F).

Place the chicken pieces or carcass or the whole bird in a baking dish.

Add the carrot cut up in several pieces, the leek’s whitish part (also cut up), half of the ginger (cut into two pieces) and a shallot. With your hands baste both the carcass and the vegetables with oil.

Sprinkle everything generously with salt, put the carcass skin side up and bake for at least 1 hour until the chicken skin becomes golden brown.

Take the dish out of the oven.

(You can leave the meat on the bones and simmer it, but personally I think it’s worth cutting out a bit of crisp skin and the meat out of the bones after the baking process. The crisp salty skin eaten off the bone is a pure delight, while the meat can be used afterwards in ramen, in other dishes, sandwiches… or simply also eaten on its own. And do not forget the chicken oysters, called “sot-l’y-laisse” in French, which could be translated roughly as “only a fool leaves them”…).

Boil some water and pour onto the baking dish.

Scrape well the baking dish of all the meat/vegetable drippings and throw everything into a big cooking pan.

Add the remaining half of the ginger, the leek leaves and about 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated pepper.

Simmer everything covered for at least two hours.

Strain the stock and either put into the fridge to remove the fat afterwards (it will form a thick white layer after several hours) or, if you don’t care about fat, you can serve the ramen at once.

Reheat the stock if needed. Add soy sauce to taste.

In the meantime boil some water and put ramen noodles into it.

Cover and wait about 10 minutes until they soften (I prefer them slightly al dente but feel free to leave them for longer).

In each bowl put frozen peas, a portion of noodles and pour the stock over them.

Add the toppings: sprouts, halved egg, roasted meat, chives, chili oil… Serve very hot!

Once cooled and strained,  the stock will keep for at least four days in the fridge.

48 thoughts on “My Favourite Ramen Stock

  1. A_Boleyn

    The bowl of ramen looks like it would be very filling. Enough for a meal not just a starter. Making your own stock ensures that it’s even tastier and nutritious. As you know, I usually make between 20-24 cups of stock at a time and it goes quickly. Right now I’m guarding my last 2 containers (~6 cups total) like a dragon with its hoard as I can’t make everything I want to with it. Soup is always a good idea.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you, A_Boleyn. My home stock disappears quickly too. Actually, ramen is never a starter. It’s the main course (and really very very filling… I still wonder how some people in Japan can take starters before it; and many young people do!).

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Tessa. The vegetables are not traditional at all. It’s just my mania to put courgette everywhere…

  2. Hiroyuki

    Sounds like great stock for ramen! I’ve never dreamed of making ramen stock from scratch!
    But,

    >Cover and wait about 10 minutes until they soften

    Could you explain what this is supposed to mean???

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Hiroyuki. You know, when one is in need… there is no excuse (unlike all the lucky people in Japan I have no ramen shops here and once you taste ramen, you want to have it regularly… we are both addicted to ramen soups with my husband). On the other hand, it’s quite an easy and quick stock (not like some complicated sophisticated stocks boiling for days…).
      Well, the sentence is about the noodles. I never boil wheat noodles. I boil water, pour it over noodles, cover and wait until they soften (i.e. cook). (“In the meantime boil some water and put ramen noodles into it. Cover and wait about 10 minutes until they soften”).

  3. wok with ray

    What a beautiful shot of the soup, Sissi and you really nailed this one on the composition. NICE!!! I am reading through your ingredients and I must say – very flavorful. I hope you’re having a great week, Sissi! 🙂

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Ray. I struggled so much with photos of this ramen…but it was too late to take them once more. I’m so glad you like it!

  4. Mr. Three-Cookies

    I rarely make stock but when I do I try to roast the bones – makes a bit of difference. And I always add garlic – its not very Japanese though!
    I’ve heard of some Japanese places simmering bones for 36 hours. Imagine if someone added sugar instead of salt by mistake on hour 35:)

    1. Sissi Post author

      Garlic sounds probably closer to Japanese cuisine than the courgette I often add to ramen 😉 I don’t add garlic, but I always put some chili-garlic oil with sediments (taberu rayu) so I think next time I’ll try making stock already with garlic! Thank you for this excellent idea. I’m now working had to reproduce an excellent ramen I had this year in Tokyo, but this one is particularly difficult. I hope I’ll succeed (then I’ll share it) because it was an extraordinary taste experience.
      Haha! Yes, I imagine the mistake… Too much salt can be fixed, but sugar… I think I’d cry.

  5. Kelly @ Inspired Edibles

    I couldn’t agree with you more Sissi. I could eat this morning, day and night. Healthy and satisfying but there’s also the comfort element for me… sipping on the broth feels a bit like my afternoon matcha ritual — soothing and grounding. I must try your ramen version – mine is definitely more of the Western stock variety. I love that you roast the chicken and veggies and then scoop up all the goodness into the soup. It must taste so rich in flavour this way. I know what you mean about wanting to add the egg even with other protein in place. Egg works so well in these soups (have you ever made caramelized eggs? I think they may be Vietnamese in origin, not certain but they’re so yummy). My husband loves these soups as well – he tends to go heavy on the noodles (he’s always buying Japanese noodles), I tend to go heavy on the veggies (especially cabbage :)) but we both agree, the chopped green onion is essential!!

    Sissi, your photo: WOW.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Kelly. I’m glad you are also a ramen fan. In the case of chicken stock as the basis, really small touches make the ramen… ramen and not Western chicken stock with noodles, but you should try roasting chicken bones first (if you have never done it; I know it’s more popular in North America than in Europe).
      I have never made caramelised eggs. They sound amazing! Thank you so much for the compliment. I wasn’t very happy with this photo (I thought it was the least bad of all those I had taken), so I’m thrilled you like it!
      My husband has also more noodles than me: I take half the “prescribed” portion and it’s already a lot.

  6. nipponnin

    You made ramen? I’m not that adventurous but again you’re great cook so I get it. This looks so delicious and I wish Portland have great ramen shop …so far we have OK ones.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi, Nipponnin. Thank you so much for the compliments! I had a very strong need to make ramen regularly at home (we don’t have even ok ramen shops here), so I had no choice.

  7. Eva Taylor

    Yet another similarity with you and I, ramen is also one of my favourite soups! I had no idea the stock making was so time consuming. I have been making stocks from roasted chicken bones for a few months, the flavours are indeed exquisite. This type of meal is absolutely my favourite, it’s so emotionally satisfying and filling. I adore ramen noodles too, and not over cooking them is essential, it’s their slightly chewy texture that is so addictive. I have just made both creamed broccoli soup and creamed roasted cauliflower soup and I am distinctly craving ramen soup thanks to you. I will have to make this soup on Thursday when JT visits his Dad for lunch. I even have a roasted chicken bones in the refrigerator!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi, Eva. My stock is super quick stock, but yes, some ramen shops prepare stocks for 24 hours (or more!). Well, they sell tons of it, so they can spend so much time of course. I also hate overcooked noodles. This is why I just cover them with boiling water in a bowl, put a cover and wait. This way I control better. The roasted bones and vegetables as a stock base was a real revelation for me but as I have mentioned I still prefer the raw chicken stock for European soups and for example some Chinese dishes. Here the stock is at the same time the soup, so these intense flavours are perfect.

  8. mjskit

    There is absolutely nothing better than homemade stock! Yes, it takes time, but love always does take time. 🙂 What a fabulous stock! I love the use of leeks and ginger. That’s a new one for me. The whole dish is wonderful. I would love a bowl of it right now!! It’s got cold today and this would surely warm me up.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, MJ. I started to use fresh ginger in all my chicken stocks quite a long time ago. It gives a certain je ne sais quoi and a bit of freshness, but if you put just a small piece, it doesn’t change the taste.

      1. mjskit

        THAT’S what my stock has been missing! A little je ne saus quoi! 🙂 What a great way to describe what ginger does to a stock pot. Definitely will be throwing a piece in to my stocks in the future.

        1. Sissi Post author

          I hope you will like the slight freshness it adds. Add thick slices instead of just one big piece and of course start with a small amount (about 1 inch maybe?).

  9. Yi @ Yi Reservation

    I am a sucker to Japanese ramen and I am proud to say that I’ve tried most of the ramen shops in NYC. I’ve also made pork base ramen soup at home but I’ve never done so with chicken. This recipe is definitely going on my to-try list. Thanks the detail recipe and beautiful pictures!!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thanks a lot, Yi. I still have to succeed in pork stock. I once tried it but it was a complete failure.

  10. elisabeth@foodandthrift

    Sissi, I absolutely adore the authentic Japanese stock with the pieces of pork, the thin noodles, and the hard boiled egg (a little on the softer side)…just the way you serve it; lots of chilli seasoning, and the zucchini slices, as well. Yours is so attractive, inviting, comforting and mostly super delicious. I’m pinning this on Pinterest to link back to you! Have a beautiful weekend, my dear friend! xo

  11. Nami | Just One Cookbook

    Beautiful cover, and I pinned it (I could pin the picture, Elizabeth! :)). I’m pretty lucky to live in the Bay Area where we can get some pretty good ramen. Not as good as ramen in Japan, but I’d say they make better ramen than my homemade stock for sure!! But a bowl of ramen here is like over $12 after tip… kind of expensive if we go as a family. I don’t remember too well about Nancy’s chicken stock – I should check it out again. I miss eating ramen now. 🙂 Thanks for sharing Sissi!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thank you so much, Nami (I’m so surprised so many people, including you, like this photo: I was really unhappy with the results… it’s such a relief!). I have never seen ramen here in any Japanese restaurant (not to mention ramen only places: these don’t exist!). I’m still working on pork bone stock (it’s more difficult to prepare in my opinion); I have tasted an excellent pork-based ramen this year and miss it so much…

  12. Katerina

    Sissi my friend I think the next best thing for you is to take a degree in Mastering the Japanese/ Far East kitchen. You have a become a very skilled cook of this type of cuisine. This stock is marvellous. In Greece, unfortunately, we don’t have a variety of Japanese restaurants and the ones that exist are not that good. So, basically apart from sushi and teriyaki sauce, the rest of this kitchen is unknown to the majority of Greeks. Thanks to you I am not one of them! Have a beautiful weekend!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Dear Katerina, thank you so much for kind words and compliments. In Switzerland Japanese restaurants are either very expensive and not extraordinary or less expensive and not impressive. Moreover, every restaurant concentrates on sushi… no one makes ramen for example and I must say most of the Japanese dishes I have presented on my blog are impossible to find here. Luckily it encourages experiments at home 🙂 It is funny when, after a year or so of eating home-made Japanese dish, I taste it for the first time in Japan.

  13. Helene D'Souza

    Oh dried fish for a stock. Would love to learn more about this. I just discovered that other Asian countries use dried fish and prawns and I have a bag full of both in my fridge. It’s stinking lol but I love the flavors in food.
    As you know Sissi I am always happy to learn some basic Japanese recipes and learning from you has been so useful since you write form a foreigner perspective. Makes it all the more easier to understand what is what. Thanks for sharing your favorite stock, I will treasure the recipe!

    1. Sissi Post author

      Thanks a lot, Helene. This is a chicken stock not dried fish stock (though dried fish stock is used in Japanese cuisine and also Korean). It’s true that we foreigners have always a different approach and understanding of the Japanese cuisine. I hope I have encouraged you to cook Japanese (or maybe you already do?). A few basic ingredients and you can create lots of Japanese-style (or maybe genuinely Japanese) dishes!

  14. Charles

    Hi Sissi, I must admit my favourite stock is tonkotsu (thanks for the lesson… I had no idea there were so many different stocks… I thought it was all pork based to be honest), and I just love it when it’s really sedimenty and thick at the bottom of the bowl (you must visit the ramen museum in Yokohama if/when you return to Japan!), but as you mentioned – I don’t think I met anyone who doesn’t like this wonderful bowl of deliciousness, no matter what the stock is made from.

    Your stock sounds so good – and looks just incredible in the photo. I love that photo, it’s the kind which instantly makes me hungry and want to devour a bowl of ramen… I wonder if I’ll have a chance to go and have some in Paris before I leave 🙁

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi Charles, thank you so much for all the compliments! It’s so difficult to make food look delicious… Actually 100% pork bone stocks are apparently rare. Many ramen shops add chicken bones or dried fish or both. I have greatly enjoyed pork bone-based stock in Japan too (but I’m not sure if it was 100% pork, but of course they won’t give you their secret recipe 😉 ), but all my efforts with pork stock at home gave inedible results. Since I have been making chicken stock (the traditional European) for years, using only chicken and soy sauce in stock was much easier! The results were much much better, so for now it’s my favourite home made ramen stock.
      On the other hand I haven’t given up on pork bone stock of course.

  15. Matthew

    Have you tried using a dashi or kombu dashi to start the stock building process? This, for me, really makes the stock “taste” like Japan. David Chang does a bacon dashi which adds a cool southern twist to the ramen stock.

    1. Sissi Post author

      Hi Matthew, do you mean starting a chicken/pork stock with konbu? I know many cooks add konbu or dried fish to their bone stocks, but I have yet to find a good recipe.

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