Tonkotsu ramen is an umami-packed bowl of Japanese noodle soup made from pork bone broth and traditionally topped with braised pork, halved soft-boiled egg, menma (seasoned bamboo) and sliced scallions. This stick-to-your-ribs kind of broth needs to simmer for half a day (or more!) but here I show you how to use your Instant Pot pressure cooker to decrease the cooking time. It is not a difficult meal to make but because of the different elements involved, is best made over two days and I will provide you with a suggested timeline of how to put together a perfect bowl of tonkotsu ramen at home.
My 10-year old son asks for Tonkotsu ramen ALL. THE. TIME. Ever since he had his first bowl in Houston 2 years ago.
Because I love making stocks and soups, I am happy to oblige. But making a proper bowl of Tonkotsu ramen was more work than anything I have ever made before. The first time I did it, it took me five days!
The results were so worth it though. To finally sit down and slurp a bowl of ramen noodles in a wonderfully flavored creamy but light broth accompanied by meltingly tender pork belly and custardy eggs? EGG-CELENT!
But I wanted to streamline and simplify the process without sacrificing taste and authenticity. My final recipe is still a two-day process because you need to chill the stock and marinate the meat overnight. But if you take a look at my timeline (scroll down or click here) for how to make tonkotsu ramen at home, you will see that there is a lot or passive marinating time where you can just sit and watch Netflix while the cooking is happening in the pressure cooker or in the fridge.
What is Tonkotsu Ramen?
Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup dish that is comprised of four essential items that I will discuss in detail below: (1) noodles, (2) broth, (3) tare and (4) toppings.
Tonktosu in Japanese means “pork bone” so Tonkotsu ramen is a ramen noodle soup made with a pork bone stock.
It originated in Kurume City in the Fukuoka Prefecture and was served for the first time in 1937. The broth is prepared by boiling pork bones in water for six hours or more, and the broth is typically very cloudy in appearance with a creamy consistency similar to that of milk or gravy.
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(1) Ramen Noodles
The word “ramen” has its roots in Chinese culture. It is believed to originally mean either “pulled noodles” (“la mien”) or “noodles tossed in sauce” (“lo mien”).
You can make your own ramen noodles at home with just three ingredients: all-purpose flour, water and an alkaline water known as kansui. You can easily substitute the kansui with baking soda and I explain how to do that in my post here. Also check out my post on “How to make homemade ramen noodles from scratch.“
Because ramen dough is a low hydration dough (which means there’s very little water in it), it can be tough to knead and best made with either a pasta machine or pasta attachment. I recommend the Marcato Atlas 150 pasta maker or this one from Kitchen Aid if you already have their stand mixer.
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(2) Ramen Broth
Tonkotsu ramen broth is made up of the tonkotsu stock and dashi.
Many people (including myself!) use the terms stock and broth interchangeably but they are actually two different things. To read more about stock vs broth and to learn about the different kinds of ramen stock, read my Ramen 101 post here.
Generally stock is made of animal bones, cooked for hours upon hours to extract the collagen, and jellifies when refrigerated. Broth is usually made with meat (or vegetables), cooked for a shorter time than stock and does not jellify when refrigerated.
Tonkotsu stock is rich and creamy and is developed by cooking the pork bones for a very long time, until the collagen and fat dissolve, resulting in a unique texture of the dish.” It was accidentally created when a pot of pork bones was left on a rapid boil for hours.
An essential part of ramen that is added to the stock and get it closer to being ramen broth is dashi.
Dashi is a fish broth and a simple dashi is made of:
- kombu (or konbu) which is dried kelp;
- katsuobushi which is dried bonito fish that is shaved into flakes;
The term “umami” is often associated with ramen because ingredients like kombu, katsuobushi, miso, and soy sauce all contain sources of glutamates. All this umami combined in one bowl of ramen can only result in an amazing sensation of flavors.
I approached making Tonkotsu ramen like I make my Vietnamese Pho stock: Japanese ramen stock takes many hours to make but with my Vietnanmese Pho recipe, I was able to cut down the simmering time from 6-8 hours to 2-3 hours using my Instant Pot pressure cooker.
And just like my Pho recipe, I found that using only one kind of bone (beef for Pho and pork for Tonkotsu) makes the stock too one-dimensional. You know that feeling you get when you taste something and it just feels like something is missing? Well, after experimenting with adding chicken to both stocks, I was rewarded with a more balanced stock as the sweetness of the chicken gave the stock more depth and complexity.
It took me awhile to jump on the Instant Pot bandwagon. But once I bought one, I have never looked back. This has been the one gadget that I use the most. I make a lot of stock and broths and this has cut down the number of hours that I spend watching the stove. I can put a pot of bones on pressure cook and go about my day not worrying about turning the flame off. I started off with a 6-quart pressure cooker which is great for everyday cooking for a family of 4 but for stocks I have now upgraded to an 8-quart. I also use it for making yogurt, proofing bread, and it’s great for making the easiest peeling eggs.
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(3) Ramen Tare
Once you’ve made your ramen stock, it’s time to flavor it and you do that with the tare (垂れ).
Pronouced “tah-reh”, tare in Japanese means “dipping sauce” but can mean any flavoring that is comprised of two or more seasonings.
Ramen tare is traditionally classified as one of three types:
- (1) shio (sea salt)
- (2) shoyu (soy sauce)
- (3) miso (fermented bean paste)
Since ramen stock doesn’t contain salt and only 1-2 tablespoons of tare is needed for each serving bowl of ramen, the tare is made extra salty and extra concentrated.
We will be making a shoyu tare for this tonkotsu stock base.
To read more about the different types of ramen tare, read my Ramen 101 post here.
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(4) Ramen Toppings
After you’ve made your tonkotsu ramen stock and flavored it with your tare, it’s time to add the toppings of which there are endless combinations.
For Tonkotsu ramen, the most traditional are chasu (roast or braised pork, not to be confused with Chinese charsiu), menma (pickled bamboo shoots), nori (seaweed sheets), Ramen egg (soft-boiled and sometimes marinated), and chopped scallions.
For this tonkotsu ramen recipe, I used:
- marinated pork belly,
- fried pork belly fat (so good!),
- ramen egg,
- fresh corn,
- and a drizzle of pork fat.
Lastly, I like my food spicy so I can’t help but sprinkle a little bit of sichimi just before eating. (Japanese chili blend).
Feel free to use whatever toppings that you like – I often use what’s available in my fridge or pantry.
Marinated ramen eggs are delicious and make a great snack. I always make extra for this reason. They keep in the fridge for a week.
A note on flavored oils/fat: the first time I encountered a bowl of tonkotsu ramen I thought, oh my god, it’s so oily. But as I started to understand ramen, I learned that one of the finishing touches of ramen is the drizzle of flavored oil. So now I de-fat the broth (and throw away almost all the fat) and at the very end I add a tiny amount of flavored fat.
To read more about the many types of ramen toppings, read my Ramen 101 post here.
Okay let’s start cooking.
Get Your Ramen Act Together
There seems to be a lot going on but much of making a ramen meal is passive cooking time.
The first time I made ramen I felt that there was so much and I was all over the place. I’ve since developed a timeline to organize myself and understand how much time is needed to make a complete meal from scratch.
This is my recommended timeline for making on a weekend. “Pre-Day 1” is optional and only involves soaking the pork bones in cold water. The cold water draws out the blood from the bones and results in a cleaner stock.
Pre-Day 1 (optional):
1) 7:00 pm – Place pork bones in your 8-qt pressure cooker liner and cover with cold water. Refrigerate overnight.
1) 9:00 am – Make the pork/tonkotsu stock; strain and store in the fridge overnight.
2) 9:30 am – Make dashi while the water for pork bones is heating up. Strain and store in fridge.
3) 10:00 am – Make the tare while tonkotsu is pressure cooking.
4) 10:15 am – Marinade pork belly with the tare and refrigerate overnight. [Note: to make optional pork belly cracklings, remove and discard skin from pork belly; remove and reserve excess pork belly fat; Cut reserved pork belly fat into little cubes and place in fridge in a covered bowl.]
5) 10:30 am – Make soft-boiled eggs on stove top. Allow to cool in a ice water then marinate the eggs in tare. [Note: I make my eggs in the Instant pot so this step is done later in the afternoon once the Instant Pot is freed up from making tonkotsu stock.]
1) 9:00 am – Remove ramen eggs from marinade and RESERVE MARINADE. Store eggs in fridge. Add marinade to pork belly.
2) 9:15 am – Cook the pork belly (1 hour), cool, slice, cover and refridgerate.
3) 4:30 pm – Make the noodle dough while the pork belly is simmering. Set dough aside to rest for 30 minutes.
3) 5:00 pm – Remove tonkotsu stock from fridge; use a spoon to gently remove the fat that’s solidified on top – keep a few tablespoons of this fat for the final plating and discard the rest.
4) 5:15 pm – Knead ramen dough for 3 minutes.
5) 5:30 – Prepare the toppings: cook the fresh corn, cut scallions, toast sesame seeds, fry pork belly fat in reserved pork belly.
5) 6:00 pm – Set up your mise en place = place all the toppings you need ready to use on kitchen counter for plating.
6) 6:30 pm – Make ramen noodles (or prepare according to package instructions) and heat up ramen stock.
7) 7:00 pm – Plate and serve.
- 8-quart Instant Pot (or large stockpot) – pork stock and ramen eggs
- 2-quart pot or large container – to hold the strained tonkotsu stock
- Saucepan with lid – to make the pork belly and dashi
- Small fry pan – to toast sesame seeds
- Spider ladle or strainer basket – to reheat noodles and toppings
- Noodle Bowls
Enjoy and Happy Noodling!
Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen with Soy-Braised Pork Belly (Pressure Cooker)
Tonkotsu ramen is wondrous bowl of Japanese noodle soup made from pork bone broth and traditionally topped with braised pork, halved soft-boiled egg, menma (seasoned bamboo) and sliced scallions. This stick-to-your-bones kind of broth needs to simmer for half a day (or more!) but here I show you how to use your pressure cooker to decrease the cooking time. It is not a difficult meal to make but because of the different elements involved, is best made over two days.
- 2.5 kg pork bones1 trotter
- 1 kg whole chicken2 or 500 g chicken wings
- 2 carrots
- 1 large onion
- 2 bunches green onions, white part only save greens for garnish
- 1 head garlic
- 1 3-inch piece of ginger
- 8 cups water
- 15 grams Kombu (8 square inches)
- 15 grams katsuobushi (bonito flakes)
- 1 quart water
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin
- 1/4 cup sugar
(4) Pork Belly:
- 1 lb pork belly
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup corn
- green onions
- 2 teaspoons white sesame seeds, toasted
- fried pork belly fat
(6) Ramen Noodles:
- ramen noodles
(1) Instant Pot Tonkotsu Stock:
Parboil Bones for 5 minutes: In an 8 qt Instant Pot, add pork bones and water to max line. Use Saute function on high to bring to boil. Allow to boil for 5 minutes. Carefully pour all bones and water into sink (discard water).
Pressure Cook Bones for 3 hours: Clean your Instant Pot liner to remove all the impurities that have gathered on the bottom and sides.
Rinse the bones under running water and place back into the cleaned liner. Add all remaining stock ingredients except for the chicken. Pour water to max line. Set Instant Pot to Pressure Cook at High Pressure for 3 hours and be sure to turn OFF the "Keep Warm" function. When the 3 hours are complete, allow the pressure to release naturally (could take up to an hour). If you Quick Release by pressing the spout then a lot of gunk will spurt out and make a mess of your Instant Pot and kitchen.
Saute Bones for 1 to 2 hours: When pressure has released, remove lid and add chicken to the pork bones. Saute on high for 1 to 2 hours. This rapid boil releases the collagen from the bones and turns the stock white-ish.
Strain Stock and Refrigerate: Strain the stock into large pot or container and discard the strained solids. You should have 1 quart of stock.
Allow stock to cool at room temperature for about 1 hour and then cover and place in refrigerator to overnight.
Discard Solidified Fat but Reserve a Few Tablespoons: Remove stock from fridge. You will see that the pork stock has turned into a nice jelly with the pork fat sitting on the very top. Using a large spoon, gently scoop the pork fat out and discard BUT save a few tablespoons of this fat in a bowl for the final plating. If not using immediately, cover reserved fat and place in fridge. Note: do not discard the fat in your sink or it may clog your drain.
Return tonkotsu stock to fridge until ready to serve.
Soak Kombu: While the tonkotsu stock is pressure cooking, make the dashi by soaking the kombu in a pot of room temperature water for 30 minutes.
Simmer Kombu: After soaking, bring the pot to a boil and simmer the kombu for 10 minutes (uncovered). After 10 minutes, turn off the heat and remove the dashi and either discard the kombu or save for making a secondary dashi stock (which is perfect for miso soup).
Add katsuobushi and Steep: Add the katsuobushi (bonito flakes) and allow to steep for 10 minutes.
Strain Dashi: Strain the dashi liquid using a fine mesh sieve. Discard the katsuobushi or you can save it for making a secondary dashi.
Mix all ingredients in saucepan and heat on high until it comes to a boil. Remove from heat.
Use this tare to marinade the pork belly and ramen eggs.
(5) Instant Pot Ramen Eggs:
Pressure Cook Eggs: Eggs should be at room temperature1. Place eggs in instant pot on a trivet or in a steaming basket and pour in 1 cup of water. Pressure cook on High for 6 minutes with Quick Release (QR).
Cool, Peel and Marinade Eggs: After QR, Immediately submerge eggs in a bowl of cold/ice water to stop the cooking process. When eggs are cool (about 5 minutes), peel and place peeled eggs gently in a container. with 1/4 cup tare and 3/4 cup water. Cover and refrigerate overnight. Remove eggs from marinade (DO NOT discard marinade) and set aside until final plating. You can add this used marinade to the pork belly simmering liquid below.
(4) Pork Belly:
Marinade Pork: Place pork belly in a gallon-sized resealable bag. Add 1/4-cup tare into the bag, seal and place in fridge overnight. Turn the bag every once in a while to evenly distribute the marinade.
Simmer Pork: The next day, place pork belly along with its marinade in a pot with lid. Also add the marinade that was used in the ramen eggs.
Bring to a boil then lower heat and simmer for 1 hour. The pork should be beautifully tender at that point.
Cool and Slice Pork: Remove pork from the pot and place on a plate to cool at room temperature or in the refrigerator. Cooling makes slicing easier otherwise the meat will tear. DO NOT DISCARD THE MARINADE. Strain the marinade into a bowl, cover and store in the fridge to use for the final plating.
When the pork is cool (about 1 hour), slice into 1/4 inch slices. The pork belly is easier to cut when cooled. Cover and refrigerate.
Note: If you have excess pork belly fat then you can make a topping out of it.This is optional but adds a nice, rich flavor to the final dish. See TOPPINGS section below for instructions.
(6) Prepare Toppings:
Toast Sesame Seeds: Sesame seeds will taste much better if you toast them. Do this as close to plating time as possible to retain the toasted flavor. Heat a small frying pan to medium-high heat. Add sesame seeds and swirl the pan every 10-15 seconds for 3-5 minutes or until the seeds have darkened in color slightly. Remove from heat and set aside.
You'll need 1/2 teaspoon per bowl or ramen.
Pork Belly Fat: Before marinading the pork belly, cut off the skin (and discard) and reserve any excess fat. Cut pork belly fat into little pieces about 1/4-inch squares. To a small frying pan, add enough oil to barely cover the bottom of the pan and heat it up on medium heat. When the oil is hot, gently add to the pork to the oil. Fry while stirring until pork belly is nicely browned and crunchy.
You'll need 1 teaspoon per bowl of ramen.
Skimmed Pork Fat: This is the fat that was scooped up from the jellified stock and saved.
You'll need 2 teaspoons per bowl of ramen.
Corn: If using fresh corn still on the cob, then steam the corn until cooked, about 10-15 minutes. Cool and use a knife to cut the kernels off the cob. You can also use canned corn.
You'll need 1 tablespoon per bowl of ramen.
Green onions: Thinly slice the green part of the scallions.
You'll need 1-2 tablespoons per bowl of ramen.
(6) Ramen Noodles:
Make Ramen Noodles: If using pre-packaged noodles, boil according to the package instructions. Drain.
If making your own, then click here for the recipe. Note that 1 recipe of ramen noodles only makes enough for 4 servings. So for 6 servings, you will need 1.5 recipe portions or 3 cups (360 grams) of flour.
Make the noodles according to the recipe directions, cook, drain and rinse under cold water to stop cooking process. Drain well. When ready to serve, quickly dunk noodles in boiling water to reheat5. Divide into 6 bowls.
(7) Final Plating:
Combine Pork Stock with Dashi: When you are ready to plate the ramen, heat up tonkotsu stock to a simmer, add dashi. You should have a total of 2 quarts of stock.
Get Toppings Ready: Line up all your toppings ready to be doled out atop each serving bowl. Pork belly, ramen eggs, sesame seeds, pork belly fat, chasu tare and green onions, etc.
Add Chasu Tare: Spoon 1 to 2 tablespoons of chasu tare in each serving bowl.
Optional: Spoon 1 teaspoon skimmed pork fat in each serving bowl.
Heat noodles4: Using a spider strainer, put one portion of noodles in the strainer and dunk it in the broth for a few seconds to warm up the noodles. Then place hot noodles in a serving bowl. Repeat for each serving.
Assemble Bowls: Pour hot broth over each bowl.
Assemble toppings and serve. Enjoy!
1 For Pork bones, I use pig trotters but if unavailable, I will get whatever pork bones I can find.
2 Chicken will not fit in at the beginning so we will add it at the end of the pressure cycle when sauteing on high.
3 Dashi – If you cannot get the ingredients to make dashi, you can buy dashi granules (“hondashi”).
4 Noodles – I have been known to microwave the noodles for 45 to 60 seconds for a quick reheat instead of dunking in boiling water/stock. Then divide among the serving bowls.