Ramen Toppings 101: Chashu Pork
If you've ever had a bowl of traditional tonkotsu ramen, chances are there were a few slices of chashu dancing around in the broth.
What’s your personal favorite ramen topping?
For many foodies (especially our vegetarian foodie-friends) it’s a perfectly cooked, soft-boiled Ramen Egg. But for the meat lovers among us, it’s probably savory slices of melt-in-your-mouth, braised pork belly- traditionally known as Chashu.
If you’ve ever had a bowl of traditional tonkotsu ramen, chances are there were a few slices of chashu dancing around in the broth. But if you’re not familiar with rolled chashu, you definitely need to become acquainted.
When it comes to ramen noodle toppings, this is one you should know how to make, even if pork isn’t necessarily your jam. One bite of the tasty topping, and you just might fall in love.
Today, we’re talking about what this popular addition is, we’re outlining how you can make your own chashu pork at home, and we’re sharing some of our favorite Chashu pork ramen recipes!
So… What is Chashu Pork?
First off- why is chashu pork different from regular slices of pork?
Here’s what makes it special: chashu is made by rolling fatty cuts of pork, cooking it slowly for a few hours until it’s reached a fall-apart-in-your-mouth texture, and slicing it up into aesthetically-pleasing spirals of delicious perfection.
You can then add it to a bowl of ramen noodles, or you can be a rebel and eat it straight off the cutting board- you’re the boss here.
The ingredient list for this topping is short: pork belly, soy sauce, mirin (a sweet rice wine), sugar, and sake. And while there is a bit of prep time (you make the roll a day in advance and let it sit overnight so it fully absorbs all the flavor), this topping takes a reasonably short amount of time to make, and fits a bowl of Mike’s Mighty Good ramen like a glove.
What Kind of Meat Should I Use to Make Chashu?
When you’re making chashu, we recommend that you choose pork belly- although you can also technically use pork shoulder, or even pork loin. Ask your butcher what they have, and what they recommend!
Pork belly is the most popular choice because it’s fattier than other cuts of meat, and it becomes more tender when it’s cooked for a long period of time.
Should I Roll My Chashu or Not?
Why do you see pork rolls in ramen, when slicing it right off the block seems, well- easier?
When it comes to traditional chashu pork, there are two ways to prepare it: rolled into a log, or kept in block form. If you’re preparing chashu pork at home, it’s totally up to you to decide. However, one of the benefits of rolling your pork- as opposed to slicing it up from the block- is the moisture factor.
Even though it does take a little longer to cook in log-form, rolling the meat slows the cooking time by reducing surface area and locking in broth, keeping the meat juicy and tender. The block version cooks more quickly which makes it easier to prepare, but it can dry out if you’re not careful.
And honestly- when it comes to the aesthetics- the rolled slices just look a whole lot cooler.
Next time you make a bowl of ramen, spend a little time up front and make your own rolled pork chashu, and top your noodles off with your own tasty spirals.
How to Make Rolled Pork Chashu
To make your own chashu at home you’ll need to prepare the meat a day ahead of time- so make sure you’re not pressed for time!
Here is our favorite way to make rolled pork chashu:
- 2-2.5 lb pork belly block
- 1 leek or 2-3 green onions
- 1 knob ginger
- 1 Tbsp neutral-flavored oil (vegetable, canola, etc)
- 1 c. sake
- 1 c. soy sauce
- 2 c. water
- Salt and pepper, to taste (for pork)
You’ll also need:
- butchers twine
- wax paper or plastic wrap
- rolling pin or meat tenderizer
- Cast iron skillet
- pot or dutch oven (that will hold your chashu log)
Lay your pork belly out, and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Cover your pork belly with wax paper or plastic wrap, and gently smack it with a rolling pin or meat tenderizer.
Roll your pork belly into a log. To do this, start at one end of the roast and use your hands to roll the meat tightly towards the other end. If your pork belly comes with the skin attached, it should be on the outside.
Once you have your meat rolled tightly, tie it up with butcher’s twine to keep it secure, starting from one end to the other, and continuing to tie a knot every inch or so.
(Here’s a helpful video on tying butcher’s knots: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2lbrqf-jv4w)
Heat your oil in a cast iron skillet (or regular frying pan) over high heat. Add the pork belly roll and sear on each side, making sure that the entire log is nicely browned. This should take about 10-15 minutes.
While your pork log is searing, combine all the other ingredients and seasoning in a pot or dutch oven.
To Simmer Your Pork Chashu
When your pork is done, transfer it to the pot of seasonings, and bring it all to a boil.
Turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 2 hours- rotating the log every 20 minutes. After the time is up, turn off the heat and let cool.
Once the pork has cooled down, transfer it to a container or plastic bag with a little bit of the liquid. Save any extra liquid for a ramen egg marinade, or as an addition to your ramen broth.
Set both and log in the fridge overnight.
The Next Day:
Take your pork out of the fridge, remove the butchers twine, and slice the pork into thin slices- preferably ¼ or ½ inch in size.
Fry your slices in a pan, or throw them in the microwave until heated thoroughly.
Chashu pork is one of the most popular of ramen toppings, and we think it’s also one of the most delicious. Hopefully, this article has inspired you to make your own chashu at home- and if we succeeded in peaking your interest, we’d love to see how it turned out.
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