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Tonkotsu Ramen

February 10, 2011

Tonkotsu Test 3

Noodles and broth right?  Its way more complicated than that. 

The best place to eat at the intersection of Camelback and 10th Street in Phoenix isn’t Oreganos.  Sorry it’s just not.  It’s the Cherry Blossom restaurant located in the strip mall next to it.  Cherry Blossom is an odd duck – half of their menu offers Italian food the other half Japanese.  What makes Cherry Blossom so good is that it offers the best ramen I have tasted outside of Daikokuya Ramen in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles.  For Phoenix Arizona, that’s saying something. 

Daikouya RamenCherry Blossom offers their ramen Hakata style.   Which is to say its origins were popularized in the Hakata-ku ward of Fukuoka, a city in the Kyushu province of southern Japan.  But let us cut to the chase, at its root is Tonkotsu.  Tonkotsu, one of the four main ‘mother’ broths of ramen (think Carême’s four mother sauces of French cuisine), is essentially a stock made from simmered pork bones, and pork fat, which equals heaven in a bowl.  Trotters, ham hocks, pork belly, cast aside scrap and trim, are simmered for long hours, in some cases up to eight and beyond.  The low simmering heat applied over long periods essentially melds the marrow of the bones and the collagen of the meat into a colloid type of goodness with the broth’s water (technically a hydrocolloid).  This may not sound pretty but if you like bacon, and who doesn’t, you’ll love this.  When done properly, and it is definitely a learned art form, it should appear milky white in color, be rich and full of flavor, and able to stand on its own.     Noodles are thin and straight.  Toppings typically include green onion, ginger, shiitake, and māyu (a black oil made from charred garlic onion and sesame seeds).   Daikokuya Ramen, in Little Tokyo, adds bean sprouts, bamboo sprouts and a perfectly soft-boiled egg to their Tonkotsu Ramen which totally makes their dish.

While Daikokuya has the tastiest ramen I have had, Cherry Blossom’s Hakata ramen is definitely a must try when in the central phoenix area.  They serve their ramen with sliced Japanese style BBQ pork, green onions, and Kikurage (or “wood ear”) mushrooms.  The place does a bustling lunch business from a very low profile location.  I recommend grabbing one of the 4 seats available at the food bar, as it is right in front of the kitchen line, and it is fascinating to watch just 2 line cooks churn out all of the lunch covers.

So let’s say you are feeling a little crazy and decide you want to spend the weekend making this, here is what you will need:

For the broth:

Trotters and Hocks

  • 3 ham hocks (I used smoked)
  • 1/4 pound of sliced pork belly or salt pork
  • 1 gallon of water

In a large pot add the water and pig parts.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer and cover.  After about the first hour use a spoon to skim off the fat that has risen to the surface.  Simmer for at least 4 to 5 hours (or longer) until the meat falls off the bones.  At that point fish out the fallen off pork bones and skin, leaving in the rendered meat. 

For the Mayu:

  • 3 cloves of garlic, fine choppedGarlic Onion
  • tablespoon of chopped green onion
  • table spoon of crushed sesame (try a mortar and pestle)
  • 3 tablespoons of sesame oil

In a small saute pan over medium heat add sesame oil, once hot toss in the other ingredients.  Stir frequently to the point of charring the garlic and onion.  Just before the point of burning them pull from the heat and spoon into a ramekin.  Set aside for garnishing the finished ramen.

For the ramen:


  • 1 lb of straight chinese noodles
  • 4 oz of shiitake mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 green onions chopped (separate whites and greens)
  • 1 tablespoon of grated ginger
  • 1 tablespoon of soy
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • 3 soft-boiled eggs, halved
  • mayu, previously prepared

Get a pot of water boiling for your pasta.  Once the broth is cooked and the bones and skin removed, add the whites of the green onion, the shiitake, the garlic, and grated ginger.  Let simmer for a 1/2 hour.  Add your pasta to the now boiling water until cooked.  To plate spoon a couple ladles of broth into a bowl, drop in a twist of noodles, a soft-boiled egg half, a dash of soy, a sprinkle of green onion, and a bit of the mayu. 


Tonkotsu Test 1

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