There is no definite way of determining which toppings are the best, it simply boils down to your preference or what some may say what’s appropriate to the type of ramen you want to experience. It is your personal preference. There is a wide array of toppings that you can choose add to your ramen to elevate your experience.
If there is anything that I learned about eating tonkotsu ramen every day for the last 2 months is that toppings are a must. Toppings are added to round out a bowl of ramen in texture, flavor, and color. There are almost no limits to any combination as long there is a balance altogether. These are some of the toppings I used in the last two months.
Type of Toppings:
Narutomaki: is a type of kamaboko with a pink swirl in the middle. And it isn’t necessarily added for flavor, but it is there to add a chewy texture and color.
Negi (green onions): is a very popular topping that adds color and a sharp onion flavor as well as a crunchy texture that contrast the noodles.
Corn: is added to give a hint of sweetness which is perfect for miso ramen with its savory umami profile. It also adds color. And if you toast it, that adds smoke to the overall taste!
Menma (bamboo shoots): is fermented bamboo shoots that is slightly crunchy and if marinated compliments the broth.
Kikurage (Wood ear Mushrooms): usually comes dried so you have soak per instructions. It adds a crunchy texture to contrast the noodles and adds color to paler broths.
Togarashi: a Japanese spice blend that adds heat to the bowl with a hint of citrus. It also add color to the overall presentation.
Nori: is dried seaweed that adds a crunchy texture with a bit of salt. It also is a good contrast to the color of the broth.
Sesame Seeds: a bit of it adds a subtle nutty flavor that works will with a creamy umami broth. It is a good contrast of flavors that adds a bit of a crunch.
Ajitama eggs: are soft-boiled eggs that are marinated in shoyu tare or even in Chashu seasoning.
Chashu: It serves to be the primary source of protein on ramen, and it’s primarily pork, but not limited to. It can be prepared differently, but I go with the classic. I start by rolling up a slab of pork belly with twine. And It doesn’t have to be to be perfect. Then pan sear the skin all around for about 10 minutes. If you don’t own a braiser pan, just just a regular pan deep enough to fit. Add any aromatics of your choice. Then add brown sugar, dark shoyu, mirin and sake. Add enough water and have this cook on low to medium heat for 2-3 hours. Halfway, refill that water and flip it over if it isn’t completely submerged. After all that let it cool down. You don’t want to cut into it yet cuz it’s fragile, so you have let it cool down in the fridge overnight. But if you really are impatient let it cool down in the freezer for 1-2 hours. And that should be it. To serve, just cut into slices and heat it up with a torch or on a pan.
Toppings - Tonkotsu Ramen
- 3 lbs slab of pork belly
- 3 green onion stalk
- 1 ginger knobb
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1/2 cup dark shoyu
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 2 tbsp sake
- Start by rolling up a slab of pork belly with twine. This process is optional if you want to go for the iconic shape for chashu. You can just prepare the same if it was unrolled.
- Then pan sear the skin of the pork belly all around for 10 to 15 minutes. No need to add any oil as this part is to caramelize the top layer of the chashu. Set it aside afterwards.
- Prepare your aromatics and measurements for the seasoning.
- In a deep pan, add the pork belly, the aromatics, the seasoning, and the water. Just add enough water to cover it. Have this cook on low-medium heat for 2 to 3 hours.
- Halfway, add more water if needed. Flip it over if it is not completely submerged. Continue to cook until the chashu is jiggling.
- After it is done cooking, let it rest on a cooling rack. Try to resist from cutting into it as it is very fragile. You will have to cool it down in the fridge overnight. An alternative is to store into the freezer for 1 to 2 hours.
- For serving, cut into slices and heat up with torch or with a pan.