In the past few years tonkotsu has become the coolest style of noodles to be seen eating or making here in the UK; a thick, unrefined, intensely meaty broth, served with the regular gang of ramen toppings, chashu pork, boiled eggs and bamboo shoots. Restaurants vie to see who has the longest simmered stock with the most opaque suspension of fat and collagen, while critics search for the ramenya with the softest pork and the most unctuous fat. Worthy of equal praise and attention though, is the lesser known, neglected relative of tonkotsu, and one of the unsung heroes of the noodle world- Tori Paitan Ramen. A richly satisfying, creamy broth of chicken bones, skin and cartilage, milky in appearance and sticky on the lips from the copious amounts of fat and gelatin present and the long periods of fierce boiling. To accentuate the deep chickeny flavour of the broth, we’ve added lots of garlic in the form of fried garlic chips and a spoon of powerful, garlic infused duck fat which lends an intense muskiness and a brilliantly rich mouth feel to the finished soup.
A bowl of ramen wouldn’t be complete without some slow-cooked meat to top your mound of noodles, but rather than use the traditional pork, we’ve kept our paitan a purely poultry dish and created a torchon of chicken by wrapping together thigh and breast meat in a layer of skin. When sliced thinly, this sausage of chicken makes the perfect topping for ramen and falls apart at the slightest pressure from your chopsticks.
Paitan broth ingredients.
- 1kg chicken backs or assorted raw chicken bones
- 500g chicken feet
- 500g chicken necks
- 500g chicken wings
- 250g carrots
- 250g onions
- 75g spring onions or baby leeks
- 40g ginger
- 1 bulb of garlic
- 4 dried shiitakes
- a small handful of katsuobushi flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
- 3 tablespoons shiro shoyu (you can use regular soy sauce, but it will darken the finished colour of the broth)
- 2 tablespoons sake
- 1-2 teaspoons salt
- If your chicken feet are dirty, scrub them well in plenty of cold running water, paying close attention to the claws and between the toes. Place the necks, wings, feet and backs into a large saucepan or stockpot and add three or four litres of cold water, enough to completely cover the bones. Bring the pan of water to the boil over a high heat and boil hard for five minutes.
- Pour the entire contents of the pot into a thoroughly cleaned sink allowing the cooking water to drain away. Carefully wash each bone, wing, foot and neck with cold water to remove any scum from the initial boiling and return them to your saucepan with four litres of clean cold water. This boiling and washing process helps to get rid of the impurities that impair the flavour of your stock and cause froth to form.
- Now bring your water and bones back to the boil over a high heat and continue to cook like this for the next six hours; you aren’t looking for a gentle simmer like when cooking a delicate French stock, you want a fierce rolling boil with gouts of steam and vicious undulating bubbles. During the course of this boiling you’ll need to top up the pan regularly with fresh water to keep it above the level of the bones. If any scum forms on the stock, spoon it off and discard it, but do not be tempted to remove any of the surface fat- this is essential for the finished taste and look of the soup.
- After the paitan stock has boiled for six hours (or more if you feel like it), it will have a pale, creamy look to it, almost like a pan of milk; at this point you need to add your onions, carrots, spring onions, garlic, ginger and shiitakes, all roughly chopped. Cook the vegetables in the broth for about two hours, still at a fierce boil, topping up the water as required during the first hour. When the time is up, turn off the heat and add the katsuobushi flakes, leaving them to infuse for ten minutes.
- Strain the stock through a muslin bag, squeeze out as much of the creamy liquid as possible and discard the solids, before returning the stock to a pan and placing it back on a high heat. Boil the strained stock until it reduces in volume to just over one and a half litres; at this point the paitan broth will be thick, sticky and delicious, but lacking in any real seasoning.
- Reduce the heat under the pan and add the white pepper, shiro shoyu, sake and half of the salt to the broth. Let the broth simmer for a minute before tasting it for seasoning, if needed add the rest of the salt and remove from the heat.
Chicken torchon ingredients.
- 4 large boneless chicken thighs (with their skin)
- 1 chicken breast
- pinch of salt and white pepper
Making a torchon of chicken is a great way to enhance the look of your paitan, almost like a poultry version of chashu pork, only not as strongly seasoned. It may seem complicated at first, but if you imagine it like making a giant makizushi sushi roll it’s actually very simple.
- Lay a large piece of kitchen foil on your work surface. Peel the skin carefully from the chicken thighs and arrange it on the cooking foil in a square. Place the meat from the thighs in an even layer on the square of skin, leaving a two inch border of uncovered skin at one end. Cut the breast in half lengthways and lay the pieces atop the thigh layer as if they were the filling of your sushi roll. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the chicken and arrange the foil so that the uncovered area of skin is furthest away from you.
- Gripping the foil, start to roll the chicken away from you whilst keeping the roll tight, until it forms a complete sausage (the last, uncovered bit of skin will help stick the roll together when you get to the end). Wrap the chicken roll securely with the foil, twisting the ends firmly to force everything into a uniform cylindrical shape.
- Place a pan of water with a steaming rack on a medium heat. Add the torchon of chicken in its foil casing and steam it gently for about an hour. When the time is up, remove the chicken from the steamer and allow it to cool to room temperature before placing it in the fridge for at least three hours to firm up completely.
Wood ear mushroom ingredients.
- 15g dried wood ear mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon sesame oil
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 2 teaspoons mirin
- 1 teaspoon sake
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 teaspoon white sesame seeds
- Place the dried mushrooms into a bowl and cover with lukewarm water, leave these to rehydrate for fifteen to twenty minutes. After they have soaked, pour the liquid away and squeeze any excess water from the mushrooms before slicing them into long thin strips.
- Put the mushrooms and all remaining ingredients except the sesame seeds into a small frying pan. Stir fry this mixture until all of the moisture has evaporated, turn off the heat and add the seeds, stirring well to combine.
Garlic fat ingredients.
- 50g garlic
- 100g duck fat
- pinch of salt
- Peel the cloves of garlic and lightly crush them with the back of a large knife or the heel of your hand. Place the duck fat and garlic in a small pan and warm it slowly over a gentle heat. Stir constantly while cooking the garlic until it starts to brown, this will take four or five minutes and there should be a strong cooked garlic smell to the fat.
- Remove the pan from the heat and pour the contents through a wire strainer into a small bowl. Season the flavoured duck fat with a pinch of salt and set it to one side.
Garlic chips ingredients.
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- Peel and finely slice your cloves of garlic, keeping the slices as uniform as possible. In a small frying pan, heat up the oil then add the garlic slices and fry until golden brown (not too dark though or it will start to taste bitter). Remove the garlic chips to a plate lined with kitchen roll and set aside for later; they will still be slightly soft when you stop frying them but will quickly crisp up out of the oil.
Tori paitan ramen ingredients.
- 350-400g ramen noodles
- 1 quantity of paitan broth from the above recipe
- 1 chicken torchon from the above recipe (or simply use some poached or fried chicken thighs)
- 1 quantity of wood ear mushrooms from the above recipe
- 1 quantity of garlic duck fat from the above recipe
- 1 quantity of garlic chips from the above recipe
- 4 soft boiled eggs, or soy eggs from our recipe here
- 4 spring onions
- 2 tablespoons white sesame seeds
- Toast the sesame seeds lightly in a dry frying pan, then grind them to a coarse powder in either a suribachi or a pestle and mortar. Unwrap and slice the chicken torchon as thinly as you can while still producing complete pieces, then finely slice the spring onions.
- Cook the ramen noodles as per the instructions on their packet, normally around two to three minutes in boiling water. While the noodles are cooking, warm your paitan broth until it is gently simmering and all the fat is evenly suspended throughout.
- To assemble your tori paitan start by placing a tablespoon or two of the garlic duck fat in the bottom of each bowl, followed by a portion of the noodles. Ladle over the hot broth and carefully pile up a mound of the mushrooms and spring onions in each bowl. Nestle a few chicken slices and an egg on top of each serving and finish with a sprinkle of the ground sesame seeds and the garlic chips.
Serves 4 people.