As tonkotsu is to Fukuoka in the North, champon is to Nagasaki on the Western coast of Kyūshū- the local variant on ramen, inspired greatly by the tastes of the many Chinese students who flocked to the city in the late 1800s. The soft but flavourful cuisine of China’s Fujian province can be clearly seen through this enticingly colourful seafood dish; succulent squid and prawns combined with tender noodles, stir-fried carrots, beansprouts and cabbage, woodland mushrooms and a silent but knowing nod of agreement to the region’s saying bù tāng bù xíng, or ‘no soup, no meal’. As Nagasaki has a tendency to, the industrious and diverse city took these outside influences and blended them with the Kyūshūan love of pork and fishcakes to create champon- it has remained a favourite ever since and has more recently spread to other parts of the country and overseas courtesy of restaurant chains such as Ringer Hut.
Thanks to the collagen-rich stock and the high proportion of vegetables in the dish people like to think of champon as the healthiest of ramen and- unlike other ramen recipes- is unique in that the noodles and toppings are all cooked together in the broth, providing a slightly thicker soup than you would expect to find. Counter-intuitive as it might seem, Nagasakians eat a steaming bowl of champon to cool down in the oppressively humid Summer months- following the school of thought that sweating helps regulate your body temperature- its just as effective however as a Winter warmer to get you through the coldest, snowy day that Britain can offer with a smile on your face and a satisfied belly.
- 1.5L tonkotsu broth (from our recipe here) or paitan broth (from our recipe here)
- 400g fresh noodles
- 400g white cabbage
- 80g carrots
- 120g beansprouts
- 100g shelled edamame beans
- 5g dried sliced wood ear mushroom
- 400g cleaned squid tubes
- 100g thinly sliced pork
- 150g kamaboko fishcake
- 250g raw prawns
- 2 spring onions (green parts only)
- 1 tablespoon lard or sesame oil
- Cover the dried wood ear mushroom with hot water and leave to rehydrate whilst you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Shred the carrots into thin julienne strands and the cabbage into 2cm-wide chunks; slice the kamaboko into half-moons, then cut the squid into wide strips and score diagonally with a knife.
- Start to warm the tonkotsu broth in a saucepan. Heat the lard (or oil) in a large deep frying pan until hot, then add the thinly sliced pork and scored squid and fry for thirty seconds or so until they start to become opaque but not browned. Add the cabbage, carrots and beansprouts, and continue to stir fry in the fat over a medium temperature until the vegetables have softened, then pour in the warmed broth. Bring the liquid to a simmer, then add the prawns, kamaboko and edamame beans; drain the soaking water off the wood ear mushrooms and add the rehydrated strands to the soup also.
- Simmer the ingredients in the broth for ten minutes; meanwhile, boil the noodles according to the instructions on the pack, then drain and add the cooked noodles to the soup. Cook for a further two to three minutes, then chop the spring onion into wide strips. Turn off the heat, add the chopped spring onions and stir to combine then divide between four serving bowls making sure everyone gets a bit of everything.
Serves 4 people.