Ramen pork Chashu is the most popular ramen toppings along with ramen eggs! It is quite easy to make this succulent and tender Chashu at home. Although it takes a bit of time to make, it is well worth your patience and effort for it is truly a melt in the mouth experience when done well!
What is Chashu?
The pork meat in ramen is commonly called “Chashu” or “Cha Shu” and it means grilled or fried pork. Chashu is the Chinese reading of Kanji script 焼豚 but it can also be read as Yakibuta in Japanese. Despite the kanji reading of “yaki”, which means grilled or fried, the pork meat you usually find in ramen is more like a braised pork in a soy sauce base.
Which cut of Pork suits Chashu?
The answer is Pork belly. Pork belly has an even fat distribution so that when it is braised, you get that melt in your mouth texture. I found a decent pork belly package at Aldi weighing about 1.8 lb (800g). You can use other cuts of pork, however the fattier the meat, the more melt in your mouth texture. Leaner meat tends to dry out especially when the meat is braised in soy sauce and other condiment mixtures on low heat for a long time.
How to tie a pork belly?
Why even tie the pork belly? The main reasons are to keep the meat shape intact for its appearance and also to increase the moisture of the meat. However, tying the meat might be a little difficult if you have not done this before, so I have included a photo tutorial as well as a mini-movie below to help you.
In the example, I used 2-3 tea towels to show the process above and you can practice with something similar before you tackle the real meat. Note that the length between each circle of cotton twine should be about 0.6 inches (about 1.5 cm). When the meat is cooked, it will shrink a little, so you need to ensure that it is wrapped up tightly. This process can be checked against the mini-movie in the recipe card.
6 key steps to successful chashu
1. Take the meat out of the fridge 30 minutes before
The rule of thumb is to take the meat out of the fridge 30 minutes before starting to cook or prepare. If the meat is cooked straightaway, the center of the meat will remain cold. So the cooking heat will not distribute evenly.
Using a rolling pin or a meat mallet, tenderize the pork belly. This step makes rolling and tying the meat easier. Then roll up the pork belly lengthwise with the skin facing outside.
Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large skillet over medium heat to sear all around until deep golden brown. This is an irreplaceable process to remove excess fat. Adding this extra step makes sure the end result is less greasy and delicious.
4. Boil without seasoning
In order to achieve that melt in the mouth texture, boil the prepared pork belly in simmering water over low heat for one hour without any seasonings. This step is also irreplaceable to remove excess fat and gamey taste of the pork belly. Simmering with seasoning for a long time will cause the meat to become firm and dry due to the salt content in the broth.
5. Simmer with seasonings
Finally, just simmer the well prepared pork belly. Add soy sauce, sake and sugar in a ratio of 2:1:1. I like the sweeter taste so I add honey as well. However, do not add mirin! Mirin is an indispensable condiment in Japanese cooking, though Mirin has a tightening effect due to animal protein. Therefore for making a perfect Chashu recipe, it is better to avoid using mirin.
6. Use Otoshibuta (drop lid)
Otoshibuta (drop lid) is often used in Japanese cooking. Due to the amount of fat in the pork, it does not completely submerge. So it is important to use Otoshibuta to make sure the seasoned broth circulates over the rolled pork belly.
How to store Chashu?
It is better to refrigerate the meat overnight in the cooking sauce. Because it will be easier to slice and will marinate in the sauce more. I usually slice the Chashu about 0.2 inch ( 5mm) each and cling wrap 4 slices together for later use. Place them in a ziplock bag and it will keep for about a week in the fridge and 4 weeks in the freezer.
Chashu pork for other dishes
Now of course as the name suggests, this Ramen Pork Chashu is the most common ramen topping for a bowl of ramen noodles such as Shio ramen, Shoyu Ramen and Hiyashi Chuka, but you can also eat this as a main dish with rice. Chashu edge cut offs is a great ingredient for Yakimeshi Japanese fried rice. Or you could make Chashu Donburi (bed of steamed plain rice topped with Chashu)
Chashu cooking sauce for other uses
Keep the cooking sauce and use it for something else too. Strain the cooking sauce using a fine mesh sieve, remove and discard garlic, ginger, and scallions. Use the sauce for marinating soft boiled eggs, base for Shoyu ramen with mixing with basic ramen broth. Also instead of using just soy sauce, use this sauce for Hiyayakko cold tofu.
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- 1.8-2.2lb/0.8-1kg pork belly
- 2 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup sake
- 1/4 cup honey
- 3 cups water
- 2-3 scallions
- 1 knob ginger about 20g/07oz
- 2 cloves garlic
- Leave pork belly in room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking.
- Salt & pepper over the pork belly. Cover with cling wrap and tenderize with a rolling pin or a meat mallet.
- Roll the pork belly into a cylindrical shape.
- Tie up the pork belly tightly with cooking string so the meat holds its shape (see the photo instruction in the post or watch the mini-movie above).
- Heat the oil in a frying pan, brown the outside of the tied pork belly all around.
- Transfer the pork belly into simmering water (not listed in the recipe. You need enough water to just cover the pork belly, (I used about 8 cups of water) and cook for one hour over low heat.
- Drain the cooking water.
- Add sugar, sake, soy sauce, water, scallions, garlic and ginger to the pot with the pork belly bring to boil then turn the heat down to low. Place a drop lid (otoshibuta) over the pork belly and simmer for one hour.
- Skim scum off the cooking sauce at times and rotate the pork belly sometimes too.
- After one hour, turn the heat off and leave the pork belly in the cooking sauce. *1
- After the pork belly and the sauce cool down, refrigerate it overnight.
- Take the pork belly out of the pot and cut the twine to remove carefully.
- Slice the chashu 0.2 inch (5mm) wide and serve as ramen topping or store for later use. *2
- You can transfer to a container or leave it in the pot. I have enough space to leave the pot in the fridge, so left it in the pot.
- If you are going to eat the Chashu as a dish, remove the fat and discard the scallions, garlic and ginger cooked with pork in the pot. Drain the sauce with a sieve and pour the liquid into a small saucepan. Bring it to boil then, reduce the heat down to a simmer. Continue to simmer the sauce until it is reduced and thickened. Pour this over the sliced Chashu and serve. Also see other suggestions to use the sauce in the above post.
- Cling wrap the sliced chashu and place in a ziplock bag to store in freezer. It stores about 4 weeks in freezer and a week in fridge. I usually chop up the edge both ends of the rolled chashu to small bits and use them for “Chashu Don” or as fried rice or stir fry ingredients.
- To store the cooking sauce, strain the cooking sauce with fine mesh sieve and discard scallions, garlic and ginger. It stores for a week in fridge and a month in freezer.