Now that I've successfully figured out how to make Japanese pancakes, I've moved on to tackling one of my favorite noodle dishes, abura soba. When I was in Kyoto, I stumbled upon a small noodle shop hidden in a dark alley. I randomly chose a dish, sat down, and a couple of minutes later was given a bowl of dry ramen also known as "abura soba." After a couple of bites, I was in love. The noodles were just beyond words, a little sour, a little spicy, a little savory, and oh so delicious. As soon as I returned to the States, I made it my mission to recreate what I had in Japan. Unfortunately, I couldn't find ingredients that were of the same quality as in Japan but this was the closest I can get to recreating the dish. Here is the recipe for abura soba with shoyu!
Crispy pork belly
- 1 lb pork belly skin on
- 2 tablespoon soy sauce
- 3 tablespoon sake
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon mirin
- 1 garlic minced
- ¼ cup salt
- 1 cup soy sauce
- 2 teaspoon sake
- 2 teaspoon mirin
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 garlic clove finely minced
- ½ tablespoon ginger finely minced
- 1 stalk green onion
- 1 3x3 inch kombu
- 1 ounce bonito flakes
- 4 packs Sun ramen noodles
- ½ cup pork fat melted
- 2 soft boiled eggs halved
- nori strips for garnish
- 2 green onions chopped
- distilled white vinegar
- chili oil
- Prepare pork belly. Pat skin with paper towels until completely dry. Mix together marinade including soy sauce, sake, brown sugar, mirin, and garlic. Place pork belly flesh only in the marinade, leaving the skin dry. Marinate for at least one hour or overnight.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Fill a roasting pan with 1 inch of water. Place a wire rack on the pan and lay the pork belly on top, skin side up. Spread the salt in an even layer on the skin. Roast for 40 minutes. Remove pork from the oven and increase the oven to 450 degrees F. Remove the salt crust from the pork and continue roasting for another 30 minutes or until the skin is crisp. Remove from heat and let cool slightly. Cut into bite-size pieces and set aside.
- Prepare the tare. Combine all of the ingredients for the tare in a medium saucepot. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain and set aside.
- Bring a medium pot of water to a roaring boil. Cook the noodles for 1 minute. Drain immediately.
- Add 1 tablespoon shoyu tare and 2 tablespoon pork fat into each bowl. Portion the noodles into the 4 bowls. Top with pork belly, egg, nori and green onions. Serve, instructing everyone to first mix their noodles. Drizzle with the desired amount of vinegar and chili oil and mix again. Enjoy.
**Helpful tips and common mistakes
I didn't find out how to make an authentic bowl of ramen until I visited Japan. When preparing shoyu or shio ramen, you have a base component called the "tare" that serves as the flavor for the broth. Tare recipes vary according to the chef as there are many, many different variations out there. My favorite was the shoyu abura soba, which is the dish I am preparing today. This dry ramen, often referred to as "soup-less oil noodles," is tossed with tare and pork fat. Once served, the customer then finishes the noodles with vinegar and chili oil, adding as much or as little as they prefer.
Abura soba has the same toppings as ramen such as pork belly, soft boiled egg, green onions, bamboo, and nori. Chashu pork is the most popular choice for protein, but I decided to make crispy pork belly instead.
The most important part of cooking the pork belly is to keep the skin dry to get it nice and crispy. Marinate the pork flesh for at least 1 hour. Pat a nice layer of salt on top of the skin and roast for 40 minutes. Remove the pork from the oven and you will see that the salt has absorbed the moisture from the skin and created a crust. Peel off the crust and finish cooking the pork.
The skin comes to a beautiful crisp while the pork belly is moist and tender, the perfect topping for this abura soba.
Abura soba is comprised of only a few ingredients so each ingredient must be top-notch. I discovered through trial and error that the best brand of ramen noodles available in America is by Sun Noodle. Their noodles are thicker and hold up better to the body of the tare better than other noodles. If you find another brand, I would love to hear your suggestions!
Be careful when cooking the noodles. They only take a couple of minutes; overcook them and they will become gummy. Keep the boiling water hot and merely dunk the noodles just long enough for them to separate and warm up, about 1 minute. I also found that tossing them in a little bit of cold water helps prevent them from becoming gummy.
Now for the most important part, the tare. There was no way of replicating the exact tare that I had in Kyoto. Not only could I never find the recipe, but I also couldn't find ingredients of the same quality. My only solution was to wing it and test batch after batch. Although this is still not 100% the same as the one I had in Japan, I believe it's quite close.
Toss the noodles with the tare and pork fat - yes, pork fat. As essential as the tare is, so is the pork fat. It coats the noodles and gives the dish body, something that sesame oil or other substitutes cannot offer. Top the noodles with pork, green onions, soft boiled egg, and nori. Serve and let the diner drizzle vinegar and chili oil, adjusting the amount according to their preference. I love to add a little more vinegar as I continue eating; trust me, you need these last two components to complete the dish.
If you've never had abura soba before, I urge you to give it a try. It is a comforting bowl of noodles that you have never had before...I think it's time to make myself a second bowl!
For more Japanese inspiration check out this tsukemen!