Get ready to make the most flavorful tsukemen, made easy with the help of the instant pot! These dipping ramen noodles served with a rich sauce make a satisfying meal that's perfect for any time of the year.
- 2 lb pork bones
- 1 lb chicken feet
- 2 inch ginger knob smashed
- 6 scallions white ends only
- 6 cloves garlic smashed
- ½ cup soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon mirin
- 1 teaspoon sake
- 1 garlic minced
- 2 teaspoon ginger minced
- 1 scallion white end only
- 2x2 inch kombu
- 1 ounce bonito flakes
- 4 ounces pork belly cut into bite-size chunks
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- 1 teaspoon ginger minced
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour
- 3 cups pork broth
- 3 tablespoon tare
- ½ cup bonito flakes
- 1 tablespoon dried sardine powder
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2 packets thick ramen noodles
- 6 ounces chashu
- 2 soft boiled eggs
- ½ cup thinly shaved red onion
- 2 lime wedges
- 2 tbsp chopped scallions
- Make the stock. Rinse pork bones and chicken feet and place them in the instant pot. Cover the bones with water and set to pressure cook on high for 10 minutes. Release the steam and strain the bones. Rinse the bones with cold water and wash the instant pot. Place the bones back into the pot with the ginger, scallion ends, and garlic. Fill the pot with enough water to rise 2 inches above the ingredients. Set instant pot to pressure cook on high for 1 hour.
- Release the pressure and open the instant pot. Stir the bones, breaking apart any that are soft enough to break. Continue to cook on high for 1 hour. Release the pressure and stir the bones again, trying to break down the bones. Repeat this for a total of 6 hours. Strain the stock, discarding the bones but keeping any chunks of meat that remains.
- Make the tare. Combine all ingredients for the tare in a small saucepot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain, discarding ingredients. Let cool.
- Heat a medium saucepot over medium-high heat. Add pork belly chunks and cook until browned, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, and flour, stirring to coat. If your pork belly is lean and the pot is too dry, add 2 tablespoon oil.
- Add 3 cups stock along with any reserved meat chunks, 3 tablespoon tare, ½ cup bonito flakes, and 1 tablespoon dried sardine powder. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Season the tsukemen with ½ teaspoon salt.
- Cook ramen noodles according to the directions on the package. Strain and rinse in cold water. Portion noodles into two bowls and top with sliced chashu, thinly shaved red onion, soft boiled eggs, and a lime wedge. Ladle the tsukemen in two separate bowls, top with chopped scallions and serve.
Watch how to make this:
What is Tsukemen?
Tsukemen is a different type of ramen that is not as well-known but based on my experience, it very well should be. It's a type of Japanese noodle dish where the noodles are served separately from the soup or broth. The noodles are usually thicker and firmer than the ones used in traditional ramen and are served with a bowl of hot, concentrated dipping broth made with soy sauce, fish or pork bones, dried seafood, and other ingredients. The noodles are dipped into the broth and then eaten, typically with toppings like a boiled egg, sliced pork, green onions, and nori seaweed. It's incredibly savory and comforting all at once.
When I was in Tokyo years ago, I was finally able to visit the popular Rokurinsha. Specializing in tsukemen, Rokurinsha always has lines out of the door, and rightly so. Rokurinsha's broth is full of umami, making every bite intensely flavorful.
Since then, I have been able to find some notable tsukemen restaurants in Los Angeles but none that will ever compare to Rokurinsha's. Because of this, I took it upon myself to face the challenge and try to replicate it at home. I will admit, this is still not as good as the originals (because let's face it, no one can probably replicate Rokurinsha's recipe), but this is pretty darn close! Get ready for endless bowls of tsukemen at your house.
- Chicken feet: Since chicken feet are rich in collagen, they are important for the stock, providing a thick viscous mouthfeel and enhancing the flavor. I do not recommend omitting the chicken feet.
- Pork bones: Pork bones also have a high amount of collagen but also contain marrow which contributes to the richness of the stock.
- Kombu: A type of edible kelp that acts as a natural flavor enhancer.
- Bonito flakes: Also known as katsuobushi, bonito flakes are thin shavings of dried, fermented, and smoked skipjack tuna. They are a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine and are used to add a smoky, savory flavor to dishes such as dashi (a type of broth), soups, and noodle dishes. Bonito flakes can be found in most Asian grocery stores and are typically sold in small bags or packages.
- Dried sardine powder: If you can't find dried sardine powder, try to find dashi powder that has dried sardine powder. You can also purchase dried sardines and pulverize them in a spice grinder into a powder.
- Chashu: A typical ramen topping, chashu is a Japanese braised pork belly seasoned with soy sauce, sake, mirin, sugar, garlic, and ginger. Chashu is often sliced thin and served on top of ramen noodles, adding a rich and savory flavor to the broth.
How to Make Tsukemen
Step 1: Make the Stock
Start by making the soup base for the tsukemen. What I have discovered through my research is that tsukemen is almost a combination of tonkotsu ramen and shoyu ramen. You are essentially combining pork and chicken broth with shoyu tare with a couple of other additional ingredients.
I used the help of the instant pot to prepare the pork and chicken broth but you can also use the stovetop. If simmering the broth on the stovetop, you will need to double the cooking time to a total of 13 hours (you can see why I chose to use the instant pot).
Make sure to stir the bones every so often. The idea is to break down the bones, releasing the bone marrow which will help flavor and thicken the soup.
After 3 hours, you can already smell the richness of the broth. The color is starting to deepen in color and the bones are starting to soften.
After 6 hours, the broth is a deep brown color and the smell is amazing! This recipe makes a large amount of stock so you can use it to either make extra portions or use it for another dish. If you choose to make extra portions of tsukemen, you will have to prepare extra tare sauce and toppings.
Step 2: Season the Broth
Finish the tsukemen by adding the seasonings. Rokurinsha uses a combination of pork, chicken, seafood, and vegetables to finish seasoning their stock. I presumed the seafood refers to bonito flakes, kombu, or dried sardines. I used the help of bonito flakes and dried sardine powder to add the umami punch that the tsukemen needed. If you can't find dried sardine powder, try to find dashi powder that has dried sardine powder.
Step 3: The Finishing Touches
Now that the sauce is done, it's time to prepare the remaining ingredients. If possible, try to find thicker ramen noodles than the standard. The soup for tsukemen is quite strong and needs a thick noodle that can handle the flavors. If you can’t find fresh ramen noodles, opt for udon noodles.
Serve the dish with the toppings and noodles on the side and dip away! Shaved red onions and lime wedges aren't found in Rokurinsha's meals but I love how they offset the heaviness of the dish. Tsukemen is salty, but the point is to have a heavily flavored dipping sauce to coat the noodles.
This dish may be my favorite ramen variation with the umami punch and a variety of toppings. Mix up the toppings if desired, adding bean sprouts, nori, bamboo shoots or a different protein. Either way, because the soup is solid, the rest of the tsukemen will be as well!
Can I make tsukemen ahead of time?
Yes, you can prepare all of the components the day before and make the dipping sauce up to 3 days in advance. However, I recommend cooking the noodles right before serving.
What are other topping options?
Other options include bamboo shoots, seaweed, or even corn.
Can I cook the stock without an Instant Pot?
Yes, but you will have to cook the stock for double the amount of time, about 13 hours in total. Follow the directions as written, first boiling the chicken feet and pork bones for 10 minutes. Then proceed to cook the stock on low heat and stir every hour, breaking the bones.
Can you drink the dipping sauce?
At Rokurinsha, diners are able to pour chicken stock into the dipping sauce to dilute the flavors and turn it into a soup. It's actually quite an enjoyable way to finish the meal!
For more ramen inspiration check out this instant pot shio ramen!