Chashu don is a delicious rice bowl dish made with succulent simmered pork, a perfectly soft boiled ramen egg and then drizzled with mayonnaise and topped with spring onion. It's a hearty, comforting dish and a perfect way to use leftovers after making ramen!
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What Is Japanese Braised Pork "Chashu"?
Chashu is a delicious dish made by slow cooking pork until it's extremely tender and melt-in-mouth. It's flavoured with typical umami packed Japanese condiments such as soy sauce, sake and mirin.
Chashu is usually served on ramen, but you can also use it to make donburi or fried rice.
If you want to learn how to make a classic rolled chashu for ramen, check out my recipe here!
Cantonese Char Siu VS Japanaese Chashu
Japanese Chashu came from Cantonese cuisine originally without a doubt.
However, now there are a few differences between Cantonese Char Siu and Japanese Chashu, or at least Japanese Chashu you see in ramen restaurants.
The biggest difference would be that, while Cantonese Char Siu tends to be barbecued and roasted, the main cooking process of Japanese Chashu is braising or simmering.
While Cantonese cha siu has a barbecue flavour, Japanese chashu is marinated and has a bit more of a teriyaki flavour.
What meat is used for Chashu?
For Japanese Chashu, the most common meat to use is pork belly block, but the following can also be used:
- Pork loin
- Pork shoulder
- Chicken breast (鶏チャーシュー)
So chashu is definitely an iconic feature for ramen, but what is chashu donburi rice bowl and where is it usually served?
As you can imagine, ramen restaurants make chashu in big batches every single day. The end cuts are not suitable for serving on ramen, but there's no need to waste it either!
That's why end cuts of chashu are often used to make chashu don or fried rice for the workers.
Meals exclusively served to employees are called "makanai meshi" (まかない飯) and are usually made from offcuts of meat and leftover ingredients. Depending on the skills of the chef, some of these makanai dishes end up making the menu and gain popularity across Japan!
Here are a few examples of dishes that went from makanai meshi to well loved Japanese dishes:
Chashudon is a known dish and is served in some ramen restaurants, but primarily, it's a dish prepared for workers in the restaurant.
Making chashu is quite time consuming, but it's actually pretty easy to do. Not only that, but it's delicious and can be used for a number of different dishes!
The ingredients for simple Chashu would be:
That's all you need for a simple chashu!
Cooking Process of Ramen Restaurant Style Chashu
1. Piercing and rolling (optional)
The most iconic type of chashu is rolled. We start by piercing the surfaces with a fork to tenderize it, and then roll it up and tie it with string. Rolling is optional and actually, rolled chashu takes longer to cook. If you don't roll it, it will be ready about 30mins.
We place the pork in cold water and then bring it to a gentle simmer. Add some garlic, ginger, onion and spring onion, add a drop lid (see below) and leave it to simmer for 1.5-2 hours. It will need to be turned half way through.
The way chashu gets that amazing flavour is because it's marinated overnight. The marinade is made using some of the broth from simmering the pork mixed with soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. (The marinade is boiled to cook off the alcohol.)
My last step is to use the marinade to create a teriyaki glaze for the chashu. Just add the pork to a frying pan with a few tbsp of the marinade and fry until it's thickened and coating the surface. The perfect finishing touch!
Learn how to make Japanese Pork Chashu step by step
As well as the chashu itself, marinating boiled eggs in the same broth is very important. By placing soft boiled eggs in the marinate with the pork, you'll have delicious flavoured eggs that can be used for ramen and chashudon!
The broth flavours the eggs and creates a great taste and texture to the dish.
If you want to learn more about ramen eggs and how to perfectly soft boil an egg, check out my post here!
Making chashu requires an "otoshibuta" drop lid to ensure even cooking.
You can also make a single use otoshibuta with baking paper, it's very easy and only takes a few minutes. Check out my post to learn how to make and use Japanese drop lids!
Reusing the broth
So at the end of cooking, you will have a pork broth leftover from simmering the chashu. Don't throw it away because you can use this to make soups or broths for ramen!
If you don't plan to use your pork broth soon, you can strain out the bits and store it in the freezer for 2-3 months!
You can also use the leftover marinade to make a delicious ramen restaurant style "fried rice".
We hate waste and try and find a way to use everything up!
Mostly pork belly is used, but some places use pork shoulder or even chicken breast!
There's no doubt that the origin is from Chinese Char Siu. It travelled to Japan, then Japanese people found their own way to cook it.
It's usually served with Ramen but sometimes on rice bowls, some izakayas (Japanese Tapas-style restaurant) serves Chashu on its own as a beer snack.