Ever wondered how the Chashu pork served with ramen is so succulent, tender and delicious? Well, wonder no more! With my recipe you can make ramen restaurant style chashu at home! This chashu will melt in your mouth!
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What Is Japanese Braised Pork "Chashu"?
Chashu is a dish made with fatty pork belly braised or simmered in a soy based sauce. It's most commonly served on top of a bowl of hot ramen. Chashu is fatty and usually slow cooked, this causes the texture to become extremely tender. It's one of the best parts about ramen!
Cantonese Char Siu VS Japanaese Chashu
Japanese chashu originally came from Cantonese cuisine. However, there are a few differences between Cantonese "Char Siu" and Japanese "Chashu", at least with the chashu you see in ramen restaurants.
The biggest difference would be that, while Cantonese Char Siu tends to be barbecued and roasted, Japanese Chashu is braised or simmered.
Also Japanese chashu is commonly glazed with the leftover broth, this creates an effect similar to teriyaki. Cantonese char siu on the other hand, has a bit of a barbeque flavour.
Meat used for Japanese style Chashu
When making Japanese Chashu, the most common meat to use is a block of pork belly. That's not to say it can't be made with other cuts of pork, or even different meat entirely. It can also be made with:
- Pork loin
- Pork shoulder
- Chicken breast (鶏チャーシュー)
Cooking Chashu might seem a bit overwhelming, but the cooking process is actually quite easy and the ingredients are accessible too!
The ingredients for a simple Chashu would be:
That's all you need for simple Chashu!
Cooking process for Chashu
The first step is to pierce both sides of the pork with a fork. This not only helps it absorb all the flavour from the broth we make later, but it also helps break down some of the tendons and proteins which will result in a more tender chashu.
Rolling the pork is optional, it doesn't affect the flavour but it's more for the presentation. You can either use rope or stretchable meat netting.
3. Simmering in broth
Rather than just simmering the pork in water, we add spring onion, ginger, garlic and onion to the pot. This flavours the pork and the liquid becomes a broth that we can later use in the sauce for maximum flavour. This broth can also be used to make the ramen broth!
TIP: I add 1 tsp of rice vinegar when simmering the pork, this helps it become even more tender. 1 tsp is enough, it seems like a tiny amount but we don't want to make the broth sour.
After the pork is cooked and we've made a soy based broth, we use some of the leftover liquid to glaze the pork. The sugars in the liquid caramelize and char slightly, giving a bit of a teriyaki effect. I usually do this step in a frying pan.
When simmering, Japanese people often use a traditional cooking tool called an "otoshibuta" (落し蓋). I use an otoshibuta to make chashu, all you need is some baking parchment or aluminum foil and a pair of scissors!
WHAT IS AN OTOSHIBUTA DROP-LID?
An otoshibuta (落し蓋) is a traditional Japanese cooking tool used for simmering. The word "otoshi" (落し) means to drop, and futa (蓋) becomes "buta" which means lid. The small round lid sits on top the simmering liquid, helping evenly distribute the heat around the food.
When the liquid is bubbling, the drop lid prevents large bubbles by popping them under the weight of the lid. This way, delicate ingredients such as tender meat or flakey fish are less likely to break.
If you don't plan to use a drop lid regularly, I recommend making a single-use one with baking paper or foil. You can learn how on my "How to make Otoshibuta" post here!
Reusing the Broth
So at the end of cooking, you will have some pork broth leftover, which you can use to make ramen broths and soups!
Many ramen restaurants actually keep using old broth by adding new broth and replenishing.
Obviously, we're not ramen restaurants so we don't have to go that far but you can still use the leftover broth. If you don't have an immediate use for it you can also keep it in the fridge for 3-4 days or in the freezer for about 3 months.
So the big batch of broth won't go to waste!
Other ways to use chashu
Enjoy your delicious homemade chashu in a number of ways!
Mostly pork belly 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. You can check out my chashu donburi recipe here. There are even some izakayas (Japanese Tapas-style restaurant) that serve Chashu on its own as a beer snack!