You might hear hakata ramen used interchangeably with tonkotsu ramen, one of the 4 main types of ramen in Japan (the other 3 are shio, miso, and shoyu). This is because the city of Fukuoka (where Hakata is the central downtown ward) is credited with the invention of tonkotsu ramen.
However, Hakata has a unique style that differs from the regular tonkotsu. Legend has it that a cook once boiled the broth too hot and too long. The result? A broth with a ton of collagen and too powerful on its own. The cook cut it with seafood stock and now it’s a beloved specialty (for more specialties, be sure to check out my ramen guide).Jump to Recipe
Making a Hakata Ramen Broth
Hakata ramen uses a tonkotsu broth, so we have to start there first. Tonkotsu is the most labor intensive of all ramen. It takes about 12 hours just to make the broth! I know, I’ve experienced it firsthand. The result might just be worth it.
The First Boil
First, you need at least 3 lbs of pork bones, or pig trotters (feet). Throw them in a pot and cover with water. Bring to a boil and after a few minutes, toss out the water. There should be all sorts of scum on the surface and the bones will be gray in color. Rinse the bones with cold water, put back in the pot, and fill with water again. This first boil is crucial to making a hakata ramen broth (and all tonkotsu broth in general). It makes the final product much cleaner.
Here is where you get to have some fun and freedom. There are plenty of veggies you can add to the broth for flavor. Feel free to add or subtract any to suit your personal tastes. I went pretty simple: ginger, garlic, leek, and onion.
No need to chop them finely or carefully. Big, rough pieces will make them easier to fish out later. The main thing you want to do is maximize their surface area. This will increase the amount of flavor extracted into the hakata ramen broth. Before adding it to the pot, I like to caramelize them (except the leeks) in a skillet with a little sesame oil.
Now, add the veggies to your pot of boiling water and bones. Keep it at a roaring boil, partially covered for at least 8 hours, preferably 12. Add water whenever the level starts to go down. Keep the pork bones submerged in water constantly, this is crucial. Also, don’t leave the apartment. I learned the hard way if the water gets too low everything will burn on the bottom and the broth will have a really bitter aftertaste.
Finally, this is where the hakata ramen will differ from a regular tonkotsu ramen. Once you get to the 11th hour, try not to add any more water. Let the level fall in the pot. This will make the broth extra concentrated.
You can also add the salt now. Don’t add any salt until you are done making the broth. It’s easy to over salt at the beginning. We will cut this powerful broth with clam juice when it’s time to serve, and add a little mirin for sweetness.
How To Make Char Siu Pork
I’ve covered this topic before with pork shoulder and butt, so this time I tried using pork belly for something different. This cut is the fattest piece of meat I have ever had. It’s more fat than meat. It even tastes sinful. That said, I think it works well here. In a miso ramen, I think it would be too powerful, but in this hakata ramen it works really well.
I went for a spicy, salty, and sweet marinade this time. The main ingredients were soy sauce, mirin, brown sugar, Chinese 5 spice, and gochujang. Also, salt and pepper as always. I ended up marinating the meat for 2 days accidentally, but I think a couple hours is sufficient. Again, have some fun here. You can switch out ingredients for ones you already have.
How To Cook Char Siu Pork Belly
My cut of pork belly came with the skin on, and bone in. I decided to trim off the bone before marinating. We don’t want that in our slices of pork. I left the skin on, so I roasted at a high temperature first, to get a well developed crust on the outside. Pork skin becomes almost like candy when it gets roasted well.
This will change depending on the weight of your cut of pork. Mine was 1.9 lbs with 2 pieces for reference. First, I roasted for 10 minutes at 450 F, then about 20 – 30 minutes at 275 F. Take the pork out about halfway through the second part to brush it with more marinade.
When is it perfectly done? You’ll either have to eyeball it or use a meat thermometer (145 F for pork belly). Let it rest at least 5 minutes, this is mandatory. Only slice it right as you add it to the hakata ramen bowl.
Hakata Ramen Toppings
For this recipe, I used some toppings that are common in Hakata. Pickled ginger, also called beni shōga in Japan, slices of fried garlic, green onion, and roasted black sesame seeds. These are frequently served on the side as well, so the customer can add as much as they want. A great thing is these require very little preparation, only a couple minutes. A funny contrast to the 12 hours required to make the hakata ramen broth.
Hakata Ramen Tips
In Hakata, there is a practice known as kaedama, where you can order more noodles when you are halfway through the ramen. This is because the noodles are traditionally very thin (why I used somen noodles instead of ramen noodles) and sitting in the broth will make them become too soft over time. So, ramen shops in Hakata will give less noodles to start, with the expectation that you will ask for more when ready.
- 3 lbs pork bones
- 1 leek (sliced)
- 1 onion (quartered)
- 1 garlic head (cut in half)
- 3 in ginger (sliced)
- 2 tbsp sesame oil
- 1 tbsp mirin
- ½ cup clam juice
Char Siu Pork Belly
- 1.6 lbs pork belly (skin on, no bone)
- 2½ tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tbsp gochujang
- 1½ tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp mirin
- 1 dash Chinese 5 spice powder
- 2 green onion (sliced)
- 3 garlic cloves (sliced)
- 3 tsp black sesame seeds
- 3 tsp pickled ginger
- 3 somen noodles (packages)
Marinate the Pork Belly
- Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl. Mix thoroughly, cover the pork with marinade and rub it in. Cover pork, put in the fridge while working on the broth.
- Add bones to a large pot and add water until the bones are completely submerged. Heat on the stove on medium high heat. Once it comes to a roaring boil, take the pot off the stove. Pour water down the sink, but keep the bones.
- Rinse bones off with cold water. Add back to pot, fill with water until bones are submerged again. Bring back to a roaring boil on medium high heat.
- Heat up 2 tbsp of sesame oil in a skillet on medium heat. Add veggies to the skillet, cook until lightly charred/caramelized, about 4 minutes.
- Add veggies to pot, cover partially with lid. Keep the roaring boil going for 11 hours. Add water whenever the pork bones are not completely covered. At the 11th hour, start to cook the pork belly.
- For the final hour, allow the water level in the pot to drop, this will make a more concentrated broth. Should be about 1/3 to 1/2 the normal level at the end.
Cook the Pork Belly
- Put the pork belly on an aluminum foil lined baking sheet. Roast on 450 F for 10 minutes, then bake at 275 for 20 – 30 minutes, or until internal temp reaches 145 F. Take the pork out halfway and brush with marinade again.
Strain the Broth
- Strain your broth, getting the veggies and the bones out.
- Now, add 1/2 cup of clam juice, 1 tbsp of mirin, and salt to taste. Heat gently to combine the ingredients.
Assemble the Bowl
- Slice the veggies and fry the sliced garlic in a skillet on medium heat until lightly charred, about 2 minutes, 1 on each side.
- Boil the noodles on high heat for 3 minutes, or according to package. Strain out the water. Slice your pork belly, and assemble your ramen bowls!