I’ve talked about tonkotsu ramen before, with Hakata style ramen as the most well known currently. Similar to miso ramen being invented in Hokkaido, tonkotsu comes from Kyushu in the south. In a smaller city an hour away from the bustling downtown Hakata district, Kurume ramen is called the original.
Some people claim the first tonkotsu ramen broth was made at a shop in Kurume called Nankin Senryo in 1937. It is still open today! I haven’t been there personally, but I’ll try to do justice to the region.Jump to Recipe
Kurume Ramen Toppings
I know what you’re thinking. What makes Kurume ramen different from the Hakata style? The first difference is in the noodles. Hakata has thin, non curly noodles. Kurume is the same, but they are left hard in the center (similar to al dente). They must be eaten quickly to avoid getting soggy. It is customary to have second servings of noodles in this region for that reason, called kaedama.
The toppings are pretty basic, but can change depending on the ramen shop. The most basic form would be chasu pork, nori, and scallions. Nankin Senryo doesn’t even use chasu, just bacon instead. So, you could say Hakata tends to be more refined.
I added bamboo shoots as well cause the bowl looked like it wanted another topping. Also, I experimented with adding chili oil for a little pop of color. Many ramen shops will have chili oil as one of the condiments you can add yourself as you eat the ramen.
Tonkotsu Ramen Broth
Making tonkotsu broth is a very time intensive process. However, once you have it, you can put it in the fridge for up to 3 days, or store it in the freezer for a few months. I actually used some from another recipe to make my Kurume ramen, so it only took about 20 minutes.
If you want to make broth from scratch, it will take about 8 to 12 hours of boiling pork bones. Pig trotters work best, due to their high level of collagen.
The main trick is that you need to do 2 boils. The first one is to get rid of any blood or scum that will discolor the broth, and this only takes about 10 minutes. Then, rinse the bones under cold water to clean them. Finally, you do the second boil for 9 hours, adding more water whenever the level gets low.
You can add veggies like leeks, onions, garlic, and ginger for extra flavor. A lot of shops will add chicken carcasses as well. For Kurume, I think it is more of a pure pork flavor, so you might forego that here. For more soups to make with leftover tonkotsu broth, see my ramen guide.
What is a tare? It’s the main seasoning component in ramen. If a ramen house is serving 10 different bowls, they don’t have 10 gigantic pots with different broths in them.
Tares are what allow for menu diversity. Say you order a tonkotsu shoyu ramen. The chef would put a ladle of shoyu seasoning (tare) in your bowl, then add the tonkotsu broth from their big pot.
The original Kurume ramen did not use a tare. It was a pure tonkotsu only flavored with shio (salt). Today, most shops there will definitely use tares if they serve more than 2 kinds of ramen.
- 4 cups pork broth
- 2 tbsp mirin
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp chili oil (optional)
- 0.5 lb chashu pork (sliced)
- 4 nori
- 1 green onion (sliced)
- ¼ cup bamboo shoots
- 2 packages ramen noodles
- Combine pork broth, mirin, and salt in a pot. Simmer on medium low for 10 minutes.
- In a separate pot, boil ramen noodles according to package, about 5 minutes. Drain, and divide between 2 bowls.
- Add broth to both bowls. Add the pork, scallions, bamboo shoots, and nori.
- Add chili oil on top if desired. Enjoy!