One of the most revered ramens in all Japan isn’t served in Tokyo. Or Kyoto. Or Sapporo. It’s in a smaller city south of Osaka. What makes Wakayama ramen so unique?
First, some quick stats to break it down. There are 50 ramen shops in this city of about 360,000. At the most popular shop there, Ide Shoten, 70% of their customers every day come from outside the region. So, it must be worth a pilgrimage.
The biggest draw is the soup itself. It starts with a base of tonkotsu (pork bone broth). Then, soy sauce is added to deepen the flavor. Ide Shoten adds to the same broth every day, building and strengthening the flavor.Jump to Recipe
Wakayama Ramen Broth
Wakayama ramen is well known for its tonkotsu-shoyu broth. I’ve been over how to make tonkotsu broth in depth before, but I’ll give a brief recap.
Basically, you want a mix of pork bones and trotters (feet). I like using the trotters. They add more collagen and fat to the broth. There are 2 ways you can do it from here.
First, soak the bones overnight in the fridge to draw the blood out. Dump the water out the next day and add fresh water. Boil for 8 hours, taking the scum off the top as it rises. Keep adding water to keep the bones covered. Towards the end, you can let the water level fall to achieve a more concentrated broth.
Second, is the double boil method. Boil the bones for about 10 minutes on high heat. Dump out the water, and rinse the bones individually under cold water. Then, add water back in, and continue like the first method. This way, you won’t have to deal with the scum, but you do lose a little extra flavor. I used the former method for the Wakayama ramen.
Most kinds of soy sauce will work. When adding soy sauce tares, make sure not to add any salt until a couple minutes before serving. The water level will fall as you make the broth, so it’s easy to end up with something way too salty.
These are optional, but I wanted to add just a note of fishiness to the broth. This will make it resonate much better with the pickled fish on the side. Bonito flakes are also a must have pantry ingredient if you want to dive deep into Japanese cuisine. I used them in my Sapporo ramen as well.
The sake provides the only sweetness for the broth. It’s only a bit, but it lightens up the broth a bit, instead of it being very savory and overpowering. Also, you can drink the rest of it with your Wakayama ramen!
Wakayama Ramen Toppings
I’ve talked about a couple different ways to make chashu pork, both braised on the stove and roasted in the oven. I’ll trust you to figure that out, and I’ll cover the more unique toppings here (check out my ramen guide for more of them).
I didn’t think to do this until recently, but marinating the soft boiled egg makes a huge difference. You can make it complicated, but just soy sauce and mirin works great.
After shelling the egg, put it in a tupperware or bag and cover with soy sauce. Put it in the fridge and let it marinate for at least an hour. The longer you go, the better. Some ramen shops will marinate them overnight!
I recommend using just soy sauce if you are in a hurry. If you can marinate overnight, add mirin and dilute the solution with water. Otherwise, the egg could become too salty.
Green onion isn’t exactly a new topping, but I tried leaving them in long slices this time and I really like the look of it. It does depend on whether you like the taste of onion or not.
Naruto Fish Cake
You can find fish cakes in the frozen section at international groceries. They are super easy to prepare and make a beautiful addition to ramen bowls. Just cut a piece off of the cake, then boil for a few minutes. Then, slice thinly.
It’s common to serve pickled fish or sushi on the side with Wakayama ramen, so I tried my hand at it. I’ve never done this before, but it worked out great!
This should work with most white fish. Mackerel would be the most likely served in Wakayama, but I used herring myself. From what I’ve read, it doesn’t work as well with oily fish.
First, you make a brine by heating up water and adding a ton of salt to it. Let it cool then submerge your fish in it. Then, make your pickling liquid. I added miso paste to give it a little Japanese flavor. Finally, for maximum safety, leave it in the fridge overnight. I left mine on the counter, but I don’t want to be liable for anything.
If you want some more seafood flavors in your soups, try my Onomichi ramen! For another shoyu ramen, check out my Asahikawa ramen. Or, if you don’t know what you want how about 100 dumpling recipes?
Wakayama Ramen With Pickled Mackerel
- 4 cups pork broth (tonkotsu broth)
- 2½ tbsp soy sauce
- 1 tbsp sake
- 1 tbsp bonito flakes
- 2 tsp sesame oil (roasted)
- 6 naruto fish cake (slices)
- ¼ lb pork belly (chashu, sliced)
- 3 green onions (sliced)
- 1 egg (soft boiled)
- ¼ cup soy sauce (for marinating the egg)
- 2 packages ramen noodles
- ½ lb mackerel (or herring)
- 2½ cups water
- ½ cup salt
- 1 cup white vinegar
- ⅙ cup sugar
- 1 tbsp miso paste
- 1 tsp black peppercorns
- Heat 2 cups of water enough to dissolve salt. Add salt, and let it cool to at least room temperature, or colder. Then, submerge fish in the brine. Boil remaining water, vinegar, pepper, and sugar. Add miso paste once it cools.
- Once pickling liquid is cool, pour it over the fish and brine in a glass jar. Seal and leave out on the counter overnight, or store it in the fridge for up to a week.
- Combine broth ingredients in a pot, simmer on medium low heat for 30 minutes. Strain bonito flakes out before serving.
- Shell soft boiled egg and put it in a bag with soy sauce. Marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
- Boil naruto fish cake for about 5 minues. Take out of water and slice thinly.
- Prepare ramen noodles according to directions on package. Most likely, boil for about 5 minutes. Strain immediately once done and prepare ramen bowl.
- Add broth to bowl, add noodles, arrange toppings. Serve fish on the side. Enjoy!
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