Each component of a bowl of ramen should be treated like the star, and here is a list to help you produce a chashu that deserves star treatment.
With the growing popularity of ramen in the United States, this list will help you produce a ramen that is more on par with what you find in Japan by understanding the different types of meat, cuts, to preparation methods used.
- Braised: Chinese char siu is barbecued, but Japanese chashu is braised at low temperature in a soy sauce based braising liquid. You can utilize this recipe from JustOneCookbook as a baseline recipe. Also, you can use the braising liquid for your ajitama.
- Sous Vide: to ensure that you get the most tender cut of meat possible, many ramen ya’s have been turning to sous vide which is vacuum cooked meat/produce in an water bath (just expect longer cooking times).
- Torching: for fattier cuts like the pork belly, a quick torching (I use a Iwatani Pro Plus) of the fat to warm it up makes for all much more of a enjoyable and flavorful experience.
- Smoking: this is final treatment method to take your chashu up a notch.
TYPES OF MEAT AND CUTS USED
This list is for chashu that matches shoyu, tonkotsu, miso, to tori paitan ramen.
The most popular and common type of chashu is pork belly chashu. You will either see it prepared rolled up with the fat side on the outside or as a slab (kakuni/rafute style). Either way, it is popular for a reason.
If you are looking for a leaner cut, pork shoulder is your cut although some of the worst chashu I have had was poorly prepared pork shoulder. To avoid that, I prefer to have my pork shoulder done by sous vide to minimize the chances of being overcooked (medium rare is even better).
One of my favorite cuts and something you would find at Santouka Hokkaido Ramen. Pork jowl or tontoro (commonly found at yakiniku restaurants) is their premium offering a must when I order my shio ramen.
If you are going to see any other type of meat aside from pork, I would have to say it’s going to be duck although pork reigns supreme. That is not to say that duck is not fantastic, especially in Mensho Tokyo tori paitan ramen.
For a lighter/leaner alternative to all the meats listed above, that would be chicken chashu.