Food

The Varying Types of Japanese Ramen Chashu

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 (one that I produce at my ramen pop-ups).

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 ramen chashu: the meats, cuts, to preparation methods used.

Photo Description: Jiro style ramen has mounds of moyashi, chashu, garlic, and backfat. The bowl is on a black and red tray.
Jiro style ramen with a mound moyashi, chashu, garlic, and back fat. Image by Ramen Zac.

Chashu Preparation Methods

  • 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 including myself have been turning to sous vide which is vacuum cooked meat/produce in an water bath (just expect longer cooking times).

Final Preparation of Chashu

  • 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.

Pork Belly Chashu

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.

Photo Description: the chashu pork belly from Tsujita in Los Angeles. This was part of the tsukemen that I always order, so it is atop their thick tsukemen noodles.
Tsujita Artisan Noodle, they kill it all the time.

Pork Shoulder Chashu

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).

Photo Description: this is a pic of my hakata style tonkotsu ramen with my sous vide pork shoulder.
There is one thing that any meat lover should have which is a meat slicer… it’s like my baby now.

For my sous vide pork shoulder, I did a shio koji marinade and did a quick stint under the broiler afterward. Then it goes right into the hot water bath for upwards of 40+ hours till it turns out like the prime rib of pork shoulder.

Pork Jowl Chashu

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.

Photo Description: the side plate provided by Santouka ramen when you order their tontoro (pork jowl) chashu. The plate has kikurage, menma, umeboshi, and negi atop it.
Santouka Ramen and their pork jowl aka tontoro chashu which is a must everytime I order ramen at Santouka.

Duck Breast Chashu

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.

Photo Description: I'm holding the duck chashu up because I paid an extra $2 on top of the $16 cost of the initial bowl for the extra pieces.
Mensho Tokyo Ramen duck breast.

Chicken Breast Chashu

For a lighter/leaner alternative to all the meats listed above, that would be chicken chashu.

Photo Description: Kashiwa Ramen in Costa Mesa, CA. One of the few places in SoCal and in Orange County doing tori paitain (chicken) ramen and chicken chashu.
If you like big breasts, chicken chashu just might be for you, especially if you like white meat. Image courtesy of Kashiwa Ramen in Costa Mesa

Kashiwa Ramen in Costa Mesa, CA. One of the few places in SoCal and in Orange County doing tori paitan (chicken) ramen and chicken chashu.

Want to Know All the Traditional Japanese Ramen Toppings

If you do, one of my top posts will let you know all the common, traditional, and authentic ramen toppings and where to buy them all.

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