Why cook nikujaga with pork instead of beef? I had a slab of pork that was already partially thawed but had no idea what to do with. I thought about re-doing an old recipe to take better photos but, what the heck? I was in the mood for ramen, we had no ingredients for a more traditional ramen, but we had packs of instant ramen in the pantry that needed to be cooked soon or they’d go past their expiry date.
So, I experimented. Some kitchen experiments fail, others succeed and a few succeed wonderfully. This sweet soy sauce pork ramen belongs to the third category. Fatty pork belly is just enchanting any way you cook it.
On a scale of one to ten, how difficult is it to make this noodle soup? I’d say seven but only if you care about perfectly sliced pork belly. I’m a food blogger so I care about optics. So, I took the trouble of parboiling the pork, then simmering it for twenty minutes before cutting it into slices. The pork belly slices went back into the cooking liquid, soy sauce, sake, mirin and ginger were added, and the meat was simmered until almost fork tender.
Meanwhile, the rest of the ingredients were prepped. The vegetables were trimmed and cut. The sesame seeds were toasted until aromatic. The noodles were cooked in water and divided among individual bowls.
When the pork slices were almost but not quite perfectly tender, the vegetables were thrown in, the simmering continued until the potato and carrot wedges could be pierced all the way to the center.
By the time the pork and vegetables were ready, all that remained to be done was to arrange them around the noodles and ladle in the steaming sweet-salty broth.
I’m taking the time here to explain the cooking process with more detail than usual because there are no step-by-step photos in the recipe below. I wasn’t planning on posting a recipe for this dish — it was an experiment, after all — but then it turned out so good and the photos came out beautifully too. How can I not share, right?
Pork and broth
- ½ kilogram pork belly in one piece
- ¼ cup Japanese soy sauce
- ¼ cup sake
- ¼ cup mirin
- 1 two-inch knob ginger peeled and sliced
To complete the dish
- 2 medium potatoes
- 1 carrot
- 12 to 16 green beans
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
- 2 packets instant ramen just the noodles
Cook the pork
- Boil about six cups of water in a pot.
- Slide in the slab of pork belly and boil over high heat, uncovered, for ten minutes.
- Drain the pork, rinse under the tap making sure to remove visible impurities.
- Clean out the pot, boil another six cups of water, add the pork and bring to the boil.
- Cover the pot, set the heat to low and simmer the pork for 20 minutes, flipping it over after ten minutes.
- Turn off the heat, scoop out the pork and leave to rest on the cutting board for 15 minutes.
- Cut the pork into slices (between a quarter inch and half an inch is good).
- Put the pork slices into the cooking liquid and turn on the stove again.
- Pour in the soy sauce, sake and mirin, and add the ginger.
- Cover the pot and simmer the pork for 30 to 40 minutes. If the liquid dries out before the cooking time is up, add more water, no more than half a cup at a time (you only need about two and a half cups of broth by the end of cooking time).
- While the pork simmers, peel the potatoes and carrot and cut into two-inch cubes.
- Trim the ends and sides of the green beans, and cut each bean into two.
- In an oil-free pan, toast the sesame seeds until nicely browned and nutty in aroma.
- Cook the instant ramen per package directions, drain and divide among three bowls.
- Add the potato and carrot cubes, and green beans to the pork, and simmer until the vegetables are tender.
- Taste the broth, and add more soy sauce, if needed.
- Using kitchen tongs (or chopsticks), lift the pork belly slices one by one and arrange on one side of the noodles in each of the three bowls.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove the vegetables from the broth and arrange in the bowls.
- Ladle hot broth directly over the noodles, pork and vegetables.
- Sprinkle in toasted sesame seeds.
- Serve your sweet soy sauce pork belly ramen immediately.