The latest ramen import from Japan available at our local Marukai market arrives under the name Kurume of Ogawaya, exported by Kawa Corporation. There are 5 different flavors, packaged the same way as our locally-made Sun Noodle brand, with fresh ramen noodles and a liquid soup base. Because the noodles are fresh, they require refrigeration. You can also place them in the freezer for long-term storage.
What stood out was this 2-flavor twin pack…
Kurume Ramen Futatsuno Aji
Yes, this package includes two “futatsu no” different broth flavor packets…
The red packet on the left is Tonkotsu, and the white one the right is Tonkotsu Shoyu. How cool!
Here’s a package of Kurume Ichiban Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen…
Kurume Ichiban Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen
There were several other flavors I have yet to try such as Nagohamakko Ramen Tonkotsu Miso Aji and Pirikara Hakata Tonkotsu Miso Ramen, the latter being a spicy type. There’s a fanstastic review of those flavors, as well as the ones I’m reviewing at this ramen blog!
Here’s how the ramen noodles look unpacked and uncooked…
Begin by boiling about 7 cups (or a full pot) of water.
A good tip is to place the broth packet(s) in the boiling water for about 20 seconds to loosen the oils that are in there, making it easier to get it all out. Remember, with ramen it’s all about the BROTH. And you want ALL THAT GOODNESS in your bowl, not in the rubbish.
Empty the soup broth packet(s) in your serving bowl(s)…
Kurume Tonkotsu broth soup base
Kurume Tonkotsu Shoyu broth soup base
Pour about 1-1/2 cubs of boiling water for the ramen noodles and add it to your bowl with the broth soup base and stir to combine.
Here’s the Tonkotsu broth, after the water has been added…
Kurume Ramen Tonkotsu Soup Broth
And here’s the Tonkotsu Shoyu soup broth (white packet)…
Kurume Ramen Tonkotsu Shoyu soup broth
The Tonkotsu Shoyu soup broth is noticeably darker for an obvious reason.. there’s shoyu in it!
Add the ramen noodles to the rapidly boing water, separating them from sticking together using a chopstick. These type of fresh noodles cook quickly in about 2 to 3 minutes. As soon as they’re done al dente (test one out with your chopsticks), drain the noodles in a colander and vigorously shake the water out, and do NOT rinse them under water! The starchy coating is what gives great ramen that desirable silky texture.
Now gently add the ramen noodles to the broth in your ramen bowl…
Now comes the fun part.. add the toppings! Here, sky’s the limit, and every ramen shop has their own twist. Here’s mine…
Kurume Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen
And once again, flavor number two…
Notice in the bowl of Tonkotsu Ramen that I wrapped Nori around the Chashu pork. Pretty cool, huh?! Here’s how I did that…
Chashu pork for ramen, wrapped with Nori (dried seaweed)
Yes, Mr. Spam Musubi has every influence in this idea. And you know what? It tastes awesome! The Nori compliments the pork and the ramen beautifully. Just beautiful. Chashu pork is a key flavor component to great ramen, and I’ll get more to that later.
Another key topping in these two ramen bowls are Menma, which are sliced bamboo shoots that are marinated in water, shoyu, sugar, vinegar and sesame oil. It’s hard to describe the flavor, but trust me, you NEED menma in Ramen, or, well, it just isn’t ramen. You might as well add spaghetti sauce. lol
Here’s how a package of Menma, so you know what to look for in the store…
Agitsuke Menma. 10.56 oz. $3.59 at Marukai
I’ve tried better brands of Menma, but this one works.
Ramen is pretty much a meal in itself. Sure, you can add Gyoza or Yakitori (grilled chicken) skewers as a side dish, but at home that’s too much hassle. So I try to balance the ramen by itself. With that, I finish it with chopped green onions (Negi would be better, but I didn’t have some on this occasion), bean sprouts and, if in the mood, half a boiled egg.
So how does this Kurume brand taste? Pretty good. The ramen noodles taste like the Yamachan brand. Hawaii’s own Sun Noodle brand is still the best, IMO. The Kurume noodles taste more starchy, while the Sun Noodle brand has a more interesting egg-like character to it that I remember so fondly from the Ramen shops we used to frequent in Tokyo.
The Kurume Tonkotsu Shoyu and Tonkotsu broth both have a similar flavor, with the one without Shoyu just tasting lighter. Simple as that. I actually prefer the Tonkotsu over the Tonkotsu Shoyu, as it let the toppings stand out more and wasn’t as overpowering.
For semi-home made, Ramen shop-like quality Ramen, Kurume is certainly good stuff and worth buying and trying, especially if it’s on sale, as was the case here at $2.59 package. Not a bad deal for two bowls of ramen, huh? Still, Sun Noodle is the best.
An interesting thing about great ramen is how simple the dish is, yet arrives that way through several deeper components. First is the broth, which I won’t even get into right now. That’s the most complex and defining part of the dish. Then you have the ramen noodles, which are just as important. Then you have the toppings, which can also make or break the dish.
Along with Menma, I stand by Chashu pork as THE topping of all toppings. The term “Chashu” is obviously a Japanese spin on Chinese Char Siu, which is a sweet roasted pork.
I’ve posted a Chashu recipe here before, but this time I’ll walk you through with pictures!…
Ramen Chashu Pork Recipe
Chashu (for Chashumen)
3-5 lbs. pork butt (shoulder)
1 cup shoyu
1/2 cup mirin
1/2 cup sake
1″ of a finger fresh ginger, slivered thinly (more or less to personal preference)
1/2 cup chopped green onion (more or less to personal preference)
Here’s the players…
In cooking pot large enough to hold the piece of pork butt you have, set the fire to medium-high heat with a little oil and thoroughly brown the whole pork butt on all sides..
Doing this will give the Chashu a slightly crisp edge to each slice, which compliments the silky ramen noodles beautifully.
After the pork is browned, remove it and set aside. Drain any excess oil out of the pot then add the shoyu, mirin, sake, ginger and green onion in the same pot over medium-low heat and stir to combine.
You can play with this recipe, but make sure you at least have the Shoyu and Sake in there. I’ve done it without Mirin, substituting a small amount of sugar, which also tasted oishii!
After the shoyu, sake, mirin (or sugar) liquids and ginger are incorporated, add the pork back in, turn it around in the liquid and let it simmer on medium-low heat (with just a mild movement of the liquid to a slight bubble, but no more) for 1-1/2 hours, turning the pork over occasionally (this will help it evenly soak up the flavor of the braising liquid around the edges of the pork). Keep pot covered to prevent evaporation. The braising liquid level should remain at least 1/3 to no more than 2/3 up the sides of the pork butt while in the pot.
You want the pork to be tender enough that you can slice through it with a knife easily, but not where it falls apart. About 1.5 hours simmering in the pot will get you there. Make sure to turn it over occasionally, so the meat infuses all that liquid goodness.
After it’s done, pull the (now) chashu pork out and let it cool. You can add a little of that shoyu-sake broth to your ramen bowl if you want. I always do! But not too much, as it’s kinda’ sweet from the Mirin.
Here’s how it looks when it’s done…
After the Chashu pork is cool, slice into thin serving-size pieces…
And that’s all she wrote (well that I wrote, anyway). Place a few pieces of Chashu in your ramen and you’re set for great semi-home made bowl of authentic Japanese Ramen.
Kurume Ichiban Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen