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What Makes the Perfect Bowl of Ramen

Say sayonara to the instant ramen you had in college. The ramen that has swept the nation in recent years is more complex, dynamic and, quite frankly, much more delicious! Some say the noodle dish originated in China, some say Japan. Regardless, every chef has their own opinion of how to create this traditional Asian comfort food.

To get to the bottom of what truly makes the perfect ramen, Unique Eats visited Ramen Tatsu-Ya in Austin to chat with Chef Tatsu Aikawa and find out how he creates his mouthwatering specialty.

THE BROTH
Ramen makers aim for an intense, deeply flavored broth. Chef Tatsu considers it the “body and soul” of the dish, and his broth takes almost three full days to perfect. For his tonkotsu-style broth, he starts with two surprising ingredients: pig feet and pork bones. After soaking them in water for two days to draw out impurities, they are blanched in boiling water, then simmered for at least 30 hours. This draws out flavorful marrow from the bones, and releases collagen and fat from the feet. Sounds odd, but this process is the key to a milky and rich broth.

THE NOODLES
Perfect broth deserves nothing but the best noodles. While some ramen shops make them fresh in-house, many choose to partner with a master noodle maker (yes, they exist!) and have them delivered daily. Since ramen is all about balancing different textures and flavors, Chef Tatsu chooses the type of noodle for each ramen dish very carefully. His thick tonkotsu broth calls for the thinnest of noodles, while his lighter broths are paired with thicker noodles. No matter the choice, they are slightly undercooked to account for the additional softening that occurs once they are added to the broth.

THE FIXINS
Equally as important as the broth and noodles, the toppings in ramen can make or break the experience. The possibilities are endless, but some common additions include chashu pork (succulent pieces of braised pork belly), soft-boiled eggs (cooked in the pork’s braising liquid), assorted vegetables and extra pork fat for good measure. Chef Tatsu even offers customers a garlic press and fresh garlic cloves so you can adjust how pungent your ramen is right from your seat. For additional color and flavor, many restaurants finish off the ramen with a sprinkling of saffron, scallions and/or sesame seeds.

Want to watch Chef Tatsu in action? Tune in to Unique Eats tonight at 9pm ET to see for yourself.

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