Simmer Down

Mastering Ramen at Home With Butter’s Julian Cincotta

Perfecting a big bowl of ramen at home is easier than you think.

how to make ramen

Julian Cincotta is one of Australia’s most promising young chefs, setting the bar for food, booze, music, and culture. He’s far from the average chef, having honed his skills under the legendary Chef Neil Perry and worked abroad at Charlie Trotter’s, Alinea and Blackbird. When he returned to Australia, Cincotta stepped into the role of sous chef at Nomad, where he won the prestigious Josephine Pignolet Young Chef of the Year award in the 2015 Good Food Guide. This opened up several doors for the young chef, including a creative partnership with Middle Eastern restaurant, Thievery in Glebe, and eventually, launching his own cutting-edge project, Butter.

Butter is the world’s first hybrid sneaker, fried chicken and champagne bar. It has a cult following in Australia and internationally for its fried chicken, but there’s another dish Cincotta is gaining recognition for—ramen. He fills his ramen with fried chicken, impossible beef, and more. His Butter Ramen Club Tour last year was a hit. Each ramen collaborates with a Sydney chef, including Ume Burger’s Nick Smith, Louie Tikaram from Rising Sun Workshop and Luke Powell from LPs Quality Meats.

“Ramen is such a new thing,” says Cincotta. “It’s only 150 years old, so you can get away with making your own flavours.”

Cincotta first fell in love with ramen from a vending machine in Tokyo. “I paid a vending machine and waited an hour for this dipping noodle. In all honesty, I never liked soups, but my first taste of this broth changed that,” he says. “It just blew my mind—I can still taste it now. I ended up doing a ramen tour of Japan, trying different broths and styles so I could recreate it at Butter.”

Which he did. Cincotta added chicken ramen to the Butter menu, but it wasn’t easy. “Chicken is hard, you don’t have the marrow that comes from the bones of pork, so you need a lot of fat to make it tasty. I felt defeated when I was making chicken ramen, but I stuck with it. Eventually, I knew I wanted to do it, and we did.”

After trial and error, Cincotta has mastered ramen and wants to share his tips with you. So here they are.

Five tips to mastering ramen at home

Don’t rush it, ramen is a slow process

The biggest mistake I see is people don’t take the time to make ramen. A broth needs four to six hours to develop. Also, you need to make a good tare. The tare is where all the flavour comes from—the umami taste.

Don’t overcook the noodles

I think people tend to cook their noodles too long. If you leave it a bit under, it’s okay because it finishes in hot broth. You want the noodles to have a bit of a chew but still be soft.

Use quality ingredients

Ramen just won’t be good without quality ingredients. Take the time to walk through an Asian grocer to find spices and seasonings. Experiment with flavours and toppings. Make char sui pork, or sweet and sour pork. You can add chicken, veggies, and my new obsession, Impossible Beef. We made it in a Dan Dan style from China, and it’s been my favourite ramen we’ve done.

Understand the styles of ramen

The difficulty with ramen is the style. When you’re making a shoyu ramen, which is soy sauce-based broth, it requires a low and slow cooking method, whereas tonkotsu ramen requires a longer cook on higher heat. This is, so the bone marrow seeps into the broth, turning it milky.

Considering Cincotta’s tips, here’s a recipe for you to try at home.

Impossible Ramen Broth

Ingredients:
– 120g tomatoes (halved)
– 100g eggplant (thick slice)
– 80g carrot (mirepoix)
– 30ml leek (mirepoix)
– 50ml cabbage (mirepoix)
– 90g onion (mirepoix)
– 20g ginger (mirepoix)
– Garlic head, halved
– 40g Kombu seasoning
– 50g shiitake mushrooms (dry)
– 20g soy sauce
– 4g kombucha
-30g mirin
– 8ml vegetable oil
– 4 litres of water

Directions:
1. Preheat over to 200 degrees.
2. Cut tomatoes in half, and place in a roasting tray with vegetable oil. Roast until blistered and coloured.
3. Place a large saucepan on high heat, and add vegetable oil.
4. Roughly chop the eggplant, carrot, leek, cabbage, onion, ginger, and garlic bulb, and saute in a saucepan to colour.
5. Once vegetables have started to caramelise, add water, roasted tomatoes and remaining ingredients.
6. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, turn it down to a simmer and leave for two hours.
7. The broth should be a light brown tea colour.
8. Strain through a sieve and smash pul with a wooden spoon to extract flavour.
9. Reserve ramen broth.

Impossible and Sesame Ramen Mince

Ingredients:
– 500g vegetable oil
-100g sesame oil
– 50g green shallot
– 100g red onion
– 100g ginger
– 95g garlic
1.5kg Impossible Beef
– 200g Tonkatsu sauce
– 60g Chilli
– 15g Sichuan pepper
-200g soy sauce
– 80g sugar
– 100g tahini
– 600g water

Directions:
1. Place a medium-sized pot over low heat and add the vegetable oil.
2. Process the shallot, red onion, ginger and garlic in a blender until finely chopped.
3. Add this mixture to the pot and turn up the heat to medium. Cook the mixture, stirring regularly, for about 20 mins or until it is lightly caramelised.
4. Add the sesame oil just to heat through.
5. Add the impossible beef and break it up with a wooden cooking spoon, so there are no lumps or meatballs throughout the mixture. Cook this out for 5 mins.
6. Add the remaining ingredients except for the tahini. Cook this mixture for 30 mins until it comes together in a thick, rich and oily sauce.
7. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. It should be full flavoured, mildly spicy from the chilli and Sichuan pepper, a little sweet and well seasoned.
8. Once it has cooled a little, stir in the tahini.

Black Fungus Soffrito

Ingredients:
– 1kg onion (finely diced)
– 1kg carrot (finely diced)
– 500g leek (finely diced)
– 1kg celery (finely diced)
– 10g Black fungus, soaked in very hot water for 1 hour
– 200g garlic (finely diced)
– 10g chilli flakes
– 500g mirin
– 300g sake
– 400g soy
– 400g vegetable oil

Directions:
1. Place a wide-bottomed pot over low-medium heat and add the veg oil, onion, carrot, celery, leek, garlic and chilli flakes.
2. Sweat over low- medium heat, stirring regularly with a pinch of salt until the veg is cooked and lightly caramelised. Approx. 30-40 mins.
3. Drain the black fungus and add it to the pot with the vegetables. Continue to cook the mixture for approx. 30 mins or until the mixture has come together and is well cooked.
4. Deglaze with sake and mirin. Cook the alcohol off – do not reduce the liquid too much. It should be a moist, wet mixture without being runny.
5. Season with the soy—you may not need it all.
6. It should be oily, taste well seasoned, be mildly sweet, and have depth of flavour from cooking down the veg/ black fungus with very mild heat from the chilli.
7. Remove from the heat, allow to cool and store in the coolroom.

Assembly

Spoon black fungus soffrito into the base of the bowl.
Add the noodles.
Add the broth.
Add the mince
Add the toasted nori squares
Add the Chinese broccoli.
Add the enoki.
Add the sliced shallot rounds.
Add the halved deep-fried egg.
Add the crispy shallots.
Add the sesame seeds.
Stir together and enjoy!

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Simmer Down

Make This Cantonese Nan Jing-Style Crispy Pork Belly with Spicy Soy and Sweet Plum Sauce

Sebastian Tan of Jinja shares an at-home recipe adaptation of his beloved Crispy Pork Belly

Previously Chef de Cuisine at Crown Sydney, where he led hatted Silks and Teahouse, Sebastian Tan has over 15 years of experience in fast-paced kitchens and has worked in many highly notable venues both in Sydney and globally, including the also hatted MoVida Sydney. Tan has also developed speciality Asian and Cantonese menus for dnata, catering in-flight meals for international airlines across China, the US and Canada. 

Leaving Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at the age of 18, Tan came to Sydney, Australia, in 2007 to study hospitality and cookery at a culinary college and later specialised in Cantonese cuisine. Tan attributes his love for cooking to a childhood spent learning to master traditional Chinese and South-East Asian dishes under the watchful eye of his mother and grandmother. 

Crispy pork belly with spicy soy and sweet is a beloved and traditional dish in China with many regional and Asian variations. It’s the perfect dish and full of flavour—think crispy skin and tender, juicy meat. 

My recipe features subtle spices and gentle aromas with the addition of cinnamon, star anise, and ginger, cut through with zingy and sweet citrus, resulting in a rich and exotic sauce with a depth of flavour. 

I like to think of this dish as comfort in a bowl. Blanching the pork belly first helps to lose some of the fat, resulting in the pork becoming beautifully tender and juicy without the excess fat you sometimes find with other pork belly dishes. It’s also very important to the colour and flavour of this dish to carefully balance to use of light and dark Soy sauce—it adds to the intense depth of flavour! I can’t get enough of this sticky, sweet, savoury melt-in-your-mouth pork belly recipe.

Sebastian Tan’s recipe for Nan Jing-style Crispy Pork Belly with Spicy Soy and Sweet Plum Sauce

Serves 6

Ingredients:
2kg Free range Pork Belly (bone out, rind on)
3tbs rock sugar
9tbs Shaoxing Cooking Wine
3tbs Light Soy sauce
2tbs Dark Soy sauce
6 cups (1.5L) water
¼ cup salt (60g), divided
3 pieces fresh Ginger, peeled and cut into ¼-inch (6mm) slices
2 bunches of fresh Spring onion
2tbs Plum sauce
2 Cinnamon sticks
2 Star anise
12g Dried Chili
2tbs Oyster sauce
1tbs Chilli Bean sauce
25g Orange segment
3g Mixed micro herbs

Method:

  1. Start by cutting your pork belly into pieces roughly 3x3cm in size.
  2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Blanch the pork belly pieces for a couple minutes. This gets rid of impurities and starts the cooking process. Take the pork out of the pot, rinse, and set aside.
  3. Over low heat, add the oil and sugar to your wok. Melt the sugar slightly and add the pork. Raise the heat to medium and cook until the pork is lightly browned.
  4. Turn the heat back down to low and add Shaoxing Cooking Wine, regular Soy sauce, Dark Soy sauce, Ginger, Spring Onion, Cinnamon sticks, Star Anise, dried Chilli, and water. It’s very important to the colour and flavour of this dish that you have both light and dark Soy sauce! Just head to your local Asian market, buy a bottle of each, and it will last you a year!
  5. Cover and simmer over medium heat for about 45 minutes to 1 hour until pork is fork tender. Every 5-10 minutes, stir to prevent burning and add more water if it gets too dry.
  6. Once the pork is fork tender, reverse half of braising sauce, uncover the wok, turn up the heat, and stir continuously until the sauce has reduced to a glistening coating.
  7. Set the pork belly cold, then slightly deep fry with hot oil and put aside.
  8. Heat the fresh wok with cold oil, add Chilli Bean sauce and stir with low heat until fragrant, add dark Soy sauce, Plum sauce, and reserved braising sauce until fully coated.
  9. Plate up the pork and garnish with mixed micro herbs and orange segments.

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