For the pork broth:
- 1 tbsp coconut oil or lard
- 2 lbs pork with bones (country-style ribs, necks, hocks), cut into large chunks (see note below)
- 2 quarts water
- 1 sheet kombu seaweed
- 2 tbsp fish sauce
- 2 tbsp tamari or coconut aminos
- 1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
For the squash:
- 1 lb peeled winter squash (acorn or similar), cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 tsp Japanese curry powder
- 1 tsp mild curry powder
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tbsp olive oil
For the ramen:
- 1/2 lb (dry) rice noodles, 1/2 lb (dry) sweet potato noodles, 3 spiralized zucchinis, or 1 lb kelp noodles (see #3 below)
- 1/2 lb Chinese cabbage (bok choy, choy sum, or won bok), chopped
- chopped chives to garnish
- Instant Pot instructions: Add the coconut oil and press the “Saute” button; warm the oil until shimmering, about 2 minutes, then add the pork pieces, in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding the pot. Brown on each side until dark and crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Once everything has been browned, add 2 quarts (8 cups) water plus the kombu, fish sauce, tamari, and ACV. Cover and press the “Soup” button and set for 35 minutes. Once it has finished cooking, allow it to sit at the “Warm” setting for 15-20 minutes before removing the lid. You want to avoid force-depressurizing (twisting the knob at top) as much as possible, as it will alter the texture of your pork, so that’s why I let it sit for a while before depressurizing. Strain the pork pieces into a different stockpot to catch the broth (discard the kombu(; once the pork is cool, pick the meat apart, cover it, and set aside until you’re ready to use it. Keep the strained broth warm over med/low heat and add salt to taste.
- Stovetop instructions: Warm the coconut oil in a stockpot over medium/high heat until shimmering, about 1 minute, then add the pork pieces, in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding the pot. Brown on each side until dark and crispy, about 3 minutes per side. Once everything has been browned, add 2 quarts (8 cups) water plus the kombu, fish sauce, tamari, and ACV. Bring to a boil then reduce heat to low; simmer until the pork is tender, about 2 hours. Strain the pork pieces into a different stockpot to catch the broth (discard the kombu); once the pork is cool, pick the meat apart, cover it, and set aside until you’re ready to use it. Keep the strained broth warm over med/low heat and add salt to taste.
- While the broth simmers, prepare the noodles. Rice noodles: soak in warm water for 30 minutes, then dip in boiling water until soft, about 30 seconds; strain and rinse in cold water until cool to the touch. Sweet potato noodles: add to boiling water, and simmer until you can bite through it somewhat easily (think al dente), about 6 minutes; strain and rinse in cold water until cool to the touch. Spiralized zucchini: spiralize then dip in boiling water until soft, about 10 seconds, then strain and gently rinse in cold water; strain again then wrap up in cloth and gently squeeze about half of its liquid. Kelp noodles: no preparation needed.
- Prepare the curried squash so that it’s ready when the rest of the soup is ready (it’ll take about 35 minutes, so time accordingly). Preheat your oven to 400F. Combine the peeled squash, curry powders, salt, and oil in a mixing bowl and toss until evenly combined. Scatter in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast until tender, about 25 minutes, flipping halfway through; set the oven to broil for the last 2 minutes to get a nice color on the squash.
- Let’s put it all together. Distribute the noodles into four bowls, then add the pork, squash, and garnishes. For the Chinese cabbage, throw it in the broth and par-boil it for a few seconds, until limp and bright green, then fish out with tongs and distribute into bowls (we use a noodle strainer to make it easy). Once you have your bowls prepared, bring the broth to a boil then ladle it into the bowls. Garnish with chives and serve.
** If you already have some pork, beef, or chicken broth on hand, this recipe can be made even more easily. Add 2 quarts broth to a stockpot (or 1 quart broth and 1 quart water if the broth is strong/concentrated), add the kombu, fish sauce, tamari, and ACV, then simmer for 30 minutes while you prepare the rest of the ingredients. Strain the broth and taste it for salt before serving.
** When selecting pork, the most important part is the presence of bones. The meat is there to add flavor to the broth, with an added bonus of eating it afterwards. So use anything you can find – even bone-in pork chops will do fine.
** Why two different curry powders? Good question. S&B curry powder gives a distinctly Japanese curry flavor, but is quite spicy. Tempering it with a mild curry allows you to enjoy the flavor without all of the heat. If you’re a fan of spicy, just use S&B, no worries.
** Feel free to go crazy with different additions to the ramen: hard-boiled egg, carrot ribbons, mushrooms, bean sprouts, you name it. You can also flavor the broth as you wish: a 1 tbsp of red miso paste, or a dollop of butter or lard may sound crazy, but are often used in different regional ramens throughout Japan. Throwing a couple dried mushrooms (especially shiitake) into the broth when you add the kombu is not a bad idea, either.
** You’ll likely have leftover broth, which is perfect for freezing and using for future ramens.