I am very excited to publish my Tsukemen Ramen Recipe (Dipping Ramen) today. Tsukemen consists of cold noodles and a rich broth (dipping sauce). You dip your noodles into the broth and eat them just like you eat Zaru Soba. My dipping sauce is made with pork mince and has a rich sesame flavour with a hint of miso and chilli.
The word ‘tsukemen’ (つけ麺) means dipping noodles, which in theory should include any types of noodles that you eat by dipping them in a bowl of sauce or broth. Cold soba noodles eaten with a dipping sauce is a kind of tsukemen. Sōmen is also a tsukemen.
However, these cold noodles with a dipping sauce already have unique names such as ‘zaru soba’ and ‘hiyashi sōmen’. Accordingly, the word ‘tsukemen’ has become synonymous with dipping ramen.
NOTE: Today’s recipe is much longer than usual, but it is worthwhile.
Tsukemen was invented in 1961 by the owner of a famous ramen restaurant in Tokyo. The restaurant owner developed it from the way the employees ate the leftover noodles with the leftover soup and soy sauce, by dipping the noodles in the flavoured soup.
After many trials and errors, the owner came up with a sweet and sour dipping sauce with chewy noodles.
These days, you will find many varieties of tsukemen that you will find in Japan at many ramen restaurants. The variations of Tsukemen usually comes from the different dipping broth called ‘tsukedare’ (つけだれ) or simply ‘tare’ (たれ).
Tsukedare is almost like a thickened version of ramen broth and has a much stronger flavour. Some flavours of tsukedare are soy-based and some are miso-based. Some of them are made with fish broth instead of pork or chicken broth. These days, the majority of tsukedare served at restaurants no longer have a sweet and sour flavour.
Most Tsukemen dishes come with some toppings just like ramen. The noodles and toppings are usually served cold or at room temperature, but tsukedare must be served hot. The contrast between the cold and hot gives you a unique experience.
Like cold soba noodles, the quality of noodles becomes important when you serve Tsukemen. Many restaurants that serve Tsukemen take making ramen noodles seriously. To provide the best balance between the noodles and the dipping sauce, Tsukemen noodles are thicker than the standard ramen noodles.
What’s in My Tsukemen Ramen (Dipping Ramen)
There are 4 major components to make my Tsukemen. The Tsukedare (dipping sauce) is made by mixing the Tsukedare Base, i.e., flavour base, with a rich Tonkotsu Broth.
- Pork trotters
- A block of pork belly
- Green onion (green portion only)
- Smashed garlic
- Smashed ginger
- A lot of water
- Dried anchovies
- Bonito flake powder
It takes many hours to make tonkotsu broth in the traditional way using pork bones. So, I did a shortcut by cooking pork trotters and pork belly for a much shorter period.
I used medium-size dried anchovies, but you can use larger ones. For bonito flake powder, I used a pack of instant dashi that came in a bag with powdered bonito flakes (photo above). It also contain other sources of umami such as konbu powder, but it does not contain salt and other artificial flavourings.
Alternatively, you can dry-roast your bonito flakes in a frying pan, then crush them into powder.
Pork Belly Marinade
The pork belly block is used as a topping by marinating it after getting the Tonkotsu Broth out of it. This marinade is also used to make the Tsukedare Base.
- Soy sauce
- Cooking sake
The list of ingredients is a bit long, but they are needed to make a rich Tsukedare.
- Pork mince
- Grated garlic
- Sesame oil
- Pork belly marinade
- Ground roasted white sesame seeds
- Chinese chicken broth powder
Gochujang is a red chilli paste that is used in Korean cuisine (see the left two photos below). It not only contains chilli powder, but also soybean powder. It has a sweetness and is full of umami. You can even buy it at supermarkets these days. If you can’t find gochujang, you can substitute it with sriracha.
I used powdered Chinese broth in a pack from the Japanese grocery store (see the 2nd photo from the right below). You can also buy a similar product made in China at most Asian grocery stores (the right photo below).
- Thick ramen noodles or egg noodles
- Sliced pork belly that is made in this recipe
- Boiled egg cut in half lengthwise
- Finely chopped green onions
- Roasted white sesame seeds (optional)
- Tsukedare Base and Tonkotsu Broth made in this recipe (not in the photo above)
Tsukemen usually comes with thick egg noodles that are about twice as thick as standard ramen noodles. When the noodles are dipped in the sauce, the thick noodles get coated with less sauce around them than the thin noodles. And the balance between the noodles and the amount of sauce is just right when thick noodles are used.
Asian grocery stores sell a variety of egg noodles. I used Chinese noodles per the photo below since I could not find thick ramen noodles. The thickness of the noodles was about 2mm/3⁄32″. You can use other brands of egg noodles, but do not use Hokkein noodles or similar type of yellow noodles that are coated in oil.
Instead of pork belly, you can of course use Yakibuta if you have it. You could use Ajitsuke Tamago instead of boiled egg, but I think that a plain boiled egg is better because the tsukedare and pork belly are both salty.
How to Make Tsukemen Ramen (Dipping Ramen)
The process of making Tsukemen also has 4 components. See the video.
Make Tonkotsu Broth
This is the first process you should start with because it takes the longest time to cook. It is also OK to make Tonkotsu Broth 1 or 2 days before serving Tsukemen.
- Put all the Tonkotsu Broth ingredients, excluding dried anchovies and bonito flake powder, in a large pot and bring it to a boil. Remove scum as it rises up.
- Reduce the heat to low and cook for 1.5 hours with a lid on.
- Add the anchovies and bonito flake powder to the pot and continue to cook for another 15 minutes.
- Remove the pork belly from the pot and put aside for marinating.
- Drain the rest of the broth through a sieve and collect the Tonkotsu Broth in a pot.
The quantity of the Tonkotsu Broth you get is most likely a bit more than required for the quantity of Tsukedare Base you make in this recipe. The excess broth can be used for ramen broth or Chinese-style soups. You can also add hot broth to the dipping sauce after eating Tsukemen and drink it as a soup. The broth can also be frozen.
Marinate Pork Belly
- Put all the Pork Belly Marinade ingredients in a pot and bring it to a boil.
- Let it cook and put some of it aside for Tsukedare Base.
- Marinate the pork belly for a couple of hours, turning it over halfway.
- Remove the pork belly from the marinade.
- Slice the pork belly into about 3mm/⅛” thick pieces.
Make Tsukedare Base
- Heat sesame oil in a frying pan and sauté garlic.
- Add pork mince to the pan and cook until the mince changes the colour.
- Add the remaining Tsukedare Base ingredients to the pan, excluding ground sesame seeds and gochujang, to the pan and mix well until miso is dissolved.
- Add ground sesame seeds, then gochujang to the pan and mix well.
- Cook ramen noodles per the instructions on the pack.
- Rinse the noodles under running water to cool down and remove sliminess, then drain well.
- Place the noodles on a serving plate with sliced pork belly, boiled eggs, and green onions on the side.
- Put Tsukedare Base in a small bowl and add Tonkotsu Broth to it. Scatter sesame seeds in the centre of the broth if using.
- Serve immediately.
It is important to serve tsukedare (dipping sauce) as hot as possible. If you made the Tsukedare Base and Tonkotsu Broth earlier, reheat them so that the Tsukedare Base is at least at room temperature and the Tonkotsu Broth is boiling hot.
Well, it is quite a long list of ingredients and a long description of how to make Tsukemen. It takes about 5 hours in total to make Tsukemen, including the time to marinate the pork belly.
But you can make Tonkotsu Broth, marinated pork belly, and Tsukedare Base ahead of time. You can even freeze Tonkotsu broth and Tsukedare Base. Then it becomes a simple task to reheat and assemble Tsukemen.
I do hope you try a new way of eating ramen.
Watch How To Make It
Tsukemen consists of cold noodles and a rich dipping sauce. You dip noodles into the sauce and eat, the same way you eat Zaru Soba. My dipping sauce is made with pork mince and has a rich sesame flavour, with a hint of miso and chilli. Watch the video.
Don't forget to see the section 'MEAL IDEAS' below the recipe card! It gives you a list of dishes that I have already posted and this recipe that can make up a complete meal. I hope it is of help to you.
- 2 pork trotters halved lengthwise (note 1)
- 500g/1.1lb pork belly block (about 3-4cm/1⅛-1½" thick, note 2)
- 20g/0.7oz ginger smashed
- 4 cloves garlic (about 30g/1.1oz) smashed
- 30g/1.1oz green onion (green parts) cut into about 10cm/4" long
- 2500ml/5.3pt water
- 1/3 cup dried anchovies
- 4g/0.1oz bonito flake powder (note 3)
- 5 tbsp sesame oil
- 5 cloves garlic grated
- 200g/7.1oz pork mince
- 1¼ tsp sugar
- 1¼ tsp Chinese chicken broth powder (note 4)
- 5 tbsp Pork Belly Marinade
- 1⅔ tbsp brown miso
- 1 tsp gochujang (Korean red chilli paste, note 5)
- 5 tbsp ground roasted white sesame seeds
- 150g/5.3oz fresh ramen noodles (note 6)
- 3-4 slices marinated pork belly made in this recipe (note 7)
- 1 boiled egg cut in half lengthwise (note 8)
- 1 tbsp green onion finely chopped
- ½ tsp roasted white sesame seeds (optional)
Put all the ingredients, excluding dried anchovies and bonito flake powder, in a large pot and bring it to a boil.
Remove the scum as much as possible as it rises up. You will probably need to spend about 10 minutes removing it.
Reduce the heat to low, place a lid on with a small vent, and cook for 1.5 hours (note 2). Check the water level halfway and add more water (not in the ingredients list) to cover the pork if part of it is above the water level.
Add anchovies and bonito flake powder to the pot and cook for 15 minutes with the lid on.
Turn the heat off. Transfer the pork belly to a plate/bowl, then drain the broth through a fine sieve to collect the Tonkotsu Broth in a smaller pot.
Put all the Pork Belly Marinade ingredients in a pot and bring it to a boil.
Reserve 5 tablespoons of the marinade for Tsukedare Base.
Put the pork belly and the remaining marinade in a container that just fits the pork belly in. Place a lid on and leave it for 2 hours. Turn the pork belly over halfway.
Remove the pork belly from the marinade and store it in a container or a zip lock bag for later use.
Heat sesame oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for 10 seconds.
Add pork mince and cook, breaking it up as you go.
When the pork changes colour from pink to light brown, add sugar, chicken broth powder, Pork Belly Marinade, and miso. Mix well ensuring that miso is completely dissolved.
Add gochujan and mix well, then add ground white sesame seeds.
Cook for about 1 minute, stirring constantly, then turn the heat off.
Transfer the Tsukedare Base to a container (note 10).
Boil sufficient water in a pot and cook ramen noodles following the packet instructions.
Drain through a sieve, and rinse well under running water until the sliminess around the noodles is removed and the noodles are cooled down.
Shake the water off the noodles as much as you can (note 11) and place the noodles on a serving plate or in a shallow bowl.
Slice the marinated pork belly and place 3-4 slices on the side of the noodles.
Place 2 halved egg pieces and chopped green onions on the side as well (note 12).
In a small bowl of about 10-12cm/4-4¾" in diameter with 200-250ml/6.8-8.6oz capacity, add 2½ tablespoons of Tsukedare Base. If the Tsukedare Base is cold, microwave for 15 seconds or so to warm it up (note 13).
Pour about 150ml/5.1oz of boiling Tonkotsu Broth (note 14) over the Tsukedare Base in the bowl and scatter the sesame seeds over.
Serve the Tsukedare bowl and the noodle plate immediately.
1. My trotters weighed 840g/1.9lb in total. I asked the butcher to halve them lengthwise so that they were easier to handle, and the bones were exposed.
If you can’t find trotters, you can use about 1kg of pork soup bones. Prior to cooking them with other ingredients, you need to pre-boil the pork bones for a very short period of time and rinse them, removing the scum. You will get a clearer broth compared to the broth made with trotters.
2. If your pork belly is very thin, it might be overcooked if you cook it in the Tonkotsu Broth for 1.5 hours. Periodically check how tender the pork is after 1 hour of making the broth. If it is very tender, take it out of the broth, otherwise the meat will become too soft and disintegrate.
3. I used a dashi pack that contained powdered dried bonito inside (see the photo in the post). As an alternative, you can dry bonito flakes in the oven or a frying pan, put them in a bag, and massage them to make powdered bonito flakes.
4. I used powdered Chinese broth in a pack from the Japanese grocery store (see the photo in the post). You can also buy a similar product made in China at most Asian grocery stores.
5. If you prefer not to have a slight hot chilli flavour, you can omit it.
6. For Tsukemen Ramen, thick egg noodles (about 2mm/3⁄32" thick)are better suited than the standard thin ramen noodles. Asian grocery stores sell a variety of egg noodles (see the sample noodles in the post), but do not use Hokkein noodles or similar type of yellow noodles that are coated in oil.
If standard thin Japanese ramen noodles are the only option, that’s OK too. You can also use dried ramen noodles but, they are usually thin noodles.
7. Yakibuta is also a good topping if you have it.
8. You could use Ajitsuke Tamago instead of boiled egg, but you might find that everything is all soy-based and the flavour is overwhelming.
9. You will get more broth than required to make 6 servings of tsukedare (dipping sauce). The excess broth can be used for ramen soup or Chinese-style soups. You can also add the hot broth to the leftover tsukedare after eating your noodles and drink it as a soup. It is quite tasty.
10. If you are using the entire Tsukedare Base at once immediately, you don't need to transfer it to a container.
11. It is important to remove the excess water around the noodles. Watery noodles will make the dipping sauce thin. But do not grab the noodles and squeeze them to remove water because the noodles will be flattened and become like a dough.
12. Green onions are to be added to the dipping sauce. I placed green onions in a Chinese soup spoon so that they would not be scattered, and you can control the amount of green onions to go into the dipping sauce. It also gives a better presentation of the noodle plate.
But you can directly put the green onions to the dipping sauce if you want.
13. Because the noodles are cold, it is very important to make the tsukedare (dipping sauce) as hot as possible.
14. The ratio of Tsukedare Base to Tonkotsu Broth depends on your palate. If you are sensitive to the saltiness, you may want more broth or less Tsukedare Base. If you like a stronger flavour, you do the opposite.
Tonkotsu Broth and Tsukedare Base can be kept in the fridge for 3-4 days. You can also freeze them. It is best to divide them into servings and freeze them.