This comforting Shoyu Ramen is sheer perfection. Master Ueda of the famous Tokyo ramen shop Bizentei has generously shared his recipe that I’ve scaled here to a family-friendly portion. The slow-cooked, soy sauce-based broth extracts a deep flavor while the tender chashu (Japanese braised pork belly) simply melts in your mouth. Despite the long simmering time, the active cooking is just 30 minutes, so it‘s easy to make this authentic Tokyo-style ramen at home.
Behold, my friends! This special bowl of shoyu (soy sauce) ramen is brought to you by Master Masamoto Ueda of Bizentei, a beloved neighborhood ramen shop in Tokyo. Made with a flavorful pork-bone broth with wavy noodles and topped with bamboo shoots, meltingly tender chashu pork belly, and thin-sliced green onions, it’s the most soulful bowl befitting a humble shop.
I am beyond honored that I get to be the bearer of Master Ueda’s Shoyu Ramen recipe and to share his passion and generosity in feeding people. This is a labor of love, and I hope you enjoy every step of making this precious ramen at home!
Table of Contents
- What is Shoyu Ramen?
- Come Back Anytime – The Ramen Documentary Film
- Why This Recipe Works for Everyone
- How to Make Shoyu Ramen
- Where to Get Fresh Ramen Noodles
- Shoyu Ramen Toppings
- 8 Important Cooking Tips
- Other Delicious Ramen Recipes
- Readers’ Shoyu Ramen
What is Shoyu Ramen?
Shoyu Ramen (醤油ラーメン), also known as Tokyo ramen, consists of a soy sauce flavor and a clear soup broth served with medium-thin curly noodles. The light but delicious soup stock is typically made from chicken bones and/or pork bones and occasionally kombu seaweed, dried anchovies, and katsuobushi (bonito flakes). Simple toppings of chashu Japanese pork belly, pickled bamboo shoots, green onions, and nori seaweed give Shoyu ramen its classic look.
Shoyu ramen is considered an old-school classic in Japan. In 1910 (Meiji period), the first shoyu ramen was served at Rairaiken (来々軒) in Asakusa, Tokyo. At that time, it was called Tokyo Ramen.
Rairaiken attracted 2,500 to 3,000 customers on the busiest day (the New Year holiday), which was unprecedented as 200 customers are considered a flourishing business nowadays.
Among all the dishes sold at Rairaiken, shoyu ramen was its best seller and became the catalyst for the ramen’s popularity throughout Japan. Because the taste of soy sauce is familiar to Japanese people, shoyu ramen was easily and quickly accepted all over the country.
If you’re interested to learn more about ramen, read this Japanese Ramen Guide.
Come Back Anytime – The Ramen Documentary Film
This Shoyu Ramen is a delicious result of the documentary film Come Back Anytime, directed by John Daschbach and produced by Wataru Yamamoto.
Master Ueda and his wife Kazuko devoted almost 50 years of their lives serving up ramen to their loyal customers, which turned out to be an extension of a community. Although they have recently retired, we’re lucky that we get to experience and reflect on the couple’s endeavors in running the shop and more.
To learn more about the film and watch it, please read this post.
Making Master Ueda’s Tokyo-Style Shoyu Ramen at Home
I am deeply grateful that we have the opportunity to collaborate with director John Daschbach, producer Wataru Yamamoto, and Master Ueda to put his recipe out to the world on Just One Cookbook.
Master Ueda’s original shoyu recipe was 150 servings, so my task was to formulate his recipe into a family-friendly portion and decode the cooking steps in clear and concise instructions.
Why This Recipe Works for Everyone
- Requires only 30 minutes of active cooking time. Like any complex soup broth, it requires simmering. For this broth, you’ll need 6 hours to be exact. However, the active cooking time is short.
- Don’t get intimidated by using pork bones! I’ve included the places to source the various ingredients. Once you gather everything, you’re off to a good start.
- Straightforward instructions to follow. It is not a technically challenging recipe, which means no fancy skills are required. With a little bit of patience, it’s 100% doable even for beginners. I have faith in you!
How to Make Shoyu Ramen
The Ingredients You’ll Need
Here is the list of ingredients we’ll need for making a classic bowl of shoyu ramen.
- Pork leg bones – Among the pork bones, thigh bones (femur) and knuckles make a sweet, flavorful pork bone broth for ramen. The bone is called genkotsu (ゲンコツ) in Japanese and it’s named after the shape of the epiphysis resembling a human fist. These bones can be found in the refrigerator section at H Mart, at a well-stocked butcher, or at an online meat store (option 1, option 2, option 3, and option 4). See the picture below.
- Pork belly strips (without skin/rind!) – To make chashu, we’ll need 2 long, narrow pork belly strips measuring 1½ inches x 2 inches x 10 inches or 3.8 cm x 5 cm x 25 cm. If your butcher sells a slab, ask them to cut it into strips. Make sure to ask them to remove the skin (rind) so you don’t have to do it yourself. The pork belly can be found in the refrigerator section at H Mart, at a well-stocked butcher, or at an online meat store (option 1, option 2, option 3, and option 4). Japanese grocery stores sell small-size slabs/strips. Also, try your local Asian or Mexican grocery stores as they carry pork belly. One last thing: Remember, this pork belly is not salt-cured (bacon). See the picture below.
- Rendered chicken fat – The soup broth gets even better after adding chicken fat, so do not skip it! I was most concerned about this ingredient not being easily accessible, but what a surprise, we can get the shelf-stable type on Amazon or a refrigerated one from a regular American grocery store. See the picture below.
- Aromatics: Onion, garlic, ginger, and Tokyo negi (long green onion) – You can use green onions/scallions if you can’t find Tokyo negi.
- Shoyu tare (sauce): Soy sauce, sake, mirin, and salt – We make chashu with these condiments first, and then the leftover sauce will become the tare (sauce) for ramen. No waste here!
- Fresh ramen noodles – These days, you can get fresh ramen noodles online. Find more information below.
- Ramen toppings: Green onions, menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), and nori (dried seaweed) – These are optional toppings. Find more information below.
- Pork bones – If you can’t find leg bones, use pork neck or spine bones. For the authentic flavor, it’s best to use the thigh bones (femur) and knuckles as I listed above.
- Pork belly strips – If you go to a local butcher or online butcher shop, you can definitely buy pork belly (and leg bones). If you really can’t get pork belly strips, then get a pork belly slab and cut it into strips. If you can’t get pork belly at all, then you can use pork shoulder (butt) and cut it into strips. Keep in mind that this is a different cut and the result will be different. However, Master Ueda thinks it’s an acceptable substitution.
- Rendered chicken fat – Please buy it online if you can’t find it locally. The flavor of the chicken fat in the soup broth is not something that we can easily substitute.
Required Cooking Equipment
- 12-QT stockpot – The stockpot is filled with water, bones, and aromatics first but will be reduced to just enough for 8 servings, after simmering down on high heat for 3 hours and on low heat for 3 hours. If you use a regular large pot, you will need to keep adding more water while simmering down; this will dilute the flavor of the soup broth and it’s not the right approach to making soup broth.
- Butcher twine – The pork belly has a lot of fat, which will render as it simmers in the soup broth. To keep the pork belly strips in good shape for making chashu, you will need to tie them with butcher twine.
- Fine-mesh skimmer – When cooking the bones, you will be skimming the scum and foam that appears on the soup broth surface. Having a good fine-mesh skimmer helps you achieve a nice and clean soup broth.
- Otoshibuta (drop lid) – This special Japanese drop lid minimizes evaporation, ensures the sauce is evenly distributed, and holds the food in place so it doesn’t fall apart during the simmering process. You can quickly make a DIY Otoshibuta with aluminum foil.
The Cooking Steps
- Start making the soup broth by simmering the pork leg bones, aromatics, and pork belly in the water for 2 hours.
- Right before the 2-hour mark, take out some of the soup broth and combine it with soy sauce, sake, mirin, and salt in another pot to make the chashu sauce.
- At the 2-hour mark, add the chicken fat and green parts of the long onions to the soup broth and cook for another hour.
- After a total of 3 hours of simmering the soup broth, take out the pork belly, and continue simmering the soup broth for the next 3 hours.
- Add the cooked pork belly to the chashu sauce and braise for 2 hours.
- After cooking for 2 hours, remove the chashu from the sauce and let cool completely before refrigerating (or freezing). Save this chashu sauce for the ramen’s shoyu tare (sauce).
- After a total of 6 hours of simmering the soup broth, remove the bones and aromatics, and the soup broth is ready.
- To serve, cut the chilled chashu into thin slices and cook the ramen noodles. Add the shoyu tare, piping-hot soup broth, and ramen noodles to the bowl. Top with ramen toppings of your choice and serve immediately.
Where to Get Fresh Ramen Noodles
Fresh ramen noodles are made from four ingredients: wheat flour, water, salt, and kansui. Despite the yellowish color, the noodles do not contain eggs. Kansui, an alkaline solution, is what gives ramen its yellow tint and springy texture.
- Ramen noodles are either straight (ストレート麺) or wavy (ちぢれ麺). Generally, straight noodles are used for tonkotsu ramen while wavy noodles are used for soy sauce ramen, salt ramen, and miso ramen, but of course, there are exceptions.
- Ramen noodles have 6 different thicknesses: ultra-thin (極細麺), thin (細麺), medium-thin (中細麺), medium-thick (中太麺), thick (太麺), and extra thick (極太麺).
The ramen noodles used in shoyu ramen are usually the springy, wavy type.
Big Japanese grocery stores like Mitsuwa, Nijiya, and Marukai (Tokyo Central) sell packages of fresh ramen noodles (with or without soup packages included). Some large Korean and Chinese grocery stores also carry packages of fresh ramen noodles from Myojo and Yamachan Ramen.
Sun Noodles make great noodles and they ship domestically!
Shoyu Ramen Toppings
For this shoyu ramen, I followed exactly how Master Ueda makes his shoyu ramen.
I added chopped white Tokyo negi into the shoyu tare and topped the ramen with the signature chashu, menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), green onion, and nori seaweed. At Bizentei, Ramen Egg (Ajitsuke Tamago) or soy-marinated egg was an add-on option.
8 Important Cooking Tips
Tip #1: Read the entire recipe at least twice.
Even though it’s a straightforward recipe, you will spend 6 hours simmering this ramen soup broth. You don’t want to discover later that you’ve missed an ingredient, equipment, or a cooking step.
Therefore, read the entire recipe at least twice: once before going grocery shopping and again before making this recipe. Click “Print Recipe” to view the recipe without ads or to print the recipe.
Tip #2: Get a stockpot so you can simmer down the soup broth.
You’ll need a big stockpot so it can hold enough water for simmering the soup broth until it makes a flavor-concentrated soup broth. Please don’t use a regular (5-QT) large pot. Why? It doesn’t have enough space to hold the right amount of water, so you’d end up spending twice or three times as long to make a concentrated broth.
You can get a 12-QT stockpot on Amazon.
Tip #3: Tie the pork belly with butcher twine.
Make sure you wrap the pork belly as tightly as possible without squeezing or deforming it. The pork belly becomes super tender after simmering for 3 hours in the soup broth and 2 hours in the sauce. Butcher twine will keep it in good shape and prevent it from falling apart.
You can get butcher twine on Amazon.
Tip #4: Skim all the scum and foam.
Clarity is the goal of this ramen soup broth. Take time to skim the scum and foam so that you get clear, clean-tasting soup broth. You don’t want impurities to be incorporated into the broth. I get obsessed with skimming and I go overboard.
You can get a fine-mesh skimmer on Amazon.
Tip #5: Cook the soup broth, uncovered, on high and then low heat.
We need to evaporate the water to get concentrated soup broth. Cook the soup broth on high heat for 3 hours, and then turn it down to low heat and cook for another 3 hours.
Tip #6: Be gentle when removing the butcher twine.
With a pair of scissors, cut and remove the butcher twine from the chashu. Try not to handle the chashu too much because it is super tender and can easily fall apart. If some of the meat sticks to the twine, very gently remove it so you don‘t pull the meat off.
Tip #7: Chill the chashu.
Chill the chashu well until it’s cold and firm with the fat solidified so it stays together when you thinly slice it. Otherwise, the chashu will easily fall apart completely.
Place it in the freezer for up to 1 hour until cold (but not frozen) if you‘re serving it right after the soup broth is made, in the refrigerator if you‘re serving it later the same day, or in the refrigerator overnight to serve the following day.
Tip #8: Adjust the flavor of the soup with tare and soup broth.
To each bowl, add 1–2 Tbsp of shoyu tare. The shoyu tare is extremely salty, so start with 1 Tbsp and see how you like it. Then, pour 1½ cups (360 ml) of the piping-hot soup broth into each bowl. Adjust the amount of tare and soup broth based on your ramen bowl size.
How can I make a vegan/vegetarian version?
Unfortunately, this recipe is based on pork bone broth. Please try and enjoy my Vegetarian Ramen recipe instead.
Do I really need to make 8 servings?
If you want to prepare fewer servings, I still recommend making the full portion of soup broth, chashu, and shoyu tare in this recipe. Then, you can freeze any leftovers to enjoy a quick bowl of delicious shoyu ramen within a month. I recommend freezing the broth in individual portions using these food prep containers so you can defrost the amount you need.
The soup broth is very light so you will definitely crave it sooner than you think!
Do you need to season the soup broth with salt?
No, you don’t. The ramen’s salty flavor comes from the shoyu tare (sauce), and not from the soup broth. If you taste the tare, you’d notice it’s extremely salty. Adjust the amount of the shoyu tare for the measured soup broth for your ramen bowl.
Why is my chashu so salty?
Compared to my Chashu recipe, I also thought Master Ueda’s chashu was much saltier. I contacted the film director, John, to check on this and he confirmed that Master Ueda’s chashu is on the salty side.
However, after I added the chashu slices to the ramen soup broth, it didn’t taste as salty since all the flavors blended in.
The producer Yamamoto told me that sliced chashu was served as an appetizer at Bizentei and many customers ordered it to go with their alcoholic drinks.
What should I do with the leftover chashu?
You can definitely freeze the chashu for later use, make my Chashu Fried Rice with it, or use it as a topping on other noodle recipes.
Other Delicious Ramen Recipes
- Miso Ramen
- Shio Ramen
- Spicy Shoyu Ramen
- Vegetarian Ramen
- Tan Tan Ramen (Tantanmen)
- Tsukemen (Dipping Ramen Noodles)
Readers’ Shoyu Ramen
Shoyu Ramen was the challenge recipe for JOC Cooking Challenge June/July 2023. Check out the delicious ramen created by JOC readers!
Tableware from Musubi Kiln
I’ve partnered with a great ceramic online shop from Japan called Musubi Kiln. You will get 10% off with a coupon code JUSTONECOOKBOOK for your purchase. In this post, I’ve used:
Shoyu Ramen (from Bizentei, Tokyo)
For the Soup Broth
- 12 QT water
- 1⅓ lbs pork leg bones (called genkotsu in Japanese, thigh bones (femur) and knuckles make a sweet, flavorful pork bone broth; found in the refrigerator section at H Mart or at a well-stocked butcher)
- ½ onion (large; skin on and trimmed of the root)
- 5 cloves garlic (skin on)
- 1 knob ginger (skin on, sliced)
- 2 lbs pork belly (2 long, narrow strips measuring 1½ x 2 x 10 inches or 3.8 x 5 x 25 cm; found in the refrigerator section at H Mart or at a well-stocked butcher)
- 3.5 oz rendered chicken fat (you can get the shelf-stable type on Amazon or a refrigerated one from a grocery store)
- 2 Tokyo negi (naga negi; long green onion) (divide into the green and white parts and used separately)
For the Chashu (Japanese Braised Pork Belly) Sauce
Before You Start…
- Please note that the soup broth requires 6 hours of inactive cooking prior to serving. You can make the broth, chashu pork belly, and shoyu tare the same day you serve the ramen, or you can refrigerate overnight and serve the next day.
- Please note that this recipe makes 8 servings. If you want to prepare fewer servings, I still recommend making the full portion of soup broth, chashu, and shoyu tare in this recipe. Then, you can freeze any leftovers to enjoy a quick bowl of delicious Shoyu Ramen within a month (please see the To Store section for details).
To Start the Soup Broth and Chashu (at least 6 hours before serving)
- Gather all the ingredients.
- To a large stock pot (I use this 12-QT stockpot), add 12 QT water, 1⅓ lbs pork leg bones, ½ onion (skin on, root trimmed off), 5 cloves garlic (skin on), and 1 knob ginger (skin on, sliced). (DO NOT ADD the pork belly, chicken fat, and Tokyo negi yet.) Note: Here, since my pot size is 12 QT, I only added 10 QT or 10 L of water as I need some space for other ingredients. I’ll add the remaining 2 QT later on as soon as there is more space. If your pot is bigger than mine, you can add the full amount.
- Turn on the heat to high and bring it to a boil. It takes 20–30 minutes for my stock to boil. You do not need to cover the pot with a lid.
- Meanwhile, tie up 2 lbs pork belly with butcher twine to prevent it from falling apart. Run some butcher twine under the far end of the pork belly and tie the twine tightly in a double knot to secure it. Next, start wrapping the twine around the belly back toward the other end. Space each wrap ½ inch (1.3 cm) apart.
- Make sure you wrap the pork belly as tightly as possible without squeezing or deforming it. Once you reach the endpoint, run the twine under some of the end wraps; this hooks the twine in place. Tie a double knot and cut the excess twine.
- When the water starts to boil, skim off the foam and scum using a fine-mesh skimmer. Tip: I dip my skimmer in a measuring cup filled with water to clean the fine mesh.
- Gently add the pork belly to the soup broth. Set the timer and cook, uncovered, for 2 HOURS on high heat (or medium-high heat at first, if the soup broth is close to overboiling).
- Foam and scum will keep appearing on the surface as you cook down the soup broth, so keep skimming every now and then. Skimming is very important to get a clean and clear soup broth, so don’t let the scum incorporate into the broth.
- Some of the liquid will evaporate after a bit of time, making enough space for the additional water that I couldn’t add at the beginning. Here, I’m adding 1 QT (1 L) of water. It’s a small enough amount that the stock will return to a boil quickly. Keep cooking, uncovered, on high heat.
- 10 minutes before the 2-hour mark, reserve 2 cups (480 ml) of the soup stock for making the chashu sauce. Then, if you have more space in the pot, add the last 1 QT (1 L) of water and keep cooking.
To Make the Chashu Sauce
- While the stock continues to cook, gather all the ingredients for the chashu sauce.
- To a large pot (I used a 4.5 QT Le Creuset), add 2 cups reserved soup broth, 2 cups soy sauce, ¼ cup sake, ¼ cup mirin, and 3 Tbsp Diamond Crystal kosher salt and stir all together. Bring it to a simmer over medium heat. Once simmering, turn off the heat and set aside.
To Add the Chicken Fat to the Broth
- At the 2-hour mark, add to the stockpot 3.5 oz rendered chicken fat and the green parts of 2 Tokyo negi (naga negi; long green onion), reserving the white parts to use later. Now, set a new timer and cook, uncovered, for 1 HOUR on high heat.
To Braise the Chashu (2 Hours)
- When the 1-hour timer goes off at the 3-hour mark, use a pair of tongs to carefully and gently remove the pork belly from the soup broth and transfer it to a tray (or plate, to support the pork belly’s weight). The pork belly is extremely tender after cooking for a total of 3 hours.
- Transfer the pork belly into the large pot with the chashu sauce.
- Place an otoshibuta (drop lid) on top of the chashu and bring it to a simmer. To learn why we use this in Japanese cooking and how to make one with aluminum foil, see my post What is Otoshibuta (Drop Lid) and How to Make It 落し蓋. You do not need to cover the pot with the pot‘s lid. Once simmering, cook for 2 hours on low heat or simmer.
To Simmer the Soup Broth
- After removing the pork belly, reduce the stockpot to low heat and continue to cook, uncovered. Set a new timer for 3 HOURS.
To Finish the Chashu and Shoyu ”Tare”
- Once in a while, spoon the sauce over the pork belly as it’s extremely tender and hard to flip over without breaking it.
- After 2 hours of cooking the chashu, carefully and gently remove it from the sauce and transfer it to a tray (or plate).
- With a pair of scissors, cut and remove the butcher twine from the chashu. Try not to handle the chashu too much because it is super tender and can easily fall apart. If some of the meat sticks to the twine, very gently remove it so you don‘t pull off the meat. Cover the tray or plate with plastic and let cool completely. Then, chill the chashu well: Place it in the freezer for up to 1 hour until cold (but not frozen) if you‘re serving it right after the soup broth is made, in the refrigerator if you‘re serving later the same day, or in the refrigerator overnight to serve the following day. Make sure the chashu is cold and firm so it stays together when you thinly slice it; otherwise, it will fall apart.
- Skim the sauce to remove the fat and meat pieces. Transfer the sauce to a smaller pot. This salty sauce is called shoyu tare (sauce) and is the base for the ramen soup broth. It’s now ready to use. Alternatively, let it cool completely and refrigerate overnight to serve the following day.
To Finish the Soup Broth
- When the 3-hour timer rings, turn off the heat. You’ve now cooked the soup broth for a total of 6 hours (2 hours + 1 hour + 3 hours). Using a large fine-mesh strainer, remove the spent bones and aromatics from the broth and discard.
- As you can see, this broth is not too fatty. Optional: I strain the soup broth one more time to yield a clean soup broth.
- The soup broth is now ready to use. Alternatively, you can let it cool completely and refrigerate overnight to serve the following day. If your stockpot doesn’t fit in the refrigerator, transfer the soup broth to a large pot before refrigerating.
To Prepare the Ramen
- Bring a big pot of water to a boil to cook the noodles. Meanwhile, gather all the ingredients (I show you 2 servings here). Then, heat the soup broth on medium heat until it’s piping hot; if you refrigerated your soup broth, remove the pot from the refrigerator and reheat.
- While you reheat the broth, prepare the ramen ingredients. First, cut the green parts off from 2 green onions/scallions. Cut the green leafy parts in half lengthwise.
- Cut the reserved white parts of 2 Tokyo negi (naga negi; long green onion) in half widthwise. Then cut them in half lengthwise.
- Now, thinly slice the white parts of the Tokyo negi crosswise.
- Take out the chashu from the freezer or refrigerator. It should be cold and firm with the fat solidified when you slice it. Otherwise, the chashu will fall apart completely.
- Hold the chashu steady with one hand (I use a paper towel) and thinly slice it with a sharp knife, about ⅛ inch (3 mm) thick. As you slice, the pork fat will stick to the knife and make slicing difficult. When this happens, dip the knife in the hot soup broth to melt the fat off the knife. This is how Master Ueda does it and it’s very helpful. Tip: Slicing the chashu very thinly is key. When the delicate slices hit the hot soup broth, the succulent meat practically melts in your mouth.
To Cook the Noodles and Serve
- Before cooking the fresh noodles, loosen them up with your hands.
- Once the water in the big pot is boiling, add 8 servings fresh ramen noodles and cook according to the package instructions (typically, 60–90 seconds). While cooking, stir and separate the noodles with chopsticks. Here, I cook the noodles inside a big noodle strainer (I got it in Japan) that I’ve set inside the pot. Tip: I usually undercook my ramen noodles a bit so they are firm and toothsome, to my liking.
- During this short period of time, prepare the ramen bowls. To each bowl, add 1–2 Tbsp of shoyu tare and 1 Tbsp chopped white part of the Tokyo negi. Note: The shoyu tare is extremely salty, so start with 1 Tbsp and see how you like it.
- Pour 1½ cups (360 ml) of the piping-hot soup broth into each bowl. When the noodles are done cooking, drain them well in a strainer, shaking it a few times to drain the water thoroughly (otherwise, it will dilute the soup broth). Note: If your ramen bowl is bigger, you may need to add more tare and soup broth.
- Then, transfer the noodles to the individual ramen bowls. Lift up the noodles with chopsticks a few times to coat them with the soup broth and straighten them. Then, fold the noodles from the edge of the bowl and place them over the noodles in the soup for an attractive presentation.
- Quickly arrange the chashu slices, menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), green onions, and nori (dried laver seaweed) on top of the noodles. Serve immediately.
- You can keep the soup broth, shoyu tare, and chashu in the refrigerator for 3 days or in the freezer for up to a month. I recommend freezing the broth in individual portions (use these food prep containers) and so you can defrost the amount you need. Cook the noodles right before serving.