When I think about ramen, there are two toppings I can’t live without. The marinated ramen egg and the chashu, the ramen meat. This chashu consists of pork belly marinated and cooked until it melts in your mouth. IT’S AMAZING!
What is chashu?
Like many Japanese dishes, chashu has its origins in China, where pork is cooked Char Siu (叉燒) style.
While the Chinese method consists of cooking the meat at high heat, usually on a barbecue. The Japanese version simmers the meat for a couple of hours in a sauce of soy sauce, sake, sugar and, in this case, flavoured with ginger, spring onion and garlic.
No wonder then that Chashu is also known in Japan as “Nibuta” (煮豚) which literally means simmered pork.
Chashu, beyond ramen
Chasu is widely known as one of the most iconic toppings for ramen.
However, it has also made its place as a udon topping and is easily found as the main ingredient in chashudon. A succulent bowl of rice topped with chashu. And if you are up for it, top it with a delicious onsen-style egg.
It is also commonly enjoyed on its own, with onion or wtih a side of salad.
For those who are hungrier, you can prepare a delicious bao and fill it with chashu, or take a hamburger bun, lettuce and your favourite condiments to make a juicy chashu sandwich.
How to make chashudon
Once the chashu is ready, preparing a chashudon is a matter of minutes.
Cut the chashu into squares and heat it in a pan with a tablespoon or two of water and any leftover chashu sauce from the cooking. The water will help to heat the chashu while diluting the sauce and allowing it to spread all over the pieces of meat.
Leave it on medium-high heat until the sauce caramelises again and coats all the chashu pieces. Like all Japanese dishes that end with “don”, this is served in a rice bowl and I love to serve it with beni shoga.
How to cook chashu
Preparing the meat for ramen is very simple. Traditionally, you can use almost any part of the pig, but at home we always opt for pork belly.
Preparing the chashu is very simple. If you prepare a large piece – don’t think that because it’s so big it will last long, at home we finish it in the blink of an eye – the best thing to do is to roll it up as I did in the video. However, if you opt for a smaller piece, you can skip this step.
Next, it is important to seal the meat well. A cast iron pan is ideal for this step, but if you don’t have one, that’s fine – I’ve made dozens of Chashu without it and it comes out delicious.
Next, just put the meat in with the sauces and flavourings and leave it to cook for a couple of hours. I recommend turning the meat every 15 minutes at first – who said Netflix & Cooking?
Finally, when the sauce starts to thicken and caramelise, it is important to pay extra attention to it to avoid burning and to make sure it is well distributed throughout the chashu.
Once ready, you can eat it straight away or, if you have the patience, leave it in the fridge overnight to intensify its flavour. This is one of those dishes that just gets better the next day.
How to make Chashu (Video)
- Salt and pepper the meat and, optionally, roll the meat up and tie it with kitchen string.
- Peel the ginger and chop it. Peel the garlic and crush it. Cut the spring onion into 2 or 3 pieces.
- In a pan, brown the meat on all sides. Once ready, add it to the pan.
- On a medium heat, cook the meat for a couple of hours, turning the meat every 20 minutes to infuse the meat with flavour.
- It is important to monitor the chashu as it cooks, especially towards the end so that the sauce caramelises without burning.
- When the sauce has caramelised (you will notice this as you can see the bottom of the pan for a couple of seconds when you run a spoon over it), remove the meat from the pan and set aside until ready to serve.
- Optionally, you can use a kitchen blowtorch to enhance the flavour of the chashu.