Making Umami-Boosted Ramen Tonkotsu (Pork bone) Broth at Home

Tonkotsu is often regarded as the holy grail of ramen noodle broth. It has a rich umami flavor. Many people in Japan will not bother to make this at home because it is so time consuming.

I am fortunate to host ramen noodle classes once or twice a week at my San Francisco apartment. (TO BOOK A CLASS OR DINNER – CLICK HERE) I get to actually to make the broth at home for these dinners. Having experimented with many combinations of ingredients and preparation methods, I developed my version of tonkotsu.

Just a disclaimer—I would not call my recipe a “traditional” tonkotsu. But there’s really nothing called traditional recipes for tonkotsu or any Japanese cuisine per se. Every noodle joint has their variations of a “secret” recipes. Also, unlike some European cuisine, Japanese ones are constantly evolving with ingredients borrowed from other cultures.

I started out with making dashi with kombu (kelp) and bonita flakes (dried fermented fish pieces) which is not typically for tonkotsu. But, I enjoy this extra umami boast. Then I combine with the clarified pork bones and pork feet and just a few aroma vegetables including ginger, leek and shiitake stems. I also enhance the flavor by adding Southeast Asian fish sauce, soy sauce, mirin and Chinese shrimp paste. Then, I leave it to simmer for unnamed-8about 8 hours until the broth is cloudy and full or flavor.

Most of the time, you should be able to find kombu and bonita flakes at Whole Foods. You can also find them at bigger Asian grocery stores. For pork bones and pork feet, the best bet is to get them at Asian grocery stores or ask your butcher at your local store.

unnamed-4Ingredients (makes about 8-10 servings)

1 lb. Pork bare bones
1 Pork back feet (about 1-1½ lb.)
3 pcs. Kombu
1 cup Bonita flakes
2 Leeks
12 Sliced ginger
8 Shiitake stems
1½ tablespoons Fish sauce
1½ tablespoons Soy sauce or tamari
1 tablespoon Mirin
2 tablespoons Shrimp paste


  1. Soak kombu in 4 cups of warm water in a pot for 15 minutes.
  2. Bring the pot to nearly a boil with bubbles on the outer edge. Simmer under low heat for 15 minutes.
  3. Bring another pot of 4 cups of water to a boil.
  4. Rinse the pork bare bones and pork feet. Add the boiling water and let it sit for 3 minutes.
  5. Rinse the pork bones and pork feet for another 3 minutes. Discard the water.
  6. unnamed-7Clean the pot and fill with 4 cups of water.
  7. Bring the pot to boil. Then add the pork pieces back to the pot.
  8. Using a small spoon, skim and discard the foam and other particles floating on top of the liquid with pork. Continue to do this for 20-30 minutes until no more foams and other particulars appear.
  9. Strain the kombu from the other pot. Combine the kombu and pork into one mixture and heat them up (NOTE – you may need to use both pots at this point). Add more water to fill out the pots.
  10. Add roughly diced leeks, ginger, bonita flakes, shiitake stems, mirin, soy sauce, fish sauce and fish paste.
  11. Simmer the pots for 8 hours. Add more water to them periodically.
  12. Strain the broth scrape using a colander or cheese cloth.
  13. Before serving the broth with noodles, add either 1 tablespoon of miso or spicy paste into the hot broth (do not boil them) for final flavoring touchesunnamed-9


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