Sunday, March 31, 2013

Tonkotsu Stock Trial 2

I made another tonkotsu (pork bone) stock trial going for a simpler ingredients list for the bone simmering part than the last time, and a longer simmering time as well. The two big things I learned from this time around:
  1. It really does take 14-15 hours of simmering to get the stock to the right (opaque) state. (Start early or do what I did and finish it the next day.)
  2. While you can just simmer bones in water to make the stock base and add all your flavoring ingredients after the fact, as this abbreviated recipe does, I think there are some things that are better included in the slow simmering phase to better draw out and infuse the stock with their flavor. Ginger's one such thing, as it also helps to balance out the pork flavor as the stock is rendering. Konbu (aka kombu) seaweed seemed like a helpful addition when I added it, and also doesn't discolor the soup. Shiitake mushrooms also are great in adding flavor to a soup over a slow simmer (or to anything). The other things found in recipes I've looked at, like fried garlic or charred onions are probably great flavor enhancers, but if they've charred, I imagine that'll darken your soup if it's something you're worried about.
Other observations:
  • Soy sauce quickly darkens the soup, so you'll want to use salt to some extent if you want to keep your soup lighter in color.
  • The rice noodles I had actually worked very well in the tonkotsu soup.

After ~2 hours

After ~6 hours

After 14-15 hours


Seasoning the soup further, heating the pork belly, cooking the seaweed

What the heck is that stuff?? This is that floating matter you can see starting to float around in the "6 hours" pic above--bone marrow. It comes out of the bones gradually over the course of long simmering. And yes, you can eat the marrow! Since marrow is mostly fat and protein, it is very rich and gelatinous. In Italian cuisine, they spread marrow on crostinis, which sounds like an excellent crispy, crunchy platform for marrow to play off of. But I avoid gluten, so I just had mine with rice, which also was helpful in spreading out the marrow's richness. Crostini would have been better, though, for textural contrast. ...I still find marrow to be a little too rich for my taste.


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