Saturday, October 20, 2012

Ramen School

Time for a very special edition of Friends in Ramen!  Brian over at Ramen Adventures had been speaking with a ramen master who runs a school in Osaka.  The master runs an expensive several-week course aimed at professionals who want to open up their own ramen shop.  Recently, though, he had become interested in running a more affordable one day ramen course for foreigners.  He hired an interpreter, and Brian decided to come down to Osaka to talk about the details.  Of course, to make sure it would be OK, he also needed to have a trial run of the course itself.  So, gracious as I am, I volunteered to join in, and Brian and I went to become ramen students.

The school is actually just a tiny shop on the road to Kinki University.  The main part is a ramen shop and counter, in the back is a kitchen, and there's a small room upstairs where we were able to sit down and talk, and where a number of noodle-making machines were placed.  We started talking upstairs about what our day would be like, and then got straight into the guts.

Literally, we started with the guts.  Pieces of pork and chicken, as raw as you can get.  That red piece is a pig's skull, and the stripe of meat is pork back fat.  Still hungry?

We smashed some of the bones and cleaned the chicken feet to prepare them to make the soup, and then into the pressure cooker they went.

That hose there filled the cooker with water, where we let it sit for a few hours.  A normal pressure cooker would take over ten hours to cook, but this beast could do it in just a couple.  Next up was the chashu!

Wow, a big hunk of bacon.  The master cut some pieces from this slab and we tied them tightly together with twine.

These babies look ready to cook.  The master showed us how to put together a simple soy-sauce based marinade, we let it heat up, and then dropped the pieces of pork in.

It was almost lunch time and most of the good stuff was cooking for dinner, so the master showed us how to make a simpler ramen broth out of meat that you can get in a supermarket.

We started out by taking a ton of ground meat, pouring in some water, mixing, and throwing some spices on top.

We let the broth cook for a while, and then threw out all of the now-tasteless meat, leaving left the very meaty-flavored soup.  Of course, we needed some flavoring for the soup, so we made a simple sauce - called the "tare", out of soy sauce, seaweed and fish.

We used some noodles that the master had already prepared, combined them with the soup and the tare, and voila, a bowl of ramen for lunch.

Light, simple, and delicious.  A short break and a quick walk around the campus of Kinki University, then we came back to continue our lesson.  It was time to make the tare for that night's ramen, but first we went to check on the broth.

Quite a bit murkier than when we had started.  It smelled really strongly too.

For the tare, like the lunch ramen's tare, it was based with soy sauce, complemented by a ton of seaweed and niboshi.

Looks rich and delicious.  We drained the soup from the pressure cooker, and poured some of it into a bowl.

Wow, cloudy but oh so white.  It's a big change from how it originally started.  It tasted creamy, almost milky, and with a strong meat flavor.  Interesting, but inedible on its own without the tare.

Next it was back upstairs to make noodles.  A lot of shops buy their noodles from one of a number of noodle companies, but the truly hardcore make their own.

This giant contraption takes in flour and water, mixes it together, and then rolls out sheets of noodle.

I'd be curious to try eating ramen with sheets of noodle.  Or just taking a bite out of this sheet.  We had to feed the sheet back into the machine several times to make sure it was properly pressed.  After that, we attached a slicer to the end, which shredded the noodles into their more familiar form.

We put our noodles away to be stored for later.  Unfortunately, noodles are best left for a little while before using them, so the actual noodles that went into our dinner ramen were not the ones we pressed and cut.

It had been a few hours, and the chashu had been cooked in its marinade.  It was looking a lot less raw and a lot more tasty.

And it was more tasty.  Fatty, juicy, and delicious.  We saved some to put in the ramen, of course, but we couldn't help ourselves to a little bit of our newly marinated, oily creation.

With broth, noodles, tare, and pork, we were ready to serve up our ramen.  We had earlier split the soup into two containers, one with cloudy soup, and the other with clear soup.

The clear soup was light and easy to drink.

The cloudy soup made for a saltier and richer bowl.

The only thing we were missing was an audience.  Ramen is a dish that is meant to be enjoyed by the masses, and what better masses than local college students.  Brian and I went outside and asked some passers-by to help taste-test our masterpiece.  As you may have expected, it's not very hard to convince college kids to accept a free meal.

They enjoyed it!  Brian posed with our first customers as a friendly American sign of good will.

You can check out the details of the ramen school on Brian's page here.  Sign up, and enter the world of ramen creation!


  1. Dear Brian,

    My name is Karoly Toth (32 years old), I am a head chef in Hungary in an Asian restaurant. I have been dealing with Asian kitchen for 15 years and now I would like to learn how to make Ramen. I have found your school on the internet and I would like to attend one of your trainings if you offer such training for Ramens.

    I will arrive in Osaka on April 12th (this year) but I will spend only 6 days in Japan. I would like to ask whether you offer a learning session for a shorter period like 1 or 2 days. If you offer such 1 day option how much does it cost?

    Thank you for your feedback in advance.

    Best Regards,

    1. Hi Karoly,

      Brian actually runs the blog Ramen Adventures. I just was fortunate enough to attend the school. His page on the school is here:

      He can help you out booking it.