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Most ramen fans in the United States are familiar with Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen, the thick, creamy, pork broth–based bowl of noodles that is the star of menus of popular chains like Ippudo and Ichiran. But the same can't be said for tori paitan ramen, which has as its base a chicken broth that's similarly rich and creamy, and every bit as tasty as a tonkotsu. (Those of you who live in or have visited New York City may be able to attest to that fact if you've tried the tori paitan at Ivan Ramen, which we featured in our video on how to slurp a bowl of noodles.)
Since a paitan broth requires boiling bones for hours, you may have been hesitant to try to make it at home. The process, as Kenji describes in his turkey paitan recipe, is very similar to the one for making a tonkotsu broth, and is similarly time- and work-intensive: You blanch the bones and meat, then rinse them thoroughly; you cover the blanched bones and meat with water and boil them for hours, until they become so soft they crumble; and finally, you boil the strained broth until it's reduced and emulsified to a thick and creamy consistency.
But, as I was developing a recipe for a pressure cooker chintan, or clear, ramen broth, I stumbled upon a method to make a rich and creamy chicken paitan broth in a fraction of the time it takes on the stovetop.
This method also uses the leftover chicken carcass, vegetables, and kombu (dried kelp) from the first broth, so it has the added advantage of being very economical—two broths for the price of one. (You can also use my recipe to make this thick chicken paitan soup without making the clear one first; more on that below.) Finally, you get to use a handheld blender to buzz up all the softened bones, so it's also really, really fun.
As I mentioned in the article about shoyu ramen, I first heard about this method from Mike Satinover, who had in turn heard about it from Keizo Shimamoto, the chef-owner of Ramen Shack in Long Island City, Queens.
The basic idea is to use the chicken carcasses from making a chintan broth to make a second paitan broth. The reason this method works well is that chintan broths are made by simmering chicken bones for a relatively short amount of time, which ensures that the broth is light in body and coloring. But that relatively short simmer also means that the carcasses have a lot of flavor, fat, and gelatin left to give.
Making a second stock from the leftovers of a first stock is a tried and tested technique of professional kitchens. In Japanese cuisine, the kombu and katsuobushi used to make hondashi, also known as an ichiban dashi, or "first broth," are often used to make a second, weaker, and less refined stock called a niban dashi, or "second broth." In French cuisine, the veal bones used to make a veal stock are re-boiled to make a remouillage (literally "rewetting"), which is then mixed with the first stock, after which the whole thing is reduced significantly to yield a gelatin- and flavor-rich stock.
With both veal stock and dashi, the second stock is produced in a similar way to the first. But with this broth, which you could call a "niban tori paitan dashi" ("second cloudy chicken broth"), the second broth is entirely different from the first one: The first broth is clear, the second is opaque; the first is light in body, the second is creamy and thick.
How to Make Tori Paitan
Following the method that Satinover outlined, after I'd made a chintan shoyu and strained the broth into the bowl of diced vegetables and kombu to steep, I threw the chicken carcass back in my pressure cooker, topped it up with fresh water, and brought it to high pressure. I let it cook for an hour (bringing the total cook time for the carcass to one hour and 40 minutes), allowed the cooker to depressurize, and cracked the lid.
Inside was a cloudy liquid, not particularly milky, with some visible bone matter rising up from the murky depths like ghost ships in a movie. I got out my cheap Cuisinart immersion blender, said a small prayer to the ramen gods, and pressed the switch. And...it worked. Miraculously, wondrously well. In 30 seconds, the pot of broth and bones had been transformed into a kind of thick, white slurry with a porridge-like consistency.
I strained the liquid directly into the same bowl of vegetables and kombu I had used to steep the chintan broth (which had since been strained out), pressing firmly (really firmly!) on the sludge to extract as much liquid as possible. The liquid that was expressed was perfectly milky. After letting it steep with the vegetables and kombu for 30 minutes, I strained it, and was left with about a quart of perfect-looking chicken paitan broth. Seasoned with a little salt, it was light on the tongue yet undeniably creamy, with a pleasantly strong chicken flavor, undergirded by a slight vegetal complexity and a hint of umami depth.
After refrigerating the broth overnight, I found that it had separated into several distinct layers, with the denser, more bone matter–heavy liquid at the bottom, a clearer liquid phase on top of that, and a large band of fat at the very top. But a brief boil in a pot served to emulsify everything again.
In subsequent trials, I found that transferring the sludge to a pot and boiling it over high heat on the stovetop for 10 minutes helped keep it emulsified for longer once it was refrigerated. I also discovered that the mixture does not distribute heat evenly, which can lead to sudden eruptions of bubbles from the depths. These can and will make the pot "hop" on the stovetop, so you really have to stir it frequently during this step (though it is, by the way, an optional step).
Let me offer another warning: Blending chicken bones can be a little taxing on your tools. I broke the gear on my cheap immersion blender because of a stubborn chicken wing bone. Although the immersion blender we recommend, which we have in the test kitchen, had no issues at all with blending the bones, I modified the recipe to call for pressure-cooking the spent carcass for an hour and 20 minutes, just to cook the bones a bit longer and get them softer.
Alternatively, you can use a high-quality countertop blender to blitz the bones, but, as when blending any hot liquid, you should open up the vent at the top, cover it with a clean towel, start the blender at its lowest setting, and gradually increase the speed until the contents of the canister are finely blended.
I also discovered you can get similar results by using a wooden spoon or potato masher to break up the carcass into small bits in the pot, then boiling everything for 30 minutes. If you go this route, you will want to stir the contents with a wooden spoon, making sure to scrape the bottom of the pot, to prevent anything from getting stuck to the bottom and burning.
Since making this broth the first time, I've discovered that it's extremely versatile. Like any broth, this tori paitan is entirely unseasoned, and you have the option of using any tare you want.
Again, the tare, or seasoning, is what determines the flavor of a bowl of ramen: If you use salt-based, or shio, tare with this broth, you'll have a bowl of shio tori paitan. You can certainly use the soy sauce tare from the chintan shoyu recipe, but I've found the broth also works very well with a tare spiked with miso, which I'll explain how to make below.
The broth works with a range of noodles beyond ramen, too, including banh pho and vermicelli. It's great paired with Thai and Vietnamese flavors, like those in shrimp paste and fish sauce—which you can stir directly into the broth or use as a base for an unconventional tare—or Chinese flavors, like those in doubanjiang and oyster sauce, again, either added directly to the bowl or used in a kind of tare.
It also makes a wonderful steaming broth for clams, and can be used as an all-purpose stock for exceptionally creamy braises and stews, which, in turn, make great additions to bowls of noodles, both ramen and not.
Ichiban Tori Paitan
You can also make this tori paitan broth without making a chintan broth first. The method used here is similar, and you could conceivably call it an "ichiban tori paitan dashi" (first chicken paitan broth).
To do it, put a whole chicken, cut into parts, in your pressure cooker; top it with water; and cook it at high pressure for two hours—40 minutes longer than if you were using the precooked chicken. Let the cooker depressurize naturally, then blend the bones. This will produce a far richer, fuller-bodied broth, since all of the gelatin, fat, and flavor extracted from the chicken will end up in a single broth, rather than two.
The main difference between the process of making this broth and the one made from the chintan's leftovers is that you'll be starting with fresh diced vegetables. While you can strain the sludge into a bowl full of diced vegetables and kombu (in the exact same quantities used in the chintan broth recipe), it won't work quite as well, since the paitan broth, after you've spent time pressing it through a fine-mesh strainer, is much colder than the chintan broth is straight out of the cooker.
To account for that, I suggest straining the paitan broth into a pot, bringing it to a boil, adding the chopped vegetables, and turning off the heat. You can then add a piece of kombu to the pot to steep, until the broth is cool enough to strain and decant into containers—about another 40 minutes.
How to Make Miso Tori Paitan Ramen
Now that I had this beautiful creamy chicken broth, I just had to figure out how I wanted to flavor it. I had on hand the shoyu tare from the chintan shoyu ramen, as well as the aroma oil, but while the shoyu tori paitan the combination produces is very tasty, I didn't think it really showed this broth's potential. I decided to try a miso tare, and, since I like chili heat, I decided to add a couple chilies.
The miso tare is simple: It's just a half tablespoon of the shoyu tare, mixed with a tablespoon of good red miso and some chopped fresh red Thai bird chilies (the chilies are entirely optional), for every serving of ramen. When blended with the niban tori paitan broth, the miso tare enhances the creaminess of the soup, and gives it an incredible depth of flavor.
But even after garnishing the subsequent bowl with scallion and pork, I still felt like something was missing. And what was missing was gyofun.
Gyofun refers to fish powder, a common topping and broth ingredient in many Japanese ramen shops. It is, at its most basic, dried fish that has been blitzed to a fine powder, and it can be made with katsuobushi (cured, smoked, dried skipjack tuna shavings); niboshi (dried baby sardines); or any other dried-fish product, like sababushi (dried mackerel shavings). Often, it's made up of a combination of many different kinds of dried fish.
For my gyofun, I didn't want to ask cooks to go out and get anything they might not already have access to, so I toasted some katsuobushi in a dry pan set over medium heat; added a few dried red Kashmiri chilies for fruitiness and heat (these are, again, entirely optional, if you're spice-averse); and then blitzed it all in a spice grinder.
With the tare and gyofun out of the way, the bowl was mostly ready, but it still seemed to cry out for something more. So I decided to add some finely diced white onion as a garnish, and to serve the bowl with a wedge of lime, both of which add a little brightness and acidity to the broth.
In the end, I think this bowl of ramen has that elusive quality that only great bowls of noodles have—its taste changes over time, so that the first taste is markedly different from the last. While fine ramen shops manage to do this in a number of subtle ways, here I've done it as bluntly as possible, with the addition of the finely diced onion and the gyofun.
Dried-fish products like katsuobushi add savory depth to hot broths, but if left in them too long, they can start to add sour notes. Those sour notes are anathema to a good ramen broth. When you add gyofun to a bowl, on the other hand, what you're doing is adding a controlled amount of sourness, one that intensifies the longer the gyofun sits in the broth. That's why you'll sometimes see the gyofun piled up on top of a floating bit of nori, since it allows the diner to determine when and if they'd like to add that taste to the bowl.
Similarly, the finely diced onion changes the way the broth tastes, particularly at the end, when you're mostly drinking broth and thus can get a bunch of bits of no-longer-totally-raw onion in your spoon. It is a subtle difference, but an eminently pleasurable one.
Constructing a Bowl of Miso Tori Paitan Ramen
Before we get to constructing the bowl of miso tori paitan, one note on equipment: This bowl is best made by using an immersion blender to blitz the miso tare and aroma oil into the paitan broth, directly in the bowl. If you have a very high-powered immersion blender, be sure to use its lowest setting when you use it in the bowl. If you're unsure of how powerful your blender is, you can add 350 milliliters of water (the same volume as a serving of broth) to your serving bowl and blitz the water; if it spills over the sides of the bowl, you'll need a bigger bowl.
Alternatively, you can use a whisk to carefully distribute the tare evenly in the bowl. The only disadvantage of using a whisk is that it won't give the broth an appealingly frothy appearance. I don't suggest using a countertop blender, if only because transferring the broth between the pot, the blender, and the bowl will cool it down significantly.
Below is a short primer on constructing the bowl, with visuals.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, and bring the tori paitan broth to a boil in a separate pot. (Boiling vigorously will help keep the broth emulsified.) Pour a ladleful of boiling water in each serving bowl, wait 30 seconds, then begin cooking your noodles.
Discard the hot water, and place 22 milliliters (one and a half tablespoons) of miso tare and 10 milliliters (two teaspoons) of aroma oil in the bottom of each bowl. Add 350 milliliters (roughly one and a half cups) boiling broth to each bowl. Submerge the head of an immersion blender in the broth inside the bowl, and pulse two or three times, until the broth is frothy and the tare is uniformly dispersed.
When the noodles are cooked, drain them thoroughly and add them to the hot broth. Stir the noodles around with a pair of chopsticks or tongs, then lift them free of the broth and fold them over. Add any topping you may have on hand, like braised and torched pork belly or a marinated soft-boiled egg (or an onsen tamago!).
Garnish with finely sliced scallions and finely diced white onion. Finally, add a spoonful of chili gyofun to the broth, or, if you like, place a rectangle of toasted nori on the surface of the broth and spoon the gyofun onto the nori. Serve immediately.
Here is the entire process in a single image:
And there you have it: an entirely different bowl of ramen from the chintan shoyu, even though it has the same base ingredients and some shared components.
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