This recipe came from my first attempt to make a proper shoyu tare, it turned out so well that I wanted to share it. I think if I were totally new to ramen and tares this could have turned out a lot worse for a first attempt. The experience I have gained over the past year, a bit of luck and as usual a pinch or two of some other recipes, which I'll give sources to, I ended up with a shoyu tare that was delicious, complex and full of Umami, this time using no MSG !
I have three books that I come back to again and again when looking for ideas and inspiration, I had a quick glance through them and found some base ingredients and techniques I wanted to use. If you are just getting into making your own ramen or already deeply invested I still highly recommend any of these books.
All three are great books for beginners, especially the first by the great Brian Macduckston from the Ramen Adventures youtube channel, you should check out his channel if you haven't already, I learned a lot about authentic ramen from his channel. Ivan Ramen from Ivan Orkin is also a great read and gives the recipe to his signature shio ramen. The third is by far my favorite by Sarh Gavigan, Ramen Otaku (otaku meaning obsessed in japan). Sarah really inspires me because she worked in an unrelated career for a long time before becoming 'otaku' with ramen, started doing popups and eventually opened her own restaurant.
Anyway, I'm getting side tracked. I started with the recipe from Ramen at Home, but I didn't understand why you would only briefly steep the kombu and other fish based ingredients for a few minutes, as I want to extract as much glutamate, inosinate, guanylate and flavor as possible. This can be achieved by keeping the contents of the pot at a constant temperature, 65 Celcius (150 F) is ideal. You have to be careful though, boiling these types of ingredients can end up give off bitter flavors and kombu can also start to become slimy, so I've heard. I use a digital thermometer and keep a constant watch on the pot, adjust the temperature as needed and my results have been pretty consistent. It's a really useful piece of kit and I highly recommend you purchase one.
My other issue with his recipe is that there is not much in the way of sweetness or acidity added to the tare. I then had a quick look at the recipe in the Ramen Otaku book, this one was quite a bit more complex and used ingredients I didn't have access to, but what I took from this was Sarah's technique for simmering the ingredients at a constant low temperature for a longer period. She also added some sweetness from cane sugar and acidity from rice wine vinegar, which I liked.
I didn't have any cane sugar so I just used regular sugar and I used some Chinese black vinegar instead of rice vinegar, Zhenjiang Vinegar to be specific, it has a nice smokiness to it that I like and it worked well. I also added another ingredient that was originally going to be a topping. I was oven roasting some cherry tomatoes and forgot about them, leaving them in the oven a bit too long, they just didn't look presentable any more, so with them naturally being little umami bombs and also sweet and acidic, I though I'd just throw them in the tare too.
I was really happy with the result of this recipe, there is room for improvement as always. I used about 30 ml of this tare to 300 ml of stock. I used a unsalted store bought chicken stock as I was just experimenting, but I think this tare would be amazing with my usual homemade chicken stock. If you are new to ramen and making tares, this is a good starting point, play with it, add flavors you like, adjust quantities, cooking times be creative and done be afraid to mess up and make something that turns out terrible, its all part of learning.
Image source: Shoyu Ramen @ Taisho Ken @ Paris - https://www.flickr.com/photos/o_0/26875970130
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Cooking time: 3.5 hours
Equipment: digital thermometer, blender, fine mesh strainer
Servings: 1 liter approx (30ml per 300 ml unsalted stock/broth)
As with my other tare recipes, they are pretty simple to make. The most important and maybe tricky part to making this is keeping it a constant temperature. So I highly recommend you buy a digital thermometer for this.
Also the quality of the ingredients is important, If you spend a little more time sourcing ingredients and probably little bit more $ you will get much better results. Firstly you can use plain old Kikkoman for the soy, its better than most and most cheaper brands of soy add a lot of artificial flavors and ingredients. Use distilled water. I buy my shiitakes from an organic supplier here in Norway called Vår Gård, they are a little bit pricey, but they grow them using all natural methods and are the best shiitakes I have ever tried, my mouth waters just from smelling them. If you are interested you can check out their facebook page (I'm in no way affiliated). The dried fish ingredients I bought online from a Japanese importer in the UK and the kombu I found in a Japanese food store in Oslo. When buying kombu you should try find kombu from Japan as it tends to be the best quality, there are a lot of cheaper kombu's around, of course I haven't tried them all, but the ones I did were way to briny and over powering. If you can find it "Ma-Kombu" is king of the kombu's and generally the best quality and most popular.
Also another important but tedious step is to remove the stomachs and head from the dried anchovies. If you leave them on they will give off a nasty bitterness to the tare.
As always, my serving recommendations are based on my preference, some like more salt, others less. You should always start with less tare, perhaps 20 ml and work up from there until you find a level of salinity you are happy with.
So that's it, I hope you try and enjoy this recipe. Use it as a base for your own, play with it, add flavors you like and don't be afraid to screw it up, you will learn something from it !
If you have any questions just comment below or DM on Instagram.