Shortcut Pork Ramen: One Pork Shoulder, Many Meals

By Charleen - September 03, 2020

Pork shoulder has got to be one of my favorite cuts of meat. It is the starting point for Chinese char siu bbq pork, Mexican carnitas, Carolina bbq and other forms of pulled pork and a variety of stews. Even after all the meat has been enjoyed, a rich broth made from frozen bones, mushroom stems and onion scraps yields another round of deliciousness. With the help of an Instant Pot, I've developed a simple version of chashu pork ramen, complete with marinated ramen eggs and a flexible array of vegetable toppings. 

Pork ramen dinner#1 with marinated eggs, pickled ginger, crispy button mushrooms, zucchini/onions and Shanghai bok choy sum

Chashu pork is a Japanese adaptation of the Chinese char siu 叉燒 barbecue pork. The Chinese version yields crisp, succulent browned chunks of meat in a sweet-salty glaze. It is quick to cook, adaptable for indoor broiling or outdoor grilling. In contrast, the Japanese version of chashu consists of slow braised, melt-in-your-mouth slices of fatty pork flavored with soy sauce, sake and sugar. Traditionally, chashu takes a long time to make, marinating in sauce overnight after being braised for a few hours. It forms a succulent topping for springy golden ramen noodles in a rich broth.

At the beginning of the pandemic shutdown, I was able to get a fresh 10-pound pork shoulder, cut in half, from Goodness Grows Farms. We have, thus far, enjoyed multiple dishes made from one of the halves, ranging from a saucy stir-fry served over crisp noodle cakes to cellophane noodles, sticky rice or homemade broad rice noodles enriched with char siu pork.  With the shoulder bone, combined with a prior bone from making char siu pork, I was able to make enough stock to support several rounds of ramen, each time with slightly different toppings.
Ramen Dinner 2. Freshly fried pork cracklings, mushrooms, chashu pork, pickled ginger and leftover vegetables from the night before.
The stock is best made the day before, so that you can skim the flavorful fat from the top for other uses. I decided to apply the marinade for the ramen eggs to the meat removed from the soup bones after the stock was made, as the ingredients are similar to those used for braising chashu. This worked amazingly well! On the day of serving, you can prepare the other toppings and season the broth in advance. When ready to serve, simply cook the noodles, and heat the broth to a boil before assembling the most delicious ramen bowls!

Making the pork bone broth

As with a ham bone used to enrich split pea and bean soups, or the obligatory post-Thanksgiving roast turkey noodle soup, the bones that would be so easy to throw away are the secret shortcut to amazing dishes to make later. If any stir-fries involve cutting meat off of a bone, pop that raw T-bone or pork chop bone into the freezer. Bones removed from roasted meats should also be frozen. Got some tough mushroom stems or vegetable roots and trimmings? Into re-usable containers in the freezer. Indeed, my extended family now knows to save the Honey Baked ham bone for me to take home, knowing they will be able to enjoy ham bone vegetable lentil soup when we get together again for ski weekends. 
Pork shoulder bone from Goodness Grows farm with attached meat and skin, a previously roasted shoulder bone, assorted frozen vegetable trimmings and a small steak bone.

The frozen bones along with their attached meat, frozen mushroom stems, and the tougher ends of vegetables (onions, celery, carrot, parsley, cilantro) are all placed in a 6-qt or 8 qt Instant Pot, and filled with water up to the max fill line.  Cook at high pressure for 1 h. 
Add water to cover the bones and vegetable ends, up to the maximum fill line (2/3 capacity)

You can allow the stock to rest in the closed pot for a while before moving to the next step, or do a quick release for more immediate use. Once you open the pot, remove the larger bones to a plate, and then strain the smaller bits out. The stock can be seasoned and used immediately, or boiled to concentrate by about 50% for easier storage in glass jars for later use. 
Strain out the smaller bits. Boil stock to concentrate, if desired.
Because of the pandemic, I was careful to save everything from this pork shoulder, not just the bone and attached meat, but also the fatty rind cut trimmed from the surface. Last Thanksgiving, I had discovered that the 1-hour Instant Pot stock program was enough to extract all the flavor and the silky gelatin from the bones similar to overnight slow-cooking. However, in contrast to the tasteless, flabby meat generated by the slow cooker, the meat that peeled easily off of the Instant Pot cooked bones was still highly palatable with a perfect texture and flavor. 
Shoulder bones with attached meat and small portion of fatty skin (upper right) for Ramen Dinners 1-2
So I decided to serve this meat as a topping for ramen (See Shortcut Chashu, below). I also kept all of the fat to either render into lard for pastries, or to fry up delicious cracklings as a ramen topping for Day 2.

The stock was refrigerated in the pot for ramen the next day.  

Marinade for Ramen Eggs and Shortcut Chashu

Ramen eggs are marinated soft-boiled or jammy eggs, and they are delicious in Asian noodle soups!  They can be stored for several days in the refrigerator, and cut in half just before serving. The simmering broth can be used to rewarm the eggs for about 30 sec if desired. We find that the heat from the broth is sufficient to warm everything up if room temperature egg halves are simply laid on top.

My favorite egg takes 6.5 minutes to simmer after being lowered into gently boiling water. This is long enough to ensure that the whites are fully cooked, while the outside of the yolk is a bit jammy with a molten center. I have yet to achieve consistency when trying to use an Instant Pot or sous vide stick. Lower the eggs into already simmering water, and after 6.5 minutes, remove the eggs and allow to cool in a bowl of iced water until they can be peeled. 

Meanwhile, make the marinade. The first time I made ramen eggs, I scaled down an online recipe for ajitsuke tamago, except that I prefer to use reusable containers instead of single use plastic bags. If the marinade does not fully cover the eggs, they may need to be turned a few times to achieve an even color. The marinade is made by heating 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup Shaoxing rice wine (recipe called for sake), 1/4 cup mirin (optional) and 2 Tbs sugar until the sugar is dissolved. Allow the marinade to cool before adding the eggs. The eggs can be left into marinade for several hours to a few days. The marinade can be reboiled and reused for many batches of eggs, as with a Chinese master sauce.
Ramen Eggs for Dinner 1
After the eggs got dark enough, I stored them in a separate container in the refrigerator, then used the sauce to marinate the pork removed from the bones after making the stock.
Pork, cauliflower stems and rehydrated shiitake mushrooms after marinating for Ramen Dinner 3.
For the third batch of ramen I made from this stock, I used leftover marinade from a recipe from Grace Young's cookbook The Breath of a Wok entitled Florence Lin's Smoked Chicken and Eggs. This recipe involves puncturing the wide end of the egg, and gently cracking the eggs in the ice water to soak for 1 min before peeling. This resulted in the shells coming off neatly. My family preferred this marinade: 2 Tbs soy sauce, 1 tsp sesame oil, 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp salt - no heating and cooling needed.
Florence Lin's Tea Smoked Chicken and Eggs from Breath of a Wok - leftover marinade was used for Ramen Dinner 3
The simplest marinade is from this site, with equal parts soy sauce and mirin, plus water to taste. Any of these marinades can be applied to hard cooked eggs or poached eggs as well. I would suggest playing around with these to determine which you like the best!

Seasoning the Ramen Soup Base

The next afternoon, I skimmed the solidified fat off the top of the broth, to be used to brown mushrooms, corn or other vegetable toppings.  I reheated the stock in the pot and added the following seasonings for about 10-12 cups of unsalted stock.
        1/4 cup soy sauce (Or 2 Tbs soy and 2 Tbs miso)
        2 Tbs mirin
        1/2 tsp cinnamon
        1/4 tsp nutmeg
        1/2-1 tsp salt (or to taste)
        2 Tbs chili oil
        1/2 tsp sugar
        1/2 cup of mushroom soaking water
Taste and adjust seasonings if needed. Allow the stock to simmer while you prepare the toppings.
Adding mushroom soaking water to flavor the broth

From this potful of stock, we had enough to enjoy two nights of ramen for 3.  The second night was super easy as we used leftover toppings enlivened with some freshly fried pork cracklings.

The leftover seasoned stock was frozen, and later combined with freshly made stock for Ramen Dinner 3, adding the appropriate amount of seasonings for the volume of the new, unsalted stock.
Ramen Dinner 3 - Freshly made unseasoned stock was combined with frozen seasoned stock leftover from Ramen Dinners 1 & 2

Ramen Toppings

In addition to the pork and ramen eggs, adding a variety of vegetables really serves to elevate the dish to another level. This is highly customizable, and a great use of leftovers.


Mushrooms play a key role in many forms of ramen, particularly the vegetarian versions. In January 2020, I made ramen from scratch for the first time, using the recipe for Spring Shio Ramen with Baby Bok Choy, Peas, and Soft-boiled Eggs from Ramen Obsession by Imatome-yun & Donovan. While tasty and visually appealing, I had to use almost every pan and measuring cup I had in the house! I almost decided that ramen just might be too fussy to include into my regular cooking repertoire.
Vegetarian ramen with peas, rehydrated dried shiitakes, scallion oil and eggs from the Ramen Obsession e-cookbook.

But I did learn that both the Shio Tare and the Shiitake Dashi relied heavily upon dried shiitakes to add flavor. The Shio Tare produced extremely salty mushrooms that had to be discarded, while the Shiitake Dashi was essentially just the soaking water leftover from rehydrating dried shiitakes. So one great shortcut involves simply filtering the mushroom soaking water for ramen or other dishes through cheesecloth or a paper towel to get rid of particulates. The jar can be kept in either refrigerator or freezer -- adding more soaking water to the top as dried mushrooms are used for other dishes. 

With that in mind, the simplest way to incorporate mushrooms is to rehydrate 2-4 shiitakes in water to cover in a bowl. Once they are soft, remove the tough stems and freeze them in your miscellaneous stock container. Thinly slice the caps and set aside as a ramen topping. And then filter the soaking liquid and add it to the stock. 

Alternatively, you can slice up any type of fresh mushroom.  Heat some vegetable oil, butter or the lard skimmed off the top of the stock in a pan and cook the mushrooms until they are golden and starting to get crispy.  Drain the oil and set aside as a topping
After cooking cracklings for Ramen Dinner 2, the leftover fat was used to brown buttom mushrooms, seasoned with salt, pepper and some smoked paprika.


There is a wide array of quick cooking vegetables that can be used to enrich ramen. 

Spinach or peas - the easiest way to add fresh green color to your ramen. Spinach leaves or fresh peas or their shoots can be wilted directly in the hot bowl without precooking. Frozen peas just have to be thawed.

Chinese greens - there are a variety of tender green Chinese vegetables, many in the Brassica family, that can be used. Bok choy, which comes in both the traditional white stalk-dark green leaf variety, or the more muted Shanghai bok choy with its light green stalks and medium green leaves are both suitable. Larger vegetables should be cut up and lightly sauteed first. Or you can buy baby bok choy in either variety, called bok choy sum. "Sum" means "heart" in the Cantonese dialect. 

Corn - Either drained canned corn or freshly cut corn off the cob make for interesting additions to ramen. The corn can be toasted in a wok or skillet using some of the fat skimmed from the top of the broth for a rich, browned flavor.
For Ramen Dinner 3, the toppings were poached eggs in marinade, stir-fried green beans and fresh corn kernels browned in pork fat.

Any other leftover vegetable - For the first two shortcut ramens I made in June, I had some zucchini that needed to be used. So I cut little sticks and stir-fried them with onions in butter. For the third dinner in July, when I combined a new batch of bone stock with the frozen leftover ramen broth from June, I used fresh green beans and the cauliflower stalk that had been part of the vegetable scraps used for the new batch of Instant Pot stock. Cabbage, carrots, daikon radish would also make tasty, if non-traditional additions.
Ramen Dinner 3 - with poached ramen egg, green beans, corn, cauliflower and shortcut chashu pork using Quon Yick noodles cooked in alkalinized water.

Crunchy or Pickled Toppings

Pickled ginger I have grown to adore ginger in all its forms, although I did not much like it growing up. The easiest way to store ginger is unwrapped in the refrigerator, but it will eventually shrivel up. These bits can be used to add warmth to any dried tea. Another way to store ginger is to wash and slice it while it is still fresh and plump. The slices can be laid out on a baking sheet so they are not touching and frozen.  Once frozen, I transfer them into a small reusable container. Individual frozen slices can be chopped directly with no need to defrost into either strips or diced. However, one of my favorite ways to preserve ginger is to slice it and pickle it. It can be stored for a few months in the refrigerator, and adds a fantastic flavor to salads and soups. 

    Pickled Ginger
        2 ounces (w) ginger root
        2 cups water
        1/3 to 1/2 cup rice vinegar
        4 tsp sugar
        1/2 tsp salt

1. Peel ginger with the edge of a teaspoon. Slice thinly (1/8 inch) to make about 1/2 cup.
2. In a small saucepan, bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Cook ginger for 30 sec. Drain in a colander. Pack the ginger into a clean glass jar.
3. In the same saucepan, combine vinegar, sugar and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve sugar and salt, and boil for 1 minute.
4. Pour the hot pickling liquid into the jar with the ginger. Press down on the ginger to be sure it is submerged. Cover with a clean lid and let cool at room temperature. Refrigerate at least overnight before using. 

Pork cracklings - While not always present on grocery store pork shoulders, the whole pork shoulder I bought from Goodness Grows had a small amount of the pork rind attached.  I had separated this from the meat before adding the chashu marinade. On the second day of ramen bowls, since I already had leftover toppings prepared, I decided to slice up the rind and pan-fry it in its own fat like bacon. This gave rise to the most delectable, melt-in-your-mouth crisps.
Frying up the pressure-cooked pork rinds after separating from the bones and meat.

Crispy scallions and scallion oil - These take a bit of time to make, but once made, the oil stores well to add a fresh onion flavor when drizzled over soups or salads. 
    1/2 cup safflower or other neutral vegetable oil
    2 bunches of green onions, trimmed into 2 inch segments
Heat oil over medium-high heat. Add scallions and watch carefully. When oil is bubbling, immediately reduce heat to low and cook for 30-45 min, stirring occasionally until the scallions are turning brown. 
Immediately strain oil through a metal sieve into a clean glass jar, pressing on solids to get all the oil.
Drain the fried scallions on a clean dish towel, and use to top ramen or eat as snacks. 

Chili oil - As described in my Dan Dan noodles recipe, chili oil is made by heating a neutral oil to 225-250°F and pouring it over ground chili flakes in a jar.

Cooking the Noodles

Among the special features of ramen noodles is the springy texture that comes from the alkaline water used to make the noodles. The Instant Ramen noodles can be used as well, but I always feel bad throwing away the MSG- and salt-laden spice packets due to the resources used for creating the disposable packaging. Luckily, there are sources of plain ramen noodles in Asian grocery stores -- either in fresh form, or with multiple squares or bundles of ramen within the same larger packaging.
Baking soda in the noodle cooking water tends to foam up
Another solution is to use the noodles that you have. We love the Quon Yick egg noodles for a variety of dishes, including spaghetti and western pasta dishes in addition to chow mein and other Asian dishes. Adding a Tbs of baking soda per gallon of cooking water of Quon Yick noodles required standing by the stove closely to adjust the heat to prevent boilovers!  But the results were delicious!
Quon Yick regular thickness noodles cooked in bicarbonate

Assembling the Ramen Bowls

To serve, I generally divide the noodles into individual serving bowls, and lay out the topping choices on a platter or in individual bowls or jars. 
Ramen Dinner 2 toppings. Chile oil, scallion oil or pork fat for richness. Leftover zucchini and bok choy. Freshly fried mushrooms in the wok, cracklings and leftover marinated short cut chashu.
Each person arranges the toppings that appeal to them over the noodles.  Then simply bring the seasoned broth back up to a full, rolling boil and ladle over the top of the bowls. Garnish with chopped or crispy scallions, cracklings and seasoned oils (chili, sesame or scallion).  Enjoy!
Another view of Ramen Dinner 1

Love2Chow Shortcut Pork Ramen

Do Ahead

Hours to several days in advance

    1. Make the stock. Save the meat, skin and any vegetables that remain palatable.

    2. Prepare the marinade and ramen eggs

    3. Slice up and marinade the meat removed from the shoulder bones after making the stock for the shortcut chashu. 

Day of Preparation

    1. Reheat and season the stock to taste using the ratios above as a general guideline. You want it to be a little stronger than the final dish, as the noodles are unseasoned.  Keep warm

    2. Prepare vegetables as toppings. These should be in bite-sized pieces compatible with chopsticks. Be sure to season any vegetables that are pre-cooked. 

    3. Cook, drain and divide up the noodles into individual bowls.  Add meat and vegetable toppings except for eggs, herbs and crispy toppings.

    4. Bring seasoned stock to rolling boil.  Spoon into individual bowls. Bisect and add ramen eggs. Garnish with herbs, seasoned oils and any crispy toppings.

    5. Enjoy!

🐾 Taking a hint from Jacques Pepin, I have sought out quart sized milk cartons as they are easy to open and shut in the freezer. After the milk is gone, I wash them out and place them in my freezer. Whenever I have vegetable scraps, I add them to the carton. When it is full, it is time to make stock.

🍃 Once you have a broth seasoned to your liking, the flavors are assertive enough to accommodate a wide variety of toppings. Noodle soups like ramen are traditionally a great way to bring new life to leftovers. Don't get caught up with following recipes -- have some fun playing with toppings once you have the basic broth and noodles.


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