Perfecting Tori Paitan

Opening day of Mensho Tokyo in SF.

Opening day of Mensho Tokyo in SF.

My first bowl of Tori Paitan.

My first bowl of Tori Paitan.

Tori Paitan is one of the up and coming ramen broth that is popping up slowly over the United States. "Tori" stands for chicken and "Paitan" refers to a white and creamy soup. Most people who I talk to always say Tonkotsu is their favorite as they love the thick, creamy and flavorful broth. However very few know about its chicken based cousin.

I can still remember the first time that I ever tried Tori Paitan. It was at Mensho Tokyo in San Francisco. I had the crazy idea of going on opening day and waited two hours for them to open their doors. I was lucky to be let into the restaurant in the first wave of patrons unlike the poor saps who were around the corner a block away. The soup was thick like gravy but had a deep chicken flavor like no other. The noodles were thick like tsukemen noodle, which paired well as the broth was as thick if not thicker than any tsukemen that I have ever tried. This bowl turned my world upside down and showed me the art of perfection in a bowl of ramen.

Many people know the basics of making Tonkotsu Ramen. You essentially boil down the bones until they are brittle, beat them down like Mayweather was beating down McGregor in boxing. After 18 plus hours you are left with a thick emulsion of collagen, fat and meaty goodness.  Tori Paitan is made using the same principle but with chicken bones. However because the bones of chicken are less dense than pork bones, you are able to extract a lot more in less amount of time. You can get a chicken broth in 10 hours to be as thick and rich as a pork broth that took 20 hours.

I have tried making Tori Paitan several times before and trying to imitate the bowl that I had at Mensho Tokyo. My first attempt I boiled chicken bones until they were brittle and crumbled, however I could not get that thick texture, that Mensho Signature thickness. I noticed that their Tori Paitan had a grainy texture so I figured that they blended in some sort of starch into their broth. My first thought was that they used cauliflower... and to my surprise it sort of worked. The cauliflower diluted the chicken flavor but it gave the broth a great texture. It was close, but it just wasn't quite right...

To increase the chicken flavor for my second version, I blended in chicken skin and reduced my broth to unimaginable levels. The chicken flavor was definitely there, however the broth was sticky with concentrated collagen. It coated every surface of my mouth in an off putting way. For my third and latest attempt, RamenBeast and Ramen_lord pointed out that Mensho blended in the meat and bones into the broth. That was it... that was the answer. It worked and it was great. However in the process I broke my hand blender. RIP.

After three attempts, my tori paitan has become a delicious bowl. Is it perfect? Far from it. There is definitely some needed refinement of the tare but I find comfort in the fact that I have come this far.