George Itoh and Andy Tam took tonkotsu off the menu at Ichigoh Ramen Lounge because the broth is extremely labor intensive to make from scratch.

George Itoh and Andy Tam took tonkotsu off the menu at Ichigoh Ramen Lounge because the broth is extremely labor intensive to make from scratch.

Daniel Carde/Staff Photographer

Part of the reason ramen is booming in Dallas and around the country is the increasing availability of ingredients, including one that chefs don't like to talk about: factory-made concentrates for broths, particularly tonkotsu.

"Tonkotsu has become so mass-produced that at least 85 percent of ramen restaurants throughout the nation use concentrates," George Itoh of Ichigoh Ramen Lounge says. "They'll add a component to improve it, to make it their own. But tonkotsu is one of the most time-consuming and labor-intensive soups to make. That's why almost no one can make it legitimately. Even if you cut corners, it takes over 10 hours."

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Teiichi Sakurai of Tei-An estimates that more than half of tonkotsu broths are from concentrate, and he and Itoh agree that it can be hard to spot. Generally, a reconstituted broth will have an artificially bright white color or a flecked appearance. Sometimes, the broth will be thin because it was overly diluted.

The slight animal flavor you sometimes find in tonkotsu isn't a sign of reconstituted broth but of poorly made broth. To get that pure, milky quality, you need to start with good, clean bones and blanch them before the long, hard boil to emulsify the fat and create that creamy texture. The process can take more than 20 hours.

That's why some of the best shops are swinging away from tonkotsu and focusing on chicken broths, such as the milky paitan, made with the same hard boil as tonkotsu, or the lighter chintan or vegetable broths.

Even those are a commitment, taking eight to 10 hours at the stove. And of course, they are only one component in a bowl of simple noodle soup, which, like most simple things, involves endless complications when it is done well.

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