Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Jan 24, 2012 10:53 PM

Using unflavored gelatin in a cheater broth...

I was trying to do some research on this last night as I was putting together a batch of "cheater" ramen (A Test Kitchen style Tonkatsu that involves making a quick broth with chicken broth, ground pork ribs, garlic, ginger and onions). I didn't have any homemade stock on hand and I had to use boxed stock. I was hoping to create a dish that would at least be shadow of ramen greatness to ease my unending first trimester desires for noodle soups...
Since I was taking so many shorrtcuts, I wondered if I could simulate the viscous quality of really good ramen by adding a bit of Knox...and if so how much should I add?
I looked on google, that led me to the CH message boards where the general answer is "why do that, just use chicken feet!".
So I tried it and I have two announcements:
First is that the Test Kitchen recipe makes the best Ramen to be had at home in less than an hour. It sort of leans on the Miso for the flavor (the stock isn't complete enough to stand on it's own)- but if I ordered it at a local spot and I had a bowl of what I made-I would definitely go back.
Two- adding a packet of Knox elevated the stock to new heights- it made the stock viscous and rich. Tasting the broth before and after the stock was like night and day: it went from being "pretty tasty" to "holy cow I can't believe I made this in my kitchen."

So- if you are stuck using canned/ boxed broth in a quick recipe and it needs that bit if silky ooomph and you have no chicken feet on hand for such emergencies- a bit of unflavored gelatin might actually do the trick.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I have heard of the trick before. You can boost the chicken taste with "Better than Bouillon" low sodium chicken base too. I would think it would have to be at least a quart of broth to use an entire packet of gelatin.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hank Hanover

      I think it depends on how long it sits. I had about two pints of broth and I added the gelatin to "taste" and served it immediately. .5 packet was okay, but the whole packet was better. But if I had to keep around for a while I think less would have been better.

    2. Thanks for writing up your findings.

      Also take a look down at the bottom of the page right now. There is a Chow review of the vegetarian ramen at Chuko in NY. In that, they show how they give body to a vegetarian broth - basically they make a ginger scallion oil (easily made by blending ginger and scallions in oil and then letting that sit for a while), and then emulsify that into the broth with an immersion blender. Different approach, but I tried it recently and liked the result.

      1. Boxed stock and powdered gelatin should be never be used in the same sentance as "ramen greatness." The two concepts do not live in the same universe. For that matter, best quality homemade stock and "ramen greatness" do not live in the same universe.

        5 Replies
        1. re: JudiAU

          Why would it be impossible to make top-quality ramen broth at home? I don't believe the process involves any plutonium...

          1. re: cowboyardee

            As a matter of fact you should be able to make a better stock at home.
            You have no profit margin to maintain and no one will balk at the price of your Ramen. So you are free to be extravagant as you like.

          2. re: JudiAU

            JudiAU - Would you care to read the whole sentence: "in the shadow of ramen greatness" and take it in context please? I knew I wasn't going to get an elite product: I am not pretending to be a Japanese chef trained for decades. I am not hoping to become the woman from Tampopo churning out bowls of perfect soup on a street corner.

            But what I made certainly stood up to what the fancy, new ramen shops that sell steaming bowls of ramen for $12.00 a pop serve. And it was WAY better than anything I've had from our crappy Japanese Ramen shops- and that made me REALLY happy. Not all of us live in towns with really good ramen-it's been the one thing I haven't been able to find in Portland.

            So I dare you: I'll write the recipe/technique down and you can buy $10 in ingredients and make a bowl of cheater ramen in an hour and THEN I give you permission to be snobby about it. :)

            My whole point to this post was to provide an answer to a question that NOT ONE person had a answer to. Most replies were similar to yours and it made me wonder: why are we going to turn away from culinary experimentation by getting locked into our own snobbery? How can we learn new things about cooking if we shut down ideas about how things are done because we will only do it the "right" way or we only let current trends guide our actions in the kitchen? I vote we try more and judge less.

            1. re: CarlyJayne

              My husband is from Tokyo and never eats ramen outside of Japan as he is invariably disappointed (one exception was Bangkok).
              Good on you for finding an approximation that makes you happy.

              Here are some tips that were on British TV last night that might help you improve your 1 hour ramen project:

              Getting the most from chicken:
              Milk powder is recommended to boost the caramelised flavours in the roast chicken.
              I've no idea what happens when pork fat is added to the mix but it might be worth a try.

              And here's an alternative idea for the gelatinous mouth feel you crave using an unflavoured gelatin. The technique is described in the "sauce" component in this recipe:
              Basically you use agar agar to set the chicken stock and once it's set you then liquidise the jellied stock with a blender/food processor. THEN you can use it in your home made ramen dish.

              1. re: MoGa

                'Basically you use agar agar to set the chicken stock and once it's set you then liquidise the jellied stock with a blender/food processor. THEN you can use it in your home made ramen dish.'
                That's called a 'fluid gel.' It's one of the staples of molecular gastronomy. It results in a very smooth mouth feel but also in a thicker liquid. Cool technique to know.

          3. Thanks for the tip CarlyJane - and happy 1st trimester :)

            When you say "Test Kitchen" do you mean America's Test Kitchen?

            1. CarlyJayne - don't get bent out of shape by a few on here.

              I have never used Knox to bump up a chicken dish, I'll give it a try some night. I have used it in quick beef stews when I haven't had the time to really develop a beef stock and it works wonders with that too.