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Ramen Resolution: Ramen At Home

Ramen Resolution: Ramen At Home

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Here we are, teetering on the precipice of a second COVID lockdown. Whether it’s just a short ‘Tier 2 circuit breaker’ or something longer remains to be seen.

We’ve all learnt lessons from enduring the first few months of the Coronavirus pandemic. No doubt there will be many more to learn.

One lesson we should all aim to learn is how to make ramen as good as the ramen I was treated to on Thursday.

Cooking for other people can be stressful. Dietary requirements. Allergies. Timings. Striking the balance between cooking and entertaining. Add to that, cooking somebody one of their favourites foods AND one which they (ridiculously) review online.

And so it was, earlier this week when Nick decided he would make his signature chicken ramen for me. BOLD!

But you know, it’s October. The world is a mess; we could all do with a bowl of chicken soup!

Some ingredients arrived and the process began…

Nick started cooking at about 11:00. We ate at 19:30. A goooooood percentage of that time went into preparing the broth. There were a whole host of things simmering away for most of the day. My kitchen smelt (and still smells) wonderful!

Surprisingly for a chicken-based broth it was quite opaque and had more sweet, sticky, slurpyness than I had anticipated.

Years of searching and the perfect packet noodles still evade me. Some are too curly. Other too straight. I’m not sure what brand we had on Thursday (there was no English on the packaging at all) but they were good; not too soggy, even after being submerged in broth for a while.

Four types of mushrooms and homegrown spring onions bobbed around. Perfectly tender chicken thigh meat joined it. As did an egg.

Nick stressed over the egg. He appreciates that it’s arguably the showpiece of any bowl of ramen. He needn’t have worried, the slightly runny yolks and soft pillowy whites were glorious.

Was this authentic ramen? No, but does that matter? Well yes, to a purist I suppose it would. To me, the guy who enjoyed the addition of cheese to ramen in Washington DC, it was flavoursome and filling. Which is essentially what I’m looking for in my noodles.

Learn how to make ramen this good. Better, find someone to make you ramen this good. Take lockdown one bowl at a time.

Yummo!

P.S. here’s the recipe if you fancy giving it a whirl:

Ingredients

Chicken leg and thigh
Oyster mushrooms
Shitake mushrooms
Enoki mushrooms
Store-bought chicken ramen
Ginger
Star Anise
Garlic
Onion
Spring onions
Egg

Method

  1. Put the chicken stock, ginger, star anise, garlic, onion and chicken pieces in water.
  2. Slow cook for about 6 hours.
  3. Once done, shred chicken, cook mushrooms and noodles and spring onions in the broth.
  4. Serve with egg.
Ramen Resolution: Ramo Ramen

Ramen Resolution: Ramo Ramen

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Let’s be upfront about this, lockdown has significantly affected my access to noodles. That, in turn, means I’ve had little to blog about. It’s been a tough time for everyone. There are support lines available.

However, the time has not been wasted and I’m the proud owner of a list of places to check out as restrictions are reduced.

With that in mind, when Nick had the genius idea of grabbing ramen I was quick to consider CoCoRo in Bloomsbury. CoCoRo self describes as ‘a space with a feel of genuine Japan in central London’. This authenticity sounded just the ticket after a few misguided attempts at making ramen at home.

But, sad news: CoCoRo remains temporarily closed until further notice. *shakes fist*

I turned back to my list and opted to go with a slightly off the beaten track (i.e. out of Zone 1) option, Ramo Ramen in Kentish Town.

My interest was piqued by the idea of Filipinx-Japanese ramen. What even is that?!

There seemed to be a slight nod towards a movie theme in the decor, which I did’t really understand. 

We’d both had a chance to study the menu in advance so we were quick to order the miso baked prawn gyoza, the squid karrage and two bowls of the award-winning oxtail kare kare ramen; 2018 winner of Battle of the Broths.

I braved it and opted to drink something called a Dragons Fizz. This turned out to be a tropical sherbety mocktail in a luminous green. Nick chose a large glass of milo with tapioca balls. I’m going to say it, lumpy drinks are not the one for me. 

The squid karrage isn’t listed on the online menu, so this was a nice surprise addition of tender squid and crisp and salty batter. 

Prawn gyoza sounds fairly typical, but the twist here is that they are baked and then smothered in bechamel sauce and cheese. It was an interesting concept, kind of like a tiny prawn lasagne. 

The ramen broth was a rich earthy brown colour, slightly oily but without the same stickiness of a tonkotsu broth. Dotted through the soup were plump shitake mushrooms, crisp spring onions, bamboo shoots, slightly sweet pea shoots and gloriously soft golden yolked eggs. Then there, slightly off centre, was a mound of deliciously soft and peanutty pulled oxtail which Nick agreed was “the perfect amount of meat” adding that the meat seemed to be the source of the peanuttyness. 

I also really liked the stoneware bowls! 

In a panic, I asked for the bill before we’d had a chance to order the mango peach pie for desert. So that’s the excuse for a return visit!

Randomly, the bill was presented in a Kill Bill 2 DVD case (why?!). At £12.50 a bowl it’s far from the cheapest you can find, but as a post-lockdown treat it was an absolute bargain! 

I have to dock some points for the music selection. Back-to-back Justin Timberlake is the last thing we need in 2020. Especially if not one of those songs is ‘Mirrors’.

So, drumroll…

I’m awarding Ramo Ramen a very strong 4.6 out of 5. 

Ramen Resolution: Kanada-Ya (again!)

Ramen Resolution: Kanada-Ya (again!)

Reading Time: 2 minutes

‘Exciting’ wasn’t a word I associated with ramen noodles, until Thursday that is…

There’s something about the Covent Garden branch of Kanada-Ya that feels really authentic. I’ve been there a handful of times now and the food has never disappointed.

It’s definitely up there with my favourite noodle places in London. Whenever someone needs to be inducted into the club, it’s my first choice. Paul indicated he might need a fork, so reader, I was already nervous about how the evening might turn out.

It was a rainy Thursday in London’s glittering west end. I was, naturally, running late. I would like to blame the Hammersmith and City line, I really would. But I can only really blame myself for allowing 20 mins for a 35 min journey!

Damp and disheveled I met Paul at The Angel, a pub literally next door. Now, Sam Smith pubs have a No Phones rule. They’re not shy about it, and it seriously rubs me up the wrong way. But, it meant I had put my phone into my bag so as not to be distracted.

As we left the pub I transferred my phone to my jacket pocket.

We sat down in Kanada-Ya. It’s communal tables which lends to the authenticity. We ordered and got back to chatting.

Our food arrived. I’d chosen the Chasu-Men ramen, because I always see other people having it and get jealous of the amount of meat. Paul chose the brothless ramen (basically noodle salad). We split chicken karrage and pork gyoza.

As with earlier visits, the broth was TO DIE FOR. Like a rookie though, I had forgotten to add an egg. Note to self: pay attention when ordering! The karrage was slightly on the salty side but incredibly crispy. The gyoza were a tad disappointing, tasting a bit like the oil they had been fried in had been there for ‘a while’.

We got up to leave and I scoured around in the floor for my bag. It had gone. But another bag was there, so I, in an unusually optimistic moment, presumed it was a case of mistaken bag retrieval by our earlier table-mates. The staff noticed our dilemma though, and were quick on the case to check out the toilets and advise that no, this was more than likely a theft.

Damn!

Not to be deterred, the evening continued but it left me feeling slightly like ramen noodles that have been cooked too long. Limp and disappointing.

Thankfully I’d got my phone, wallet and keys, so it could have been a lot more of an issue.

However, other than a reminder to never not be paying attention, the noodles remained up to their high standard, and this experience doesn’t change Kanada-Ya’s place near the top of my list.

Ramen Resolution – Shoryu (2)

Ramen Resolution – Shoryu (2)

Reading Time: 2 minutesIs there anything better than autumnal noodles? Cool crisp evenings juxtaposed with the comfort and warmth of ramen. Perfection.

And so I found myself with my friend Melissa gorging on ramen at Shoryu a few weeks ago back at the scene of my very first blog!

I arrived early and despite signs saying they would only seat complete parties, I was able to grab a table at the counter (my favourite noodle eating position) and order a cocktail (my favourite preprandial activity).

A Koyo was described as an ‘elegant blend of roku gin, apricot brandy and sake’. I think the apricot made it a bit too sweet for me, and perhaps I’d have prefered something a bit sharper. Melissa arrived and grabbed an umeshu sour, which tried and she definitely made a better choice.

Not wanting to make the same misordering mistake with food I examined the seasonal specials. None of them took my fancy though, so instead opted for the Chicken Katsu Curry Ramen, oh and two steamed buns becuase what is life without a starter?

In a double nod to autumn and #MelissasAmericanAdventure we went for the fried pumpkin steamed bun

This feels a little bit like blasphemy. To me, ramen is simple whereas curry is such a complex blend of flavours. Both are delicious but in purist terms, something about mixing the two felt wrong.

However, the noodles were delicious; the rich spiciness (warmth rather than heat) making them even more perfect for a cold night.  The toppings were more limited than in the tonkotsu options, but there was a swirly fishcake. I’m not entirely sure what they are (and about 99% sure I don’t want to know) but they definitely make a bowl more instagrammable. Oh, and I fully don’t remember that prawn being there?!

Look at those swirly things. Just look at them!

Is Shoryu my favourite place: no. It feels a bit like ramen by numbers. I’d like it to be grittier, edgier or adventurous.

However, is Shoryu a dependable option, somewhere you could take a first date or your mother? Absolutely. If you’re desperate for ramen, which I often am, you can make worse choices.

Ramen Resolution – Shoryu takeout

Ramen Resolution – Shoryu takeout

Reading Time: 2 minutesMatsuri is the Japanese word for festival, and Sunday just gone saw Trafalgar Square taken over with all things Japanese.

The weather wasn’t great but stayed mostly dry and so was able to catch about an hour of the entertainment line up which included traditional dancing, some impressive hats and costumes, anime artworks and a man playing the koto (which is a bit like a lying down harp from what I could gather).

What better way to enjoy this than sitting down with a bowl of ramen and a freebie yakkult?!

I’ve been to Shoryu before, in fact, it was the very FIRST place I visited in my #RamenResolution adventure!

Dishing up noodles from a stall necessitated a more limited menu than branches of the restaurant; with just two options Tonkotsu or Spicy. Having had a spell of just regular tonkotsu’s recently I went the spicy route and wasn’t disappointed.

It looked like quite a meagre portion, but actually came away feeling full, which for street food is basically unheard of. In fact, with melt in the mouth pork and spicy but not blow-your-head-off broth I was really pleased. The only downside was the inability to properly slurp the soup.

Idea for a festival: RAMEN!! Just halls full of ramen. Yes please. Somebody make this happen!

Ramen Resolution – Koi Ramen IRL

Ramen Resolution – Koi Ramen IRL

Reading Time: 2 minutesOn a walking tour of London’s Glittering Soho™, the guide told us about the steep rise in popularity of pasta after the second world war; that Londoner’s went mad for spaghetti. That’s basically the reaction my dad had when he first tried Thai food a few years ago, he couldn’t get enough.

So, when he came down to London for the day I thought we’d introduce him to ramen, so off we set for Koi Ramen in Tooting Market (I’ve blogged before about their noodle home delivery service but this was my first time actually eating there).

Naturally, on the way I got the eye-roll-inducing moans of “£10 for a bowl of noodles” so to quiet him we stopped off at Graveney Gin first, plus I figured get him drunk and I wouldn’t have to pay!

The menu at Koi is super limited. I don’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. ‘Do a few things really well’ is a good philosophy, but as a first-timer, it can be a bit concerning to not see things you recognise. Thankfully he had me to guide him through his first ramen experience.

We both opted for the Tonkotsu, with an egg (because we all know by now that and egg should really be compulsory) and threw in a side of gyoza for good measure.

It’s always fun when you can see into the kitchen and watch the chefs work their magic.

After a few minutes, two steaming bowls of noodles were placed in front of us. Light milky broth, moist sweet pork, the richness of egg yolk and the ocean taste of nori. The noodles were the right level of hardness for me but the broth could have been slightly thicker and silkier.

My Dad was impressed with his first ramen experience and I think Koi was a great choice for authentic style ramen in the hustle and bustle of south west London.

Ramen Resolution – Kanada-Ya Islington

Ramen Resolution – Kanada-Ya Islington

Reading Time: 2 minutesI think this is the first post that I’ve written entirely on my phone! How’s that for technical wizardry?!

I’m rarely early for things, but when it does happen my favourite game to play is to tap into google maps “ramen near me” and then go tasting.

Thats exactly what I did this evening whilst waiting for friends to arrive for a gig.

Step forward Kanada-Ya Islington.

I’ve previously checked out their branches near Tottenham Court Road station and in Piccadilly, so I knew to expect good things.

Let me tell you, this could be some of the best ramen I have had in 2019.

To be honest, it’s always a good sign that you can pick your noodle hardness!

I declared 2019 “Year of the Yuzu” back in January, so my menu selection was easy, the Spicy Yuzu ramen jumped out!

Here it is…

…there it was!

The yuzu was nicely balanced, not too citrusy, but enough to cut through the frothy and salty broth; the pork was a little firm, but tasty. In hindsight it could have benefited from an egg.

Oh, and see that other plate there? I thought I’d teat myself to a ‘small plate’ of chasu pork belly. Why? Well, in a few weeks we’ll be eating wild squirrel and foraged turnips, laughing hysterically about when we could eat in restaurants.

Obviously the pork was lovely but that dipping sauce…that was absolutely devine. Definitely recommend!

Well done Kanada-Ya, you’ve done it again!

Ramen Resolution – Tatami

Ramen Resolution – Tatami

Reading Time: 2 minutesFor lunch at a work event yesterday it was a toss-up between cheese sandwiches with curly edges, or literally anything else. So a colleague and I dashed over to Flat Iron Square in London’s glittering Southwark to grab a quick bite.

Flat Iron Square is one of those trendy ‘food hall’ type places where there are lots of different types of ‘street food’ under the same roof. Notice those air quotes – because I feel like these are just new words for things that existed before.

Tatami Ramen was one of the busiest places there, but I literally only had to wait a matter of minutes before my Pork Tonkotsu order was up on the counter for collection.

For takeout noodles they were actually pretty good – the broth was salty and creamy, and there were two sheets of nori rather than the standard one, and a handful of rocket. A bonus topping, which I didn’t see listed on the menu, was crispy onions, which gave a subtle caramel sweetness.

Also, because I’m bad at cropping photos, you also get to see my shoes and a little bit of Sophie’s leg!

The noodles themselves were a tad on the soft side, and as you can see above, the egg was a little overdone; but as a quick snack, you can’t really fault Tatami.

Also worth pointing out that whilst £8 for lunch is probably a bit on the steep side, I think that is the cheapest ramen that I’ve found in London in 3 years of ramen adventures.

I’ll definitely go back (I want to try the vegan ramen, which has a kombucha based broth because hipster!) and would definitely recommend if you’re at Flat Iron Square, or just in the general London Bridge area and need a bowl of ramen!

Ramen Resolution – Bone Daddies (Soho) (again)

Ramen Resolution – Bone Daddies (Soho) (again)

Reading Time: 2 minutesThere are so many ramen places that I sometimes feel that going back to places might mean I’m missing out on new discoveries. However, if you’ve had Bone Daddies’ Korean Fried Chicken Wings then you’ll understand that it is hard to resist its siren call.

That was the case when a good friend made a spontaneous trip to London recently and I was given the task of arranging food.

Paul lives in Birmingham. The UK’s second city is not known for extensive ramen options, so I thought it was the perfect choice for us.

After a couple of drinks on Bermondsey Street, we hopped the tube a couple of stops to Soho.

Regular readers (the WordPress stats tell me there is at least one of you!) will know that I’m a regular Bone Daddies customer. You can read previous reviews here and here.

Earlier this year, to nobody in particular, I declared 2019 “Year of the Yuzu” and so when I saw Yuzu Tonkotsu on the menu that was a no-brainer option for me. Paul chose the Crab Tonkotsu and then we shared chicken wings (obvs) and pork ribs (but they arrived after I took the photo).

That’s also a green tea hanging out there, because, health.

Bone Daddies is NOT authentic Japanese ramen. The flavours are punchier, it lacks a certain elegance and restraint that seems common in lots of other places. But that does not stop it being delicious. Plus, they make their playlists available on Spotify!

They’ve created a vibe in the restaurant which makes it just a nice place to hang out, catch up with great friends and exchange stories which cannot have any place on the internet!

I recommend it to everybody, and no doubt will be back there before too long.

Ramen Resolution: Maki Ramen

Ramen Resolution: Maki Ramen

Reading Time: 2 minutesWhat to do with a spare hour in Edinburgh? That was a dilemma I faced today.

It was a toss up between going back to Union of Genius (a shop I visited in 2015 which only sells three soups each day and you can do a soup flight!) or finding a ramen place.

Maki Ramen was just around the corner from where I was, they had a 4.4 rating on Google AND I really liked their logo, so the choice had been made for me.

Hardly surprising that at 4pm I was the only customer, but the walls are decorated with post-it notes from customers and it’s clear to see that there’s a lot of love for this place. Bonus point for the ramen-based joke.

I ordered the vegetable gyoza and the black garlic tonkotsu (the online menu shows lots of different options that weren’t on the IRL one).

The ramen arrived first; burnt garlic oil and garlic chips packed a powerful garlicky punch. The broth was perhaps on the less viscous side, especially considering it was a tonkotsu, but delicious all the same.

The pork was perhaps a little dry, but they had scorched the outside edges to give a sweet, smoky crispness.

The gyoza was disappointing. Firstly, I think I ordered vegetable but pork arrived (but I could have misordered) and the filling was a bit too pureed. That would have been ok ordinarily, but instead of a dipping sauce, the tangy ponzo had been drizzled over the dumplings. This made even the fried crispy part soggy, so it was all just a bit wet.

Maki Ramen was good enough, relatively cheap, and well located. But other than the pork there was nothing extra special about it, so I’m awarding a middle-of-the-road 3/5.