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Ramen Resolution – Ippudo Villers St

Ramen Resolution – Ippudo Villers St

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

I’m back back back again with another ramen blog, and it feels like an eternity since my last post.

Post lockdown life has resumed and I was heading to see one of my favourite artists (L Devine, stream her album, buy her merch!) on Tuesday at a gig that has been postponed twice. I decided to swing by Ippudo on Villers Street for a quick bowl of noodles beforehand.

My very first foray into the world of restaurant ramen was at an Ippudo in Tokyo, so it always has an air of nostalgia.

I’ve walked past the Villers Street branch a lot (like, a lot) but this was my first time popping inside. It’s a small branch and the menu is limited. There are appetisers, but they’re only available as ‘specials’ not as standard menu items.

One of the things I like most about ramen is the ‘no messing’ approach. We’d been sat only for a few moments before our order had been taken and steaming bowls had been presented to the table.

Nick ordered the Akamaru Modern Special (a classic tonkotsu with garlic and miso) and I plumped for the Hakata Nikuton (tonkotsu with a sweet and spicy pork) which was a location exclusive.

Before tucking in to the noodles I tried the strawberry sake. It was really tasty cloudy-style sake and came out a slightly less lurid colour than the bottle indicated; but made from American rice and American strawberries it felt a little inauthentic! (side note: apparently this sake is good mixed 50:50 with milk…which I’m curious to try!).

My noodle broth was hotter than the surface of the sun. Sadly I scalded my tongue on the very first mouthful. Although that didn’t affect the flavour, it did affect my enjoyment! The broth was rich and had that texture where you’re lips stick together momentarily, even after a good lick! The spicy pork was very thinly sliced, and almost dissolved on your tongue like those mouthwash strips that were popular a few years ago…but less minty.

Nick’s was delivered in what I would call ‘pho style’  with toppings served separately. I quite like that idea.

But here’s his review in his own words:

Now, I also like a good ramen spoon, but my personal preference is for the flat ladle-type spoon rather than the Chinese-style spoon. Different spoons for different folks I guess!

I’ll will 100% be back to Ippudo Villiers Street – it’s fast, it’s convenient and it’s delicious. My only tip, give the boiling liquid a minute to cool down!

Ramen Resolution – Goto

Ramen Resolution – Goto

Reading Time: 2 minutes

I was passing through the south west of the UK last week with some time to kill. Naturally, I took to Google to find some noodles!

The first recommendation was in Exmouth, but on further investigation it wasn’t ramen, just regular noodles. No thanks. Not this. 

In a mysterious place, the oft neglected page two of Google, I found a news article singing the praises of Goto in ExeterGoto in Exeter. It wasn’t completely out of my way, so off I set!

There were free tables when I walked in, but it was approaching 19:30 and they had some bookings so I was asked to wait outside for a few minutes.

After what felt like forever (but was actually about 12 minutes) I was beckoned back inside, with a wave which, I imagine, they keep for regular patrons!

Hand painted murals adorn the walls, they’re pretty cool, and remind me of the ramen joint I visited in Boston.

I’d had time to study the menu so ordered as I sat down – restauranting like a pro!! 

The starter selection was a little limited, but I chose the vegetable tempura. The courgette was deliciously crispy but the sweet potato seemed to lack a bit of flavour. 

Tonkotsu then arrived before me. However, I have to be honest, it was a bit disappointing. The bamboo shoots were really tasty and the chasu slice was well cooked. But that thick, stick-to-your-mouth broth was nowhere to be seen. This was more like brown onion soup, thin and watery. And it had iceberg lettuce in it?! 

The table opposite me raved about their sushi though, so maybe ramen just isn’t Goto’s speciality?

If you’re passing through Exeter then definitely check it out, the customer service was great – quick, friendly and for the table who were a bit unsure of what to order they gave lots of recommendations. However, manage your expectations, this is not tonkotsu as you might know it elsewhere.

Ramen Resolution – Nanban (3)

Ramen Resolution – Nanban (3)

Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

One of the (many) shows I’ve watched on Netflix over the last year is Million Pound Menu. Hopeful restauranteurs set out to impress judges to secure funding for a new eatery.

The pandemic is far from over, but we have reached the stage that the Government is once again permitting people to eat indoors at restaurants. So the plan was to track down one of the successful contestants and support small businesses.

Trap Kitchen in Balham was top of the list. But after looking at the prices and portion sizes it felt a little extravagant for a Tuesday.

So instead, we returned to old faithful Nanban in Brixton. Not a Netflix winner, but the founder did win Masterchef some years ago. I’ve blogged about previous Nanban visits here and here.

This is was my first time eating in a restaurant since October 2020. Things are different in many ways, socially distanced tables, eMenus and app ordering, staff in PPE. But things are also the same too, relaxed atmosphere, delightful smells wafting from the kitchen, and clever marketing which appeals to your senses and gets you to order more than is really needed!

We ordered the Angry Birds wings and padron peppers, a Lazy Goat ramen and a The Leopard ramen.

That was all washed down with some unusual sounding drinks – a Kinnie (think a fizzy non-alcoholic negroni) and a Cloudwater soda (apparently pineapple and yuzu flavour, but you had to search hard for any kind of flavour to be honest).

Nanban is one of my favourite ramen spots in London. What they offer is Caribbean/Japanese fusion, so this isn’t somewhere for an authentic experience but is good for trying out new things.

First up was half a pound of angry birds chicken wings. I wasn’t really sure how many that was but it sounded like a lot. In reality, eight. The outside of the wings was crispy and drenched in a sweet yet spicy (like, lips on fire, fire emoji) sauce.

The padron peppers were, well, padron peppers, which brought a little hit of freshness after the fried chicken.

Two bowls of ramen then got delivered to our table. Nick had the Lazy Goat ‘fusion’ although his review was “I enjoyed it but didn’t get a Japanese vibe”. The meat was very tender but it was a bit lacking on the broth front. The scotch bonnet bamboo shoots were also a teeny bit too spicy for us.

It was only when I stirred my bowl that I understood it’s name ‘The Leopard’. Burnt garlic oil spotted through the creamy broth like a leopards coat. Clever. Surprisingly the broth wasn’t the sticky pork bone broth I was expecting, more of a thick sesame milk. The toppings (tea pickled egg, bamboo shoots, garlic chips, spring onion) were great and the chunks (rather than slices) of chasu pork were meltingly soft. Finished off with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese, which didn’t dissolve into the broth but softened and sank into a cheesy lump. This sounds like a bad thing, but it was a nice surprise at the bottom of the bowl!

We rounded off the meal with a Nanbanana, a miso fried banana with cinnamon ice-cream and crispy noodles. In my experience hot banana can be hit and miss. This was a resounding hit! The banana kept its texture in the warm butterscotchy sauce.

My first ramen after a very weird period was great, and Nanban remains high on my list of favourite ramen spots (even if it did turn out to be about 20% more expensive than Trap Kitchen…which we turned down because of prices! #fail)

Ramen Resolution: UH K-DOGS N JUICY

Ramen Resolution: UH K-DOGS N JUICY

Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

It can sometimes be hard to escape the swirling vortex that is the TikTok algorithm. Such was the case when Korean Corndogs popped up on my friend Nick’s ‘for you page’ a few weeks ago.

I hear what you’re saying. Corndogs are not Ramen. Why am I reviewing them? Well, it turns out Korean corndogs come served with a variety of toppings which include crushed ramen noodles. I’m listening…

Avid readers will remember that I discovered dry ramen as a snack earlier in this whole lockdown situation. Some bright spark has basically decided to incorporate that into the batter/dough for a corndog.

Before this weekend I’ve only ever had one corndog in my life. It was from a concession in Pennsylvania Station in New York City. I was underwhelmed, so the bar was relatively low.

Here’s the TikTok that whet our appetites:

@foodysumzKOREAN HOT DOGS at Uh K-Dogs n Juicy London 🌭🌭 BUSSSSIN 10/10😍 #fyp #koreanhotdog #bussin #food #halal #london #viral #yummy #cheesey #cheese #yes♬ Copines – Aesthetic sounds

Yes. I had to Urban Dictionary what lengggg is too, don’t worry.

Due to the pandemic UH K-DOGS N JUICY are only taking pre-orders, so we arranged our order via Instagram (modern! engaging! interactive!) and headed to Parsons Green to collect.

The collection process was WEIRD! This is not a restaurant. It’s not even a food truck pop-up thing. This is direct from somebody’s actual kitchen in their house in West London. You wait outside the block and somebody comes down with your order.

Our order was broad enough so we got to try a bit of everything, but I’m focusing this review on the ramen coated corndog in an attempt to stay somewhere close to my brand!

Korean corndog with ramen topping

It was incredible! I’m not sure exactly what made it Korean. However, the fried dough was crispy and didn’t taste oily, the sausage inside was soft and the ramen obviously added a crunch. Flavour came in the way of spicy siracha sauce and parmesan flakes.

It was a trek to get there. I think that would put me off going again as it’s not a part of town that I know very well or can access easily. However, they are looking at moving to more traditional premises so I would pay them another visit if it was more convenient. One of the toppings for your savoury corndog is sugar, and I would be keen to try that!

It’s only vaguely ramen, so I’m not sure it warrants a score, but this is a definite levelling up of my previous corndog experience if nothing else.

Ramen Resolution – GGE Ramen Snacks

Ramen Resolution – GGE Ramen Snacks

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Coronavirus has put paid to many of our traditions and customs this year. Around the world, people have adapted to find new ways to do old things.

As has become mtthwhgn tradition I was all set for my NYE lunchtime trip to Nanban. This would have been my fourth annual excursion, but it will have to wait until 2021.

Online ramen isn’t quite a thing yet, and I didn’t feel like cooking my own. However, I did find ramen crackers in a local Korean supermarket and so in absence of any actual ramen, I’ll be reviewing them instead!

I wasn’t really sure what to expect, is this just uncooked ramen?

The answer seems to be yes! But they have been kind is smashed up and reconstituted with some additional flavourings, a bit like if bombaby mix had been somehow glued together into a lump.

One version was described as a ‘cube’ but both versions were like small fat cylinders.

I tried two flavours, BBQ and Seaweed. To be honest, I’m not sure I could tell them apart, but neither pack lasted longer than a couple of minutes. They’re super crunchy but packed with flavour, even if that flavour seems to be generic! The brand, GGE (Good Good Eat) also make actual dried ramen for cooking, so my inner cynic thinks this is probably a ‘waste’ product that they have found a way to market!

The only downside really is the price, they were about £2.50 for an 80g packet, which felt on the expensive side. Although, after a quick google, you can get these beauties online for around half that price. I’ll definitely be getting more ramen snacks – there are at least four other flavours from the same brand, so that sounds like a project for 2021!

Ramen Resolution: Ramen At Home

Ramen Resolution: Ramen At Home

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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!