On some days your body starts to crave certain foods. Sometimes it is something that your body needs like vitamin D, so you hanker after eggs and devour all eggs in the fridge, much to your own dismay. But sometimes it’s just a lust after a type of food that is just so delicious that if you don’t have it soon you will go mad. And that is how I dragged my poor friend half way across London for ramen.
Let me make myself perfectly clear. This was no normal ramen that you buy from any imitation Japanese place with its watery broth, sub-par toppings and horrible hard-boiled eggs. This was Tonkotsu ramen! Its broth is made with pork bones that’s been slowly cooked down for 16 hours. Its rich and creamy and full of flavour. This was the ramen I had been craving.
I gazed lovingly into the bowl. The pale white broth, thin slices of pork, sesame seeds, menma (bamboo sprouts), spring onions, bean sprouts and the egg. The crown in my eye was the lustrous orange of the soft-boiled yolk. The whites of the egg cooked completely leaving none of that slimy texture to interfere with the splendid dish, while the yolks remain soft and gooey. Perfect for ramen, as the yolk can be mixed into the broth, enhancing the creamy notes and will result in small gems of yolk in the liquid which adds a sudden burst of flavour when eating it.
I tasted the broth. Thick, creamy and with none of that horrible fatty taste that covers the inside of the mouth. However, it all hung on the noodles. If they were over cooked, too large or too thin, then the whole ramen, no matter how good the rest of the dish tasted, would be ruined. But first I had to tie up my hair in preparation for slurping the noodles. This is how you can tell if someone has a serious love of ramen. And slurping in Japan is seen as not only polite, as it indicates that you are enjoying your ramen, but it is also essential for maximum flavour. As you slurp, the broth on the noodles becomes aerated which adds to the flavour and helps to cool them down. Different types of ramen have different noodles with various thicknesses. I personally prefer the thinner noodles, as I can slurp them easier.
I slurped. Yes, the noodles were perfectly cooked. The only downside to this dish is that you must eat it quickly, otherwise the noodles will become mushy. It kind of prevents in-depth conversation with your dinner partners. The pork was thinly sliced and fell apart in my mouth. This is a sign that it has been cooked perfectly. Some places the meat will be like chewing leather. The green onions and bean sprouts helped to bring freshness into this heavily flavoured dish. The menma gave a lovely crunch and the sesame seeds provided small bursts of toasted nut taste, giving the dish a variety of flavours.
For people that LOVE good ramen and who have not been to Japan yet for the authentic dish, this is really close. I also recommend that you bring a friend who does not like eggs, as they will give you their egg and your ramen will be that much better. Or just sneak it into your bowl when they are distracted.
P.S Don’t wear a white shirt unless you want to be wearing your ramen.
1 Norris St, St. James’s, London SW1Y 4RJ