Soup with soul: rushing for ramen
A decade ago, two-minute noodles were about as close as the average Aussie could get to real ramen. Now, specialty ramen eateries are popping up all over the country, and people just can’t get enough of the stuff. With National Ramen Noodle Day coming up on April 4, we decided to grab our chopsticks and chirirenge spoon and get slurping. Oh, and do a little research, too. Scroll down to learn about the different ramen styles and where you can find the best noodley soup in every Australian state.
Ramen has to be one of the world’s ultimate comfort foods. Pulled wheat noodles in a hot, savoury broth are guaranteed to satisfy any craving. For the uninitiated, there are four main types of this delightful dish. However, the variations on these can be endless.
Shoyu is a clear, brown broth flavoured with soy sauce, “shoyu” in Japanese. The soup is usually made of chicken broth but can also contain other meats or seafood.
Shio means “salt” in Japanese. This style usually has a light, transparent broth, often made by boiling down chicken bones. It can also feature other meats or seafood products.
This takes its name from the broth’s main ingredient – miso, or fermented soybean paste. The broth is stronger, thicker and more complex in flavour than other types. It originated in Hokkaido, where long, cold winters called for a heartier meal.
This is made from boiled-down pork bones, which have been cooked for hours. The result is a creamy, cloudy broth, which is often flavoured with chicken broth and pork fat.
Top it all off
Various styles come with different toppings, but the most common include meats and seafood, bamboo shoots, chopped or shredded leeks or spring onions and seaweed. You’ll also find eggs, fish cakes, Asian greens, bean sprouts, daikon radish and mushrooms. Other toppings include pickled produce, shellfish and dumplings.
Where can I find the best ramen?
While it’s most commonly associated with the Japanese, according to the Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum, ramen is Chinese in origin. But the Japanese have perfected the art of this perfectly artful noodle soup, and it’s here that you’ll find the world’s best. But since most of us don’t have the time to pop over to Tokyo for a quick bite, you’ll be pleased to know there are some primo soup spots right here in Australia.
Sydney has dozens, if not hundreds, of ramen joints. One of the more unusual is the Rising Sun Workshop in the inner-city suburb of Newtown. Here, the restaurant is housed alongside a motorbike workshop. It sounds weird, but it works. If you wake up with a hangover, Rising Sun’s breakfast ramen is your go-to dish. It’s made with a butter toast bone broth, and comes with bacon, eggs and tomato. From midday, you can choose from three different ramens, which you can “pimp” with your choice of toppings.
At Bones Ramen in Rushcutters Bay, you can choose between four types of soup, including a vegetarian option. These guys also have a strong focus on local produce. Sekka Dining in St Leonards is headed up by one of Sydney’s best ramen chefs, Hideto Suzuki. Here, you can enjoy traditional ramen with izakaya (bar snacks) like pork gyoza and kara-age chicken.
Melbourne is also a haven for noodle lovers. If you want to get your fix 24/7, Shujinku in the CBD is open 24 hours a day. This ramen house focuses on the Tonkotsu style, with a 12-hour cooked bone broth. For plant-based peeps, Fitzroy’s Neko Neko offers all vegan broths, along with other Japanese vegan and seafood delights.
Mr Ramen San in Bourke Street focuses on Hakata-style ramen. This has a Tonkotsu base, but also comes lightly seasoned with salt, soy sauce or miso. Pork bones and shiitake mushrooms flavour the broth, which cooks for over 10 hours.
Top chef Adam Liston of Shobosho and ShoSho has also opened Shomen, which offers ramen and sandos. There are four ramens to choose from, along with other offerings such as a potato gem sando. In the Adelaide Hills, you can visit Yuki in the Hills for a huge range of Japanese cuisine, including five different ramens. For something a little different, try Minimono in Rundle Street. This offers everything from truffle and lobster ramen to Tantanmen (sesame paste broth) and “spicy & cheese” red Tonkotsu.
The original Ramen Danbo opened in Japan in 2000, and now it’s in five Queensland locations, including Brisbane CBD and South Brisbane. The Tonkotsu broth here is made using specially treated water, and there are eight different ramens to choose from.
Taro’s Ramen in South Brisbane and the CBD has a strong focus on local produce. Even the noodles are made from Aussie durum wheat. Meanwhile, Beppin Ramen, also in the CBD, has more than a dozen different specialty ramens to choose from. You can also get “salad ramen”, which is basically ramen without the broth.
For a little piece of Japan in the Apple Isle’s capital, Bar Wa Izakaya offers ramen for lunch every day. Come for the atmosphere as much as for the noodles. There’s also plenty of izakaya on offer. Ajikoma Japanese Restaurant offers a range of tempting ramens, including kimchi and duck. There’s also plenty of sushi and Japanese-style tapas on offer.
So many noodles, so little time. Famous Asian chain Ramen Keisuke is now in Perth at the Melbourne Hotel. Created by Japanese-born chef Keisuke Takeda, here you can choose from a range of Tonkotsu ramens, all custom-made to your own personal tastes. Hakata Gensuke in East Victoria Park is a salute to Hakata – the Japanese home of Tonkotsu. Try the “God Fire”, which comes with a secret spicy blend. Nao Japanese Ramen is another top spot, offering four types of broth and four types of noodles. Ramen Samurai offers 10 different ramens, including “Devil’s Ramen”; Fremantle’s Dosukoi has a cult following.