The sushi and katsu chain Tsuru (don’t let the word ‘chain’ put you off), are planning to open a ramen restaurant. Ramen is not something that can be rushed, neither in the cooking nor in the research, so they are practising by hosting pop-up ramen lunches at the weekend, to get feedback before flying off on a research trip to Tokyo where there are a lot (3,957, apparently) of registered ramen vendors. They aim to develop their own style and bring it back to London (along with a noodle-making machine), where the grand total of places to eat good ramen currently amounts to zero.
It’s all about the broth with ramen; almost every region of Japan has it’s own variation and yesterday at Tsuru it was the turn of the pork-based Tonkotsu, which originates from Kyushu. A mixture of (predominantly) pork bones, trotters and vegetables are boiled and skimmed for 15 hours, to make a rich, clear broth with significant depth of flavour and porcine essence. This is very difficult to achieve, the last stages of cooking being particularly hairy, as the ingredients can catch and burn on the bottom of the pot, ruining all those hours of careful cooking.
This broth however, was excellent, as I knew it would be as soon as I picked up the scent wafting down Bishopsgate. We fished around in the pleasingly salty depths for springy noodles, pork pieces (a few more next time please) and the most incredible soy marinated egg, its creamy amber yolk oozing like liquid gold. Bean sprouts were superfluous but not offensive and I slurped my way through the whole thing with gusto.
We later found out that the stock is strained somewhat before serving, and that one table had complained their broth wasn’t ‘funky’ enough; they wanted something cloudier, with more of a feral whiff about it. Now of course, I wish I’d tried this, but feedback on Twitter seemed mixed and I was very happy with my bowl until I knew I’d missed out on something different.
A few shared starters of chicken kara-age (chicken marinated in soy, ginger and garlic then deep fried), pork gyoza, vegetable gyoza, 2 beers and a bowl of that gorgeous ramen later, my (particularly vicious) hangover was cured. I can’t wait to start exploring the world of ramen, particularly considering the fact I can’t afford a flight to Japan or New York any time soon. If you want to check it out for yourself, Tsuru are hosting a Hokkaido-style (fish and miso-based) ramen event on 21st January, Tonkotsu again on 4th February and there will be more events to follow. Book your tickets here (£10 for the ramen plus a bottle of Asahi beer. Gyoza and chicken are extra). I wouldn’t recommend that you go with a hangover, of course, but the restorative powers of ramen have to been experienced to be believed; it’s almost worth deliberately giving it a go.