I remember years ago, I watched the movie, Tampopo. I don’t know how I stumbled upon it in the video store but it piqued my curiosity on why a movie was made about a noodle shop. It was intriguing to see how obsessive the Japanese are about noodle soup but I was soon to find out why.
Living in Tokyo, I had the privilege of tasting true Ramen. Every region, every city, even every ramen shop seemed to have its own variation. The toppings were standard – slow braised slices of pork belly, some pickled bamboo shoots, a hard boiled egg, but what set each apart was their broth. There are soy sauce based broths, miso based broths and my personal fave, Tonkotsu, which is made from simmered pork bones – rich and somewhat creamy. I made it kind of a mission of mine to try out as many ramen dishes as I possibly could but one shop had, hands down, the best that I have ever tasted.
Jangara is a small little hole in the wall in Harajuku, a hip and fashionable district in Tokyo. A friend of mine took me there and after seeing the line up outside of the restaurant, I knew this was going to be a treat. The place was absolutely jam packed and chaotic. The atmosphere was crazy and once I took one slurp of the broth, it all made sense. Every component was perfect from the tender pork to the noodles which had the right amount of bite. But, it was the broth blew me away. It had a balanced sweetness and saltiness that I had never tasted before. Since then, my quest for that flavour has never been satisfied.
When I found out that a ramen shop was opening in our city, you could imagine my anticipation. Although the soup is decent at Nomiya, it lacked the depth and richness I was hoping for. But at least for now there’s a place to go to satisfy my craving.
Of course, I just had to try my hand at making one of my most favourite dishes so taking a page out of David Chang’s Momofuku cookbook, I gave it a go. Thankfully, we have T&T which made finding the ingredients easier than expected, except for proper ramen noodles, which I substituted udon noodles. So I guess you can say it wasn’t really ramen. However, Chang’s little trick of adding smoked bacon to the broth is genius!
One day, I’ll make a trip back to Japan and to Jangara. But for now, this will have to do for now…
My version of tonkotsu broth
The assembly line..
The finished product.