Freshly made noodles in-store from Hakata Maru Ramen, maturing in wooden boxes.
There’s nothing much more comforting in winter than to tuck into a bowl of noodles sitting in hot, steaming broth. As a gentle aroma wafts up to your nose and the rising steam warms your face, fresh noodles are soaking up all the flavour from the broth to give you a delicious mouthful to warm the heart.
An order of ramen usually refers to the combination of both noodle and soup, even though it can specifically refer to just the noodles. Thought to have originated in China, these uniquely recognisable noodles have been described as having a delicate ‘sweet’ flavour. Despite it’s yellow colour, these noodles are wheat-based, rather than egg based, and that canary yellow comes from kansui, an alkaline mineral water that also gives the ramen it’s springy bite. This firm chew to the noodles not only makes for a delicious mouthful, it also enables the noodles to hold their structure in hot soup, without dissolving into pieces.
Source: Tammi Kwok
A super tasty broth makes up the other half of this delicious puzzle. New combinations and varieties are being conjured up frequently, but there are some staples that prove popular around the world. Usually made with a base of animal bone stock, these broths range from a concentrated flavour with a gravy-like consistency, to lighter versions with a thin, clear liquid. Whichever you choose, you can be sure that a bowl of ramen is a noodle soup like no other, so tuck in and warm up this winter!
What to order: Tonkotsu Ramen (before 3pm)
Gumshara serves up the holy grail of ramen lovers – tonkotsu. Made by simmering pork bones for upwards of 12 hours, a tonkotsu broth is thick, creamy, and luscious. Almost the antithesis of a clear French stock, the creaminess comes from a suspension of fat and protein that’s extracted from the bones. The body comes from collagen that has been broken down over time into gelatine, giving that elusive ‘mouth feel’ that foodies rave about. Be careful though, the Gumshara tonkotsu isn’t for the faint-hearted – the Japanese say that this version is an extreme version of the regular tonkotsu broth, and is for die hard lovers of its richness.
Make sure to order your bowl of super thick tonkotsu before 3pm, though. After 3, the broth gets thinned down for the dinner service.
Shop 209, Eating World Food Court
25 – 29 Dixon Street, Haymarket
Source: Tammi Kwok
What to order: Miso Ramen.
Chef Haru Inukai – who opened Blancharu in Elizabeth Bay – makes just about every element of his dishes on site. His broth is of a thinner variety than the ol’ tonkotsu, flavoured by simmering chicken bones instead. Located inside the Sussex Centre Food Court, longs queues snake around tables at peak hour, formed by people needing that ramen fix.
If you’re feeling extra hungry, they also offer free kaedama, which is a free bonus serving of noodles, like a refill. Kaedama involves noodles only, so resist finishing all that broth!
Sussex Centre Food Court
Shop F1A 401 Sussex St Haymarket, NSW
Phone: (02) 9281 0998
What to order: The Ippudo Akamaru
Ippudo started in Hakata, in the south of Japan. To show their commitment to consistently good ramen, they’ve even set up a factory in Marrickville, where they incorporate local ingredients like Australian flour.
We especially love the Akamaru Special, which includes koyu – a black garlic and onion oil – and a Korean-inspired ball of miso and mince, to give you the extra burst of flavour.
If you’re at the newly opened Central at Central Park outlet of Ippudo, then I would recommend the Goma Q (pictured above) for a light summer entree to share. Pieces of fresh cucumber are dressed in a savoury sesame dressing: light and simple! Otherwise, if you’re after something more interesting, try their version of Fish and Chips (pictured below), with a marinated Japanese egg with battered salmon fillet.
Level 5, Westfield Sydney, 188 Pitt Street, Sydney NSW
Also at Central at Central Park (Lower Ground Floor), 28 Broadway, Chippendale NSW
What to order: Kakuni Ramen
Located upstairs in the Market City food court, Hakata Maru is a relatively new addition to the Sydney ramen scene. They serve a Hakata style ramen – a region where the tonkotsu reigns supreme. They include variations with the black garlic oil – an invention that comes out of the Komoto region nearby- and make their noodles on-site – fresh noodle sheets are cut into straight, thin strips, before being matured in wooden boxes under carefully controlled temperatures and humidity. These noodles are also particularly low in water content – to allow for a firmer noodle and better broth absorption.
The Kakuni Ramen here uses the same tonkotsu base and thin, straight noodle, and adds cubes of pork belly, slow-cooked in a mixture of soy, mirin and a touch of sugar. The sweet/salty flavour of the pork belly complements the creamy broth well – and makes it a very addictive bowl. If you have remainder soup and are still wanting more, don’t forget to order your kaedama for an extra $1, and enjoy the rest of that delicious broth.
Shop 3 Level 3 Market City
9-13 Hay Street, Haymarket NSW
Phone: (02) 9281 6648
What to order: Tokyo-style ramen or Spicy hot flavour with roast pork, egg, shallots
With the tick of approval (or in this case, a signed endorsement plastered on the wall) by Iron Chef French, Ryo-Tei (Ryo’s Noodles) have drawn devote masses to queue at its quaint Crows Nest eatery for years. The wait is always well worth it!
125 Falcon St Crows Nest
Phone: (02) 9955 0225
What to order: Tsukemen
The mental image that “ramen” conjures up is inevitably a bowl of noodles sitting in broth, but have you ever had tsukemen? Tsukemen is another popular method of eating ramen, where the noodles are served separate to the broth, and the broth – compared to normal bowls of ramen – is thicker, richer, and saltier, perfect for dipping your noodles in.
Ramen Zundo at World Square serves up a mean bowl of tsukemen, where thick, almost udon-like noodles are cooked al dente, and a rich sauce-broth is provided for you to dip them into. Recommended by Neil Perry of Rockpool and Chase Kojima of Sokyo, Ramen Zundo is where I’d go to, to get my tsukemen fix.
If you prefer the more traditional noodle and soup combo, try the niboshi – an anchovy based broth that is of medium thickness, but has a real kick of seafood flavour.
Shop 1030 World Sq 644 George St, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9264 6113