February 28, 2016

Ramen, I Can't Quit You

I figured a four month break was about right, or maybe I'm just bored. Either way, I'm checking back in on this blog thing that I haven't updated since November with a testimony to my love of ramen. I think I'm becoming obsessed. Here's some updates on recent ramen eats in NYC and beyond. Anyone up for a trip to Japan?
First stop for ramen in NYC was at Nakamura. Shigetoshi "Jack" Nakamura is a bit of ramen legend. He was considered one of the a ramen God in Japan before launching several successful ramen shops in LA and NYC in partnership with Sun Noodles. He's back with his own place, a tiny little shop near the Williamsburg Bridge on the LES. There's a limited  menu, four ramen bowls, and a couple of appetizers. The not-very-traditional-curry-spiced ramen above is one of the specialties. Rich, almost stew-like spicy-chicken broth topped with curried beef and bean sprouts. Awesome on a cold night in the city.
We also tried Nakamura's more traditional torigara, chicken broth with shoyu tare, chashu, menma and spinach. This is the ramen you are looking for. Everything about it was what I think of when I think of ramen. The depth of flavor in the stock is something I just don't get at home, no matter how hard I try. Rich, salty, but not too salty, earthy...it just works. I've been dreaming about Nakamura ever since our visit, I wish I could get something like it around here. If you happen to be in NYC and like ramen, it's a must-visit. But get there early as the 6 or so tables and 6 counter stools will fill up fast. And say hi to Jack as he makes his rounds checking in on every table of slurpers.
We also stopped by Gotham West Market for a couple bowls of ramen at Ivan Ramen's Slurp Shop. The Slurp Shop is the more casual, second ramen shop from Ivan Orkin, coming after his flagship shop in the west village. Gotham West Market is similar to Atlanta's Krog Street Market, with a half-dozen food stalls and restaurants for grazing and eating. I had wanted to try Ivan Ramen for some time, his book (along with David Chang's Momofuku) being one of the books that really focused my ramen cooking and fostered my obsession. Unlike Nakamura, The Slurp Shop offers you many choices for your bowl. You pick a broth (shoyu, shio, etc) and build form there. The shoyu above was rich and dark, with a salt level just to the point of being too salty without being too salty (as David Chang says it should be).
The shio ramen is really Ivan Ramen's star. It's the recipe featured in his book, for good reason. It's a seafood and chicken base that is intensely smokey (smoked fish) and salty. The chashu (pork belly) is meltingly tender. I'd still like to make it to the original Ivan Ramen one day, but the Slur Shop works if you are in the area.
Another solid ramen, this one at Gan Shan Station in Asheville. Tonkotsu all the way; dark, fatty pork stock with a rich, oily texture and enough spice to burn just a bit. Love the black sesame touch, too. This is a cool place I'd spend time at if I lived in the area. Everything on the menu sounded great. If only I had more time, and more space in the belly.
Finally, my take on Ivan Ramen's shio ramen. The broth is a combo of chicken stock with a dashi of dried squid tentacles, mackerel, sardines, and katsobushi shavings. Topped with slow roasted pork belly, six minnute-egg, and some scallions. It's a time consuming bowl to make, but I like to spread it out over a couple of days and just engage the process. Whipping up a solid bowl of ramen at home is totally satisfying.