Why ramen, and why now? This steaming bowl of rich broth, springy noodles, fatty pork and runny egg is such a powerful symbol of comfort and security that Sydney's top ramen chefs are in a spin, doing everything from breakfast ramen to DIY ramen kits. Here's your need-to-know.
What ramen chefs want you to know about ramen
"Ramen broth has the concentrated flavours of pork, chicken and seafood and is rich in umami," says Haru Inukai of Gaku Robata Grill in Darlinghurst. "Umami makes everything better."
Recipes border on the voodoo, building the broth on fat extracted from the long, slow simmering of bones. Choose from shoyu, a clear chicken broth flavoured with soy sauce; shio, a light, clean, chicken and dashi broth, seasoned with salt and lemon; miso, a thick, brown, hearty stock enriched with soy bean paste; and tonkotsu, the thickest, richest, fattiest broth, made from slow-simmered pork bones.
For Keita Abe of Chaco Ramen, it's also all about the noodles. "The noodle and its texture is so significant," Abe says. "Our noodles are only allowed to bathe in boiling water for 30 seconds."
But he's at his most strict when it comes to eating it hot. "Don't take photos!" he commands. "Save the talking for later! If you don't dive in right away, the noodles become limp and soggy and the soup starts to cool."
A fun way to start the day. Photo: Supplied
Breakfast ramen, Rising Sun Workshop, Newtown, $19
Chef owner Nick Smith was making bread sauce one Christmas when he had an idea. Why not blend a loaf of buttered toast into his roasted pork bone and smoked hock ramen broth, and send it out with bacon, tomato and an onsen egg for breakfast? It's fun – and a bloody good way to start the day.
Tip: Rising Sun is also a motorbike workshop, so delivery is via anything from an old-school Yamaha DT 175e to a fancy BMW f800GF.
When/Where: Sun-Tue 10am-6pm, Wed-Sat 10am-9pm, from 1c Whateley Street, Newtown, 02 9550 3891 risingsunworkshop.com
Pleasant, everyday ramen with fresh noodles and a good, creamy broth. Photo: Supplied
Fried chicken ramen, Butter, Surry Hills, $20
Every winter, chef and owner Julian Cincotta adds ramen to his fried chicken menu, extracting all the fatty goodness from different parts of the chicken, to give it the richness of pork. With kamaboko (fish paste), menma (marinated bamboo shoots), enoki mushrooms, ajitsuke tamago (egg) and fried chicken tenders, it's a pleasant, everyday ramen with fresh noodles and a good, creamy broth.
Tip: Butter is also a cult sneaker store, so add a pair of Yeezy 700 Analogs by Adidas for $540 and run home in style.
When/Where: Pick up and delivery from 11am Sun-Tue and 10.30am Wed-Sat from 6 Hunt Street, Surry Hills, 02 8283 9416, and Shop 3, 149 Marsden St, Parramatta, 02 8849 0389, buttersydney.com.au
Umami-rich without being heavy. Photo: Jill Dupleix
Cha siu chicken/tonkotsu, Gaku Robata Grill, Darlinghurst, $25
Chef and co-owner Haru Inukai goes the extra mile, grilling belly pork over the robata, deep-frying gobo (burdock), and creating playful options such as smoked duck and yuzu. It's just so satisfying; umami-rich without being heavy.
Tip: Only 40 bowls are made each day, so pre-order or go early.
When/Where: Wed-Sun noon-2pm, from 2/132 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst, 02 9380 2145, gakurobatagrill.com.au
Ryo's ramen. Photo: Jill Dupleix
Tokyo-style soy chicken ramen with pork belly, Ryo's, Crow's Nest, $15.50
Ramen from Ryo's is always a delight, and the good news is it survives takeaway. The soy chicken ramen is notable for the freshness of the stock, sweetness of the pork belly, and elastic texture of the noodles (two minutes cooking required).
Tip: Add a serve of hand-made gyoza dumplings ($7).
When/Where: Thu-Tue noon-2pm and 5-9pm, from 125 Falcon Street, Crows Nest, 02 9955 0225
Fresh or frozen - it's up to you. Photo: Alana Dimou
DIY fat soy ramen, Chaco Ramen, Darlinghurst, $28
Woah. This is ramen fulfilling its full ramen potential – ramen for ramen geeks, cooked by Keita Abe out of the tiny original Chaco Bar. Get the fat soy ramen as a frozen DIY ramen kit to do when you like, complete with bossy instructions. The result is a fatty, porky broth filled with springy, fresh noodles, belly pork, black fungus, spring onions and nori.
Tip: "If you're really feeling it," says Abe, "pick up the bowl and drink the soup like a big-bodied wine flowing out of a big wine glass."
When/Where: Daily noon-8pm, from 238 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, chacoramen.com.au (Delivery to outer suburbs on selected days).
Ramen goes vegan
Lonely Mouth, Newtown
New from the RaRa Ramen team, starring hempseed and sunflower broth and fresh, thin Hakata-style noodles. Wed-Sun dinner; Sat-Sun lunch.
275 Australia Street, Newtown, 02 9519 2465
Vegan ramen with mashed taro, beetroot, red cabbage, pickles and kikurage mushrooms. Tue-Sun, noon-2pm, 5.30-10pm.
381 King Street, Newtown, 02 8056 7705