Sydney is truly in the grips of pork fever – and I mean the good kind. From crackling, to rolls, to bacon, we are truly all about that pig, bout that pig, no treble.
And right smack in the middle of all the swine craze is the tonkotsu ramen. Believed to have started in the Hakata/Fukuoka region in Japan, this ramen begins with a thick, rich soup made with pork bones simmered for hours, and creamy with emulsified pork fat and gelatin. The thickness and richness of the soup may vary from store to store, but there’s no doubt that the tonkotsu is a signature of the Fukuoka prefecture.
Which is why the first recommendation off the menu at Ramen O-San – the 7th store internationally by Chef Kazuteru Oh after gaining much recognition in Japan – is the Tonkotsu, followed closely by the Sumo Ramen, which is a pork and chicken mixed broth base.
Now this bowl of Sumo Ramen was HUGE. Like this bowl could double up as a sailboat for fictional children’s shows characters. I guess that’s why they call it..sumo.
Never mind, I’m a bit slow on the uptake.
A mixture of pork and chicken broth (vegetarian and Jewish friends, look away) is ladled over thick straight noodles and topped with a heaping mound of bean sprouts and cabbage, and 2 rectangular pieces of kakuni pork – pork belly stewed in a soy based sauce till lip smackingly savoury and fall apart tender.
Like Asian bacon almost, except not fried.
The kakuni pork was a delight for me – salt is my kryptonite, or so says my doctor – and the soup was very manageable, since the chicken broth thinned out the pork broth considerably. I wasn’t, however, as big a fan of the amount of cabbage and bean sprouts in the bowl. I know I know, 5-a-day and all, but it got to the point where there was a bitterness from the veg that overwhelmed the whole bowl like a crew in the midst of mutiny.
I guess I’m a bit more of a simple girl who likes a simple bowl, and the Tonkotsu Ramen in all its porky glory really brought me to a happy place.
Not to mention the slightly more practical size.
See? Much more manageable.
The ramen for the Tonkotsu was also much thinner. All the better to slurp up that soup with my dear.
says the wolf. The noodles here are slightly softer than I’m used to – it could be the photo taking but I take photos everywhere – but the broth came swinging with the flavours. It was a pure, unadulterated pork flavour, complete with the luxurious finish of pork fat. Texturally not as thick as say, Gumshara, but as I’m informed by more than one Japanese friend, NO ONE makes it as thick as Gumshara. And the thin slices of pork belly on top had just the right amount of tenderness to fat, making this my favourite for the day.
And what does Sam think?
He says while finishing the rest of the soup in the bowl.
Well, there’s a reason why he’s not a food blogger.
I’d be very interested in trying the other menu items on my next visit – I think I can hear a tsukemen – dry noodles dipped in a thick seafood sauce – calling my name.
Insatiable Munchies dined as guests of Ramen O-San.