Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ramen-Kan, Haymarket

Internet research for my Sydney Ramen Safari uncovered Ramen-Kan, a 'hidden gem' in Chinatown with an inconspicuous entrance and a small cult following. I was lunching with May-Ann and her boyfriend Esmond, and even though one of us had been there before, the three of us managed to walk up the wrong doorway before discretely being pointed in the correct direction by an old lady handing out flyers outside. The entrance, giving literal meaning to the term 'hole in the wall' was marked with the address, 90 Hay St, hand-painted in red letters above the doorframe (see tastebound for photos). We waited awhile for the tiny old elevator before realising that the set of lift buttons we had pressed were non-functional - during which time I felt something wet drip on my shoulder, unpleasantly discovering that the mouldy ceiling was leaking (be warned).

Once we finally managed to transport ourselves to the correct location, the modern decor of Ramen-Kan was a pleasant change from its shabby exterior - furnished in dark wood with straw tapestries on the walls and lit with spotlights, it looked very much its part as a well-kept secret. The floor plan consisted of a good number of tables in small clusters and wall lounges, a bar and a table bench lining the outer wall - we sat there with a view of Market City through the long vertical windows, people watching and indeed feeling very hidden away. Having my heart set on the tonkotsu ramen, I waited impatiently as ever-indecisive May Ann mulled over her various options in an extensive menu. She eventually settled on the shoyu ramen set, which comes with gyoza, while Esmond has the chicken karaage don.

Ramen Kan_tonkotsu ramen
Tonkotsu Ramen $11.80

I was eagerly awaiting my treasured tonkotsu, the bowl comes topped with slices of cha-su, half an egg, pickled ginger, a generous pile of shallots and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. Accompanying it on the side was a little dish of condiments consisting of fried shallots, garlic and chilli sauce. The pork was slightly tough, not as tender as it could be and not particularly memorable, however the noodles were satisfyingly toothsome. Alas, the egg was plain and once again, not soft-boiled but no matter, because I was more focused on the broth. The tonkotsu was light and milky in texture, it didn't taste much of pork to be honest, and lacked the collagen effect (sticky lips) - not much of a knockout, though however it was still pleasant in a subtle manner. I tried some of May's shoyu broth and actually preferred hers, finding it unexpectedly more flavoursome. After finishing my bowl, I also ate half her ramen because she couldn't finish it... dining with people with small appetites just means more for me. Also I'm a terrible food blogger for failing to photos of my companion's meals because I feel too guilty making them wait for me.

Ramen Kan_gyoza
Gyoza (5 pieces)

The gyoza was crisp yet unusually not oily, the wrapper being chewier than the varieties I've previously had. Inside, the pork was succulent and tasty, pleasingly embedded with pieces of shallots (I love shallots, I think they belong in everything).

Ramen Kan_drinks
Tsunami Sparkling Sake Cocktail $4 and Green Tea Milk $4.80

To accompany my meal, I had also selected the green tea milk, and May, going by her philosophy of "it is never too early for a drink", decided to order a tsunami sparkling sake cocktail, which to our surprise turned out not to be an actual cocktail, but a bottled alcopop. It tasted like sugar, lychee and lemonade, and is now to be known only as the Cruiser of Shame. In pleasant contrast, my green tea milk seemed somewhat more respectable - cool, creamy milk with a green gradient into the sweet tea flavouring. On an odd note, after drinking about half of the milk, the waitress came up and it took away my glass without saying a word, leaving me very confused for a few minutes until she brought it back, refilled - not sure if that's their standard procedure?

But I digress, overall it was still a satisfying affair, honestly it would've been pretty good if I had managed to ingest 1.5 large bowls of soup, noodles and meat. Not too hard on my poor bank account either...

90 Hay St, Haymarket 2000
Telephone: (02) 9211 6677

Ramen-Kan on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Suwahre Rice Cakes, Eastwood

A small, quick post as I've been very busy here in Shanghai (shopping!). Before I left for China, Fiona took me to lunch at her favourite place for ddeokbokki, Suwahre Rice Cakes in Eastwood. Ddeokbokki is a popular Korean dish of rice cake with vegetables and fish cake braised in gochujang hot paste, so keeping in mind that I'm a total chilli wimp and that Korean food is known to be very spicy, you have to commend me on managing to not cry this time. Fi introduced me to this dish last year by buying a take-away container of the most unexpectedly hot ddeokbokki in Strathfield. Little did we know we'd be spending the next hour with tears of pain in our eyes and our mouths on fire. Our limited supply of water did little to soothe the burning that engulfed my tongue, gums and cheeks, and the pain only subsided into hot numbness after what seemed like an hour - it was the un-godliest, most hell-fire-summoning stuff that has ever entered my regretful mouth, it was hotter than Nigella Lawson in a sauna but not nearly as pleasant. I was very relieved that the ddeokbokki at Suwahre was nothing of the sort.

Ddeokbokki, Suwahre
Ddeokbokki $5 (small, eat in)

Chewy rice cake, with vegetables and fish cake in a hot, sweet and tangy sauce, which was moreish despite the (mild) burn. This is served with a bowl of side soup, a clear broth which Fi doesn't touch, informing me it is essentially "water and MSG" (statement requires validation). There is also roasted barley tea in tumblers which you can refill your glasses with.

Ddeokbokki, Suwahre

Suwahre Rice Cakes
18 Railway Pde, Eastwood NSW 2122
Telephone: (02) 9874 1122

Suwahre Rice Cake on Urbanspoon

Sunday, February 6, 2011

On Ramen, Haymarket

Hopping right back on the ramen trail! I remembered that I had taken some notes on my iPhone a day I'd forgotten my notepad and voila, I'm able to make another post. Next stop on my Sydney Ramen Safari is On Ramen in Chinatown. Lauded by Shawn at Street Food as his "favourite [tonkotsu ramen] in Sydney so far", I knew that this was a place I could not pass up. On Ramen is located on a corner of Hay St in an old red-brick building; a small casual eatery with some tables squeezed around counter seats bordering the kitchen. The waitresses didn't speak much English but when the language is ramen, it doesn't matter. /bad joke

Tenderous pork rib ramen
Tenderous Pork Rib Ramen $10.80

Having done my research, I knew it was the tenderous pork rib ramen that I wanted, with various internet sources proclaiming it tastier than the regular tonkotsu ramen with cha-su. The dish consisted of ramen in tonkotsu broth topped with pieces pork rib, bamboo, seaweed, a sheet of nori, shallots, half an egg and a sprinkling of sesame seeds. The pork was indeed blissfully tender, falling apart upon chopstick contact and melting in my mouth in all its sweet, fatty, meaty glory. The noodles were chewy and excellent, the broth light, with a milky consistency which although thinner in density, still left my lips with a sticky sensation (a result of the collagen from pork bone, presumably). The downside was that it lacked the full-bodied porky flavour I had developed a taste for. I'm also a big fan of soft-boiled eggs (with an almost liquid centre) and I was looking forward to the soft googie yolk pictured on the menu - the one received was a tad overcooked, but it was still soy-cured and tasty.

My lunching companion Carrie ordered the vegetarian ramen, I tried some of her broth and it wasn't exactly rememberable, the only taste I seem to recall is the copious amounts of chilli powder she had added added to her ramen. Not to say it wasn't any good, Carrie seemed to enjoy it.

Vegetarian ramen, On Ramen
Vegetarian Ramen $10.80

On Ramen
181-187 Hay St, Haymarket 2000
Telephone: (02) 9211 6663

On Ramen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kiama Pie Shop, Kiama

This is a really brief post because it's currently pretty hectic around here because of Chinese New Year - gong xi fa cai! So I'm a total pie addict, and a year before I developed an obsession for tonkotsu ramen, I planned a hunt for the best meat pie in Sydney. For some reason that journey never really took off (I haven't even visited Harry's Cafe de Wheels, mortal sin) but after a chance visit to Kiama Pie Shop during Schoolies on the NSW south coast, I'm ready to revive that dream.

Big Blowhole $6

We stopped at this place for brunch on our last day in Kiama, carrying all our giant backpacks and duffel-bags to the train station. The pie shop operates as a local cafe, with cosy lounges and a long table that was able to seat our entire party of ten; their signature is the "Big Blowhole", an ode to the main tourist attraction of the seaside town. This consisted of any pie topped with mashed potato, peas and gravy, a combination I first tasted at a Pie Face branch and I must say, this place blew them out of the water (that's a pun. I'm funny.)

Their pies were gorgeous, I had the cheese and bacon big blowhole and honestly - pastry, cheese, bacon, beef, potato, peas and gravy - how could anyone complain? The pastry was flaky (see photo below) and golden, the filling rich and meaty, the mash and peas creamy, soft, perfect and the gravy thick and tasty. A bargain at only $6. The next two photos are taken by Lisa.

Kiama Pie Shop
3 Railway Parade, Kiama 2533
Telephone: (02) 4232 2649

Kiama Pie Shop on Urbanspoon