Sunday, July 7, 2013

Ippudo Blogger Dinner, Sydney CBD

Thanks to the Ippudo Sydney team, I was invited to attend a Food Blogger dinner event where we got to know more about Ippudo ramen as well as the history behind the Hakata-style ramen. While I loved the ramen at Ippudo (despite their premium pricing), I did want to know on what makes the flavours at this restaurant different from other ramen restaurants like Gumshara, Ryo's, Menya Noodle Bar, Ramen Zundo etc. I especially wanted to know more about the Akamaru Shinaji, which is one of my favourite Ippudo ramen dishes


Like my previous visits, I was met with a friendly and fairly noisy atmosphere at Ippudo though I was able to take in as much information as possible from the manager. Unfortunately my memory is pretty terrible so I was literally taking almost everything down. There were a few fun facts about ramen that we've discovered that night: for example, ramen (or "hand-stretched noodles") actually originated from China but it has evolved to its own Japanese style that we all know today.

What distinguishes ramen noodles from other types of noodles are the following elements: wheat, salt, water AND a mysterious component known as "kansui" which is an alkaline mineral water that reacts with gluten and thus gives the noodles its bouncey and bitey texture...never thought I would act all scientific after my crappy stint at Chemistry in high school...

Lychee mojito with rum ($16.00)
 
Whiskey sour ($14.00)

We started off with the good ol' Ippudo pork bun. I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that the pork buns are becoming quite popular in the Sydney dining scene but it really was extremely popular and frequently ordered by hungry customers. Sometimes, it even outsells the ramen! Apparently the pork takes many hours to cook (about 20 hours actually!) just to give off that tender texture. Combine this with a soft, fluffy bun and you get pure mouth-watering stuff. 

 
Ippudo Pork Bun ($4.00)

As you may know, Ippudo specialises in Hakata style ramen which originated in the Hakata district of Fukuoka. Hakata-style ramen is distinguishable by its hard, thin and straight noodles as well as its milky, tonkotsu broth. The milkiness in the tonkotsu broth was accidentally discovered when the chef of a restaurant was mixing the oil with the water and then left it boiling for too long. So long that the broth turned milky. Presumably because he was in a tight schedule, it was served to the guests anyway but they ended up enjoying it. 

 
Shiromaru motoaji ($15.00)

When Ippudo first opened, the Shiromaru motoaji ramen was there from the beginning when the shop was a hole in the wall that was easy to miss (did you know that Shiromaru means "white ring" and motoaji means "original taste"?). Traditional Hakara ramen is actually pretty smelly and that scent is still there today if you are in the mood for that stuff when you are in the region. Ippudo's version refines this by getting rid of the unnecessary water after combining it with pork bones in the stock pot. For a tonkotsu broth, it is pretty light and simple compared to other versions of this type.


What I didn't know on my previous visits to Ippudo was the subtle differences. The
Shiromaru motoaji uses a pork loin while the Akamaru Shinaji uses pork belly as their choice of meat. Anywaaay the Akamaru was introduced to Ippudo customers on its 10th anniversary celebrations. Not surprisingly it is now a permanent item on the menu along with the spicier Ippudo Karaka Men (more on that later). It used to think that this was a miso ramen but it is actually a tonkotsu ramen blended with fragrant garlic oil and a small ball of miso paste (aka umami dama) that contains minced pork. Still one of my fave ramen bowls ever especially when you blend the umami dama with the other ingredients slowly.  

Akamaru Shinaji ($16.00)

We were pretty stuffed by then...especially myself (note to self: never have a decent lunch if you are going to a foodie event later on). However, I haven't tried the Ippudo Karaka Men yet so I was soldiering on for this last ramen bowl. When it arrived to our table, we immediately noticed the different noodles in this version. Unlike the last two dishes that uses thin and straight noodles, the Karaka Men uses medium-width and wavy egg noodles in order to retain the consistency of blended flavours and texture with the bigger and spicier miso paste. There is also crushed nuts on top of the paste to give the ramen a little bit of crunch. 

 
Karaka Men ($17.00)

One of the highlights of my night was when the manager was talking about the levels of hardness in the noodles. It ranges from the soft noodles (known as Yawa) to the super hard noodles known as barikata which was the level of hardness used on our noodles that night. The barikata noodles only takes 5 seconds to cook which is good if you are hurrying back to work after a lunch break or it's just what you preferred. Then there was the "harigane" or "steel wire" noodles that takes only two seconds to cook. And finally, if you dare to eat practically raw ramen noodles, there was the koneotoshi style ramen which takes less than 1 second to cook!  


What's really amazing is how everything at Ippudo is made and delivered fresh on the day from its factory in Marrickville to the Westfield Sydney store. It also uses local ingredients and frequently changes the balance, flavour and texture to an optimal level depending on the weather so that you can still enjoy a bowl of ramen on a hot day. 


 By the end of the night I was struggling to walk back to the station thanks to the three decent-sized ramen dishes and the pork belly buns but I also had a worthwhile time as well. It was an amazing night learning about ramen, the origins of Hakata-style ramen and even memorising a few Japanese words. My friend is still craving for Ippudo ramen as of now so another visit will be happening soon especially in the Winter season.


Check out my previous experiences at Ippudo Sydney

DISCLAIMER: The Random Foodie dined as a guest of Ippudo Sydney, courtesy of David at Ippudo Australia. Opinions are still personal. 

Ippudo Sydney
Level 5 Westfield, 188 Pitt Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9573 0011
http://www.ippudo.com.au/ 

Ippudō on Urbanspoon

16 comments:

  1. The black garlic ramen is amazing at Ippudo!! :D

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    1. it's my fave ramen bowl at Ippudo too

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  2. Sounds like a fun and interesting night! True ramen chefs really are artists at what they do!

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    1. it definitely was. my view of ramen changed so much after this night

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  3. Replies
    1. never looked at ramen the same way after this dinner lol

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  4. So unfortunate that Westfield rent is so high hiking up the prices of the ramen. But value proposition aside, good ramen!

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    1. ahh yeah that's true. hopefully it stays strong for many years

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  5. wahh they seemed to have fed you all well! ^^
    but mmm~~ the pork buns!! but wow, 20 hours of cooking, well worth while for that delicious softness! :D

    - Cassie

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    1. haha i was sooo full afterwards. it's interesting hearing about how much effort went into making these dishes

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  6. loving all those ippudo posts!the pork bun and i need to meet up soon!

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