Sometimes you don’t need anything fancy or gourmet; sometimes you just want a bunch of cheese, noodles, and tender pork.
And that’s exactly what you’ll get at Sun Kee Cheese Noodle: pure, unadulterated comfort food.
I mean, just look at that. It’s just a big old glop of creamy, cheesy sauce on top of a mound of noodles and unctuous pork cheek.
I think you get a better idea of what’s going on here after the noodles have been mixed with the sauce.
It’s so good. The noodles themselves are nothing special — I’m pretty sure they’re just instant noodles — but that sauce is rich and creamy, with a satisfyingly sharp cheesy flavour. The tender slices of pork are a perfect accompaniment.
It’s kinda like mac and cheese, only with noodles instead of macaroni, and with big pieces of tasty pork.
Hidden away at the back of a sketchy little mall, the place pretty much defines the term “hole in the wall.” But when the food is this good, I’ll eat it in a broom closet. Just gimme that bowl of cheesy, creamy noodles. I don’t care where I eat it.
One of the things Hong Kong is known for is its various roasted meats — goose in particular. I checked out a couple of goose joints that happen to have a Michelin star. Yeah, they take their goose pretty seriously here.
The first one, Kam’s Roast Goose, was easily the most popular of the two. It draws some pretty intense crowds, with a 40 minute wait on this particular evening.
The goose here was seriously tender with a really great flavour, though the skin wasn’t nearly as crispy as you’d hope. It was quite good, but probably not worth the crazy wait. The Michelin star seems like overkill.
The second place was called Yat Lok Restaurant; it definitely wasn’t as slick as Kam’s, but I think it was the better of the two.
The goose was equally tender and flavourful, and the skin had that amazing level of crispiness that you’re hoping for (though getting it in noodle soup — while delicious — probably wasn’t the best idea, because it quickly sogged up that great crispy skin).
It’s kind of insane how much variety you can get with something as seemingly straightforward as noodles in soup. I just came from Japan, where I ate a ridiculous amount of ramen (a ridiculous amount. I wrote about nine of the bowls I ate on this blog, and there were many more bowls I ate that I didn’t bother posting about. I’m a fan of ramen, in case you couldn’t tell).
And yet the wonton noodle soup that I just ate at Mak’s Noodle couldn’t have been more different from ramen. It’s like comparing risotto with bibimbap; it’s the same basic idea, but executed in a radically different way.
Mak’s is famous for their shrimp wonton noodle soup, and it’s very easy to see why. The broth has a very clean and subtle (but delicious) flavour. It’s kicked up (if you choose) by the fiery chili paste on the table.
The noodles are satisfyingly firm — almost crispy — but it’s those shrimp wontons that really make this something special. My word, those wontons. Each one has two perfectly cooked pieces of shrimp, and the contrast in textures between the crunchy shrimp and the chewy wrapper is ridiculous. It’s so good.
There’s a place in Kagoshima called Tmtrmnstr that sells tomato ramen, which is basically like a bizarre amalgam between a standard bowl of ramen, and spaghetti with tomato sauce.
I really did not have high hopes for this — I tried it more out of a morbid curiosity than anything else. I just assumed it wasn’t going to be very good.
But surprisingly enough? It was delicious. It was creamy and rich like a standard bowl of ramen, but with a garlicky, tomato sauce flavour. I guess it was essentially like a tomato soup — but way better than any tomato soup I’ve had before.
You choose from various add-ons; they recommend parmegiano regiano cheese.
Sure, parmesan on ramen — why not?
The cheese really enhances it, melting and merging with the noodles in a gooey, cheesy mess. It’s shockingly great.
One of the many (many many) things I love about ramen is how much variety you get from bowl to bowl. There are so many different styles and types and varieties of ramen that what seems like it should be a simple dish (it’s just noodles and soup) has so much to offer.
There are some bowls of ramen that are subtle and light; on the other end of the spectrum is the bowl of slow-cooked pork rib ramen I just had from Hanamaruken in Osaka.
The broth here is unctuously, mouth-coatingly rich (though it thankfully never crosses the line into gravy soup territory). It’s also intensely flavoured, with a seafoody punch rounding out the in-your-face porkiness. There’s absolutely nothing subtle here; the flavour grabs you by the collar and screams in your face. And yet it’s not overbearing or one-note.
But what really makes this ramen noteworthy is the slow-cooked pork rib on top, subbing in for the typical chashu. It’s a big old hunk of deboned ribs that’s been slow-cooked until it’s so tender you can just pull chunks off with your chopsticks. It’s also browned on the griddle to give it some additional flavour/texture.
It’s so incredibly tender that even the cartilage has rendered down into a delicious, porky goo. And yet the meat itself still has texture — it’s not mushy at all, which can sometimes happen with slow-cooked meat like this.
When I’m searching for the best food in a particular area, I’m always hoping for a clear consensus. If you come across recommendations for the same restaurant over and over again, then you can be reasonably assured that it’s going to be good.
Well, there’s very little doubt about it: Ramen Yashichi serves what everyone seems to agree is the best ramen in Osaka. And holy crap, the place draws the crowds to prove it.
I showed up at around noon on a Friday; they have a system where they hand you a ticket that tells you when to come back, and I figured it’d be a half hour later. Maybe an hour.
It told me to come back at 3:56 — almost four hours later.
Well, okay. At least I won’t have to line up.
Except I absolutely did have to line up — I showed up at the allotted time to find about a dozen people waiting outside, so I spent about half an hour waiting to get in. Then I got in and there was another line. It took about ten more minutes.
But then I sat down and got to try the ramen, and it was like, yep. I get it. It’s a chicken-based shoyu ramen, and it was absurdly good. It was a bit more oniony than normal — I’m not a fan of raw onion, so that was unfortunate — but other than that it was one of the best bowls of ramen I’ve had since coming to Japan (which means it was one of the best bowls of ramen I’ve ever had).
I mentioned that the mediocre bowl of ramen I had in Dotonbori was just one-note salty; the thing I love about the best bowls of ramen is that they seem simple, but there’s so much depth and complexity to their flavour. That’s absolutely the case here. With every mouthful, you discover something new. It’s magical.
This is actually my second time in Osaka — the first time was about ten years ago.
While walking around Dotonbori, I came across a ramen joint with a giant cartoon dragon on the outside, and I suddenly got hit by a freight train of nostalgia.
Not only had I eaten here on my previous trip, but — and I’m not 100% sure about this, but I’m fairly confident — this is where I had my first bowl of real, non-instant ramen (you have to remember that the explosion of ramen joints in Toronto has only been in the last few years — rewind to a decade ago, and ramen was much more of a rarity in the GTA).
Though ramen is one of my favourite dishes now, it certainly wasn’t at the time, and this restaurant failed to ignite any sort of love for the dish. Did I just not know how to appreciate a good bowl of ramen?
Nope, it’s pretty lousy (as you’d expect from a place with a big cartoon dragon mascot in the most touristy part of town). The noodles were actually pretty good, but the broth was just one-note salty, and the pork was dry.
Still, the nostalgia! Plus, how often to you get to revisit the place where you first tried one of your favourite meals? Totally worth it.
I didn’t think it was possible, but I may have found a bowl of ramen that’s too rich. Because I just went to a local chain called Tenkaippin that specializes in an incredibly hearty chicken-based soup, and yowza.
It’s the heaviest bowl of ramen (or any soup) that I’ve ever had. It really did taste like a bowl of gravy with noodles in it.
I don’t know if you can tell from that picture, but the soup was clinging to the noodles like alfredo sauce on fettuccine. It was nuts.
That’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy it — it was actually quite good. But it still probably falls under the category of “too much of a good thing.” I don’t think a bowl of ramen has ever left me feeling so full.
After eating several bowls of ramen in Japan — most of them amazing — I wasn’t sure I could still have my mind blown by the dish.
Well, clearly I couldn’t have been more wrong, because I just went to Gogyo Ramen, and my mind? Blown to smithereens.
They specialize in burnt ramen — I had heard that the burnt shoyu ramen was the thing to order, so that’s what I did.
I’ve never had anything quite like it. The broth is inky black, and I won’t lie — I was skeptical. Was it going to taste… well, burnt?
No — it tasted amazing. It was kind of like the flavour you get from the grill on a perfectly barbecued piece of meat, only distilled down into a soup, and without even a hint of bitterness. It was remarkable.
There was more stuff in here than the typical ramen — bits of cabbage, onions, and ground pork, which all perfectly complimented the intensely flavourful broth. The noodles were satisfyingly firm and chewy, and the standard sliced pork on top might have been the best version of that I’ve ever had — addictively delicious, and so tender that the fat just melts in your mouth like butter.
Is ramen my favourite food? Because I’m starting to think that it’s my favourite food.
There’s a very distinctive ramen joint in Kyoto called Menbakaichidai that serves what they call “fire ramen.” It’s essentially ramen flambé — they finish your bowl of ramen with a small inferno of burning oil that goes up in a spectacular burst of flames.
It’s a popular place — I showed up at around 2:00 PM assuming there’d be some kind of mid-afternoon lull, and I still wound up waiting about half an hour. They have a system where you take a number and then can wait in a heated tent, though even that was packed.
Aside from the various side dishes, there’s just one thing on the menu here: the fire ramen, which is a basic shoyu (soy sauce) ramen topped with slices of pork and a whole bunch of green onion.
You’re not allowed to take pictures of the flambéing — they had a series of phone-holders hanging from the ceiling, which allowed everyone to get their own video of the fire (most people took them up on this, including me).
They also make you wear a full-body bib, and insist that you lean back with your hands behind your back during the flame-application; I just figured they were trying to make a bigger show of the whole fire thing. But no, it’s basically a mini explosion in your face, so if you were leaning forward and trying to take a picture, a hospital visit would be in your immediate future.
And after all that? It’s fine, I guess. I’ve certainly had worse ramen, but the flavour of the broth was pretty basic, and the noodles were just average. I’m really not sure that the fire does all that much, though there is a pretty big pile of green onions on the soup and they had a really mild flavour; I’m guessing the mini inferno very quickly burned away the rawness.
Still, it’s pretty clear that this place gets by mostly thanks to their gimmick. It’s a pretty great gimmick, though. It’s a hell of a show.