Ramen like homemade, if your home is JapanTo anyone who misses Japan, that steaming bowl of fresh noodles topped with your favorites ― be it crunchy bean sprouts, slices of tender pork loin or chopped kimchi ― in a corner ramen-ya anytime is a true welcome-home treat to the hungry stomach.
It’s slow food served like fast food. Ramen-ya, or ramen shops, can be found on every block, and it’s cheap; the typical price of a bowl of ramen is $5.
United, one of the five Garden Life restaurants (see review at left), offers a new, healthier version of Japanese ramen.
The restaurateur Shin Sung-soon and the Japanese chef, Mitsuhiro Kozakai, believe the dish promotes good health and life and so named their creation “Kozen,” which means “enlightenment” in Japanese.
Both regular (6,800 won) and chasu ramen (8,800 won) at United are topped with parboiled bean sprouts, chopped chives, half an egg and slices of braised pork loin, known as chasu in Japanese.
To make a bowl of Kozen Ramen, fresh egg noodles are kneaded and cooked in a steaming vat in the restaurant’s open kitchen. The light brown broth, which was made from a recipe developed in the owners’ home kitchen, is poured over the top before you dig in.
Mr. Shin boasts that his broth is unlike most, which are enhanced with chemical seasonings and brine. His is made from all natural ingredients, including chicken and pork stock, tuna, sardines, scallops, seaweed, ginseng, sea salt and organic soy sauce.
If your palate is used to super-spicy, MSG-laden Korean instant noodle soup, then this ramen joint is not for you; Kozen Ramen will taste as bland as water.
But for ramen enthusiasts, they taste like savory buckwheat noodles, and the soup is rich and long-lasting in the mouth. Chasu slices are incredibly tender and sweet. Even the egg tastes smoky; a half-cooked egg is simmered in specially seasoned soy sauce.
Perfect on the side or as appetizer is a six-piece yakigyoza set, or pan-fried dumplings (3,000 won) served with a dipping sauce. Scorched brown and crispy on one side and moist and tender on the other, the dumpling is a hot and delicious treat.
Healthful, tasty and cheap, Kozen Ramen is a real deal.
by Ines Cho