The recipe that the cook Rafa Zafra served in the restaurant Estimate It is not ramen nor does it pretend to be. Inside Galician spider crab shells, he mixes the crustacean juices with elvers as noodles, bits of the shellfish itself and quail eggs, according to the photograph. A gastronomic game with the sense of humor that characterizes it. All a success.
What is ramen? “Street food of Chinese origin (lamiàn) that in recent decades the Japanese have turned into a national dish of which they are proud, beyond sushi, sashimi and tempura,” he replied. Jhon Husby, American cook, patron of Chuka Ramen Bar on the occasion of my first visit to this house five years ago. A Japanese-style tavern where the best ramen in Madrid by far. “The plate sweeps Such, triumphs in half the world and has been consolidating in Spain for years. It was introduced by Chinese emigrants in the Yokohama’s China Town in the mid-19th century and it has become so integrated into Japanese culture that it even has a museum in that city“.
Husby worked some years in the Momofuku Noodle Bar from New York, along with David Chang, before doing internships at The Celler de Can Roca and go through the Alicia Foundation.
Is there a basic recipe? “None, although roughly three families are involved, the broth, the noodles and the side dishes. Chinese or Japanese noodles that float in large bowls with plenty of broth and sprinkles: seaweed, boiled eggs, mushrooms, pork belly, bamboo shoots, cashews or chives. No two are alike, each city has its specialty, there are as many recipes as there are prefectures, regions and chefs. Creativity without restrictions ”.
Secrets of the best? “Ramen is valued based on the quality of the broths –shio (salt), tonkotsu (pork bone), shoyu (soy sauce) and miso—, Spicy or not, which we prepare by boiling abundant bones, vegetables and aromatic herbs for eight hours in giant pots. After resting another eight hours, we strain them and they are ready for the final soup with the addition of seasonings. It is said that ramen are cheap and easy to make, huge mistake. Neither the broth, nor the pasta are anything. We buy noodles in the State of New Jersey, fresh, not dry, made with alkaline water and flour, with a different PH and texture. Ramen is eaten fast, but you have to cook it slowly, the complexity of the good ones is tremendous. Young people in Japan support the dish, perhaps because of its rebellion against the traditional rigidity of Japanese culinary norms ”.
In Chuka Ramen Bar I have just had two great specials. First the Tantanmen Ramen a fragrant and spicy broth with pepper sansho in which thin elongated noodles swim mixed with a minced meat stew, poached eggs and abundant fried leek on top. Superb. After the Tokio Shoyu basic, consommé with soy sauce and chicken fat, char siu (roasted pork belly) and vegetables, bamboo shoots, daikon radish and Chinese chives. In both cases maliciously addictive bowls.
What is the secret ingredient in your ramen? “The sake lees, half clandestine, that we eventually add to our wines and whose export is not allowed. They provide dairy touches. Friends provide them to us. As important as setas shitake, el alga kombu, y el katsuobushi, with which we get depth and umami ”.
For creative originality the ramen that he prepares and improvises July zhang, a virtuous Chinese wok cook, daring and unstoppable, who in Madrid runs two stores. In Laman, in front of the market of Mostenses, Where his adventure began, he has turned ramen into a journey through Asian food culture. It amuses me to listen to him, although I confess that I hardly ever understand him. In Soy Kitchen, his second place where he boasts a signature Chinese cuisine inspired by ancient traditions, I dared to ask him to improvise two half a dozen (in Chinese noodles stretched by hand). “They don’t always have broth, there are dry versions,” he told me before he presented a bowl of noodles drizzled with very hot sesame oil, garlic, coriander juice, Sichuan pepper, and seafood oil. Composition rich in nuances, although somewhat pasty. Earlier, he had served me a bowl of knuckle trimmings floating in fragrant pork broth, with chopped chives, pickles, and vinegar. Succulent.
Ended up with Draw, very busy place, which serves the ramen Tsukumen a popular specialty in Such. The thick noodles (udon) are presented in separate bowls for dipping in the hot soup. A different concept that unfortunately in this house does not reach the gastronomic value it deserves.
I have never understood the criteria that Michelin guide applies in Asia. The reasons why street restaurants, without room service and in poor condition, are awarded stars. Something unthinkable in Europe. I am referring to the self-service regime that prevails in Japan in the ramen restaurants I’ve visited, all with one star. The order is paid and placed in a vending machine such as the tobacco vending machine and the ticket is delivered to the counter where the cooks serve. Usually after waiting in long lines on the street. I leave the link of my last experience in the Takiryu from Tokyo, one of the winners of Michelin in the great city. Street food in its purest form that in the culinary aspect and only in certain cases reaches haute cuisine refinements.
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