Japanese ramen noodles come to town
After watching The Ramen Girl a few years ago, a film about an American girl who wants to learn to be a ramen chef, I fell in love with the Japanese noodle.
Ajisen Ramen, a global Japanese food chain, has opened in HCM City. It is one of only a handful of restaurants in the country serving ramen noodles, as opposed to udon and soba. Phuong Mai checks out the menu.
|Using your noodle: The interior of Ajisen Ramen is typical of a Japanese noodle bar. — VNS Photos Phuong Mai|
Ajisen Ramen restaurant
Address: 120 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St., District 1, HCM City
Tel: (08) 38220520
Hours: 10am – 10pm
Comment: One of only a few restaurants in the country serving ramen noodles.
I got the chance to try my first ramen two months ago in Singapore, and its taste was etched in my mind.
I did not realise then that with a little exploration, I could have found ramen in HCM City too, since all the Japanese restaurants I had been to had udon and soba but not ramen.
When I returned home, I discovered that the restaurant I had eaten in Singapore had just opened a branch on Nguyen Dinh Chieu Street.
Ajisen Ramen is a fast-food chain selling Japanese ramen noodle dishes. Established at Kumamoto, Japan, in 1968, it has more than 600 outlets worldwide.
The two-storey restaurant was its first in Viet Nam.
"Ajisen Ramen is famous for its white tonkotsu broth, a secret recipe made from pork bone, meat, vegetables, and other ingredients that are simmered for more than 20 hours," a waiter, Tran Hung, explained to my friend and me.
"Both the soup and ingredients for ramen are imported from Japan."
Ajisen Ramen Viet Nam offers 14 kinds of ramen with and without soup ranging from VND98,000 (US$4.7) to VND 168,000 ($8).
Hung suggested that we should try the chef's recommended dish – volcano ramen, which is very hot and spicy. But we had to thankfully decline owing to our delicate palates.
|Tasty combination: Maize ramen with char siu, egg, sweetcorn, green onions, beansprouts, dried seaweed, ramen noodles and pork broth.|
|Sizzling simplicity: Tori karrage ramen is a combination of fried chicken, boiled cabbage, egg, dried seaweed, green onions, ramen noodles and soy sauce.|
The restaurant also serves sushi, fried rice, tempura, dumplings, salads, and other side dishes for VND25,000 ($1.2) to VND88,000.
We chose seafood katsu (VND88,000), a side dish, to begin the meal. It featured fried ground seafood shaped in rectangular pieces and served with sweet and sour sauce and mayonnaise.
The dish looked crispy and extremely yummy.
It did not disappoint. The sweet sauce and seafood simply melted in my mouth.
I gulped some green tea to wash its taste off before I was ready for the next dish.
For main courses, we ordered maize ramen (VND108,000) and tori karrage ramen (VND118,000) so that we could try both noodle soup and oily noodle.
When a waiter brought us the maize ramen, the fragrance of the pork broth and the colour of the dish excited several of our senses simultaneously.
The dish had fat and thin noodles with toppings of char siu, egg, corn, green onion, beansprout, and dried seaweed.
The soup and maize were sweet, while the noodle and char siu were soft and greasy.
Next, we had the oily noodle or abura soba, which is ramen and toppings served without soup, but with a small quantity of oily soy-based sauce instead.
It was a combination of fried chicken, seafood, boiled cabbage, egg, dried seaweed, green onion, the noodles, and the sauce.
We proceeded to mix up all the ingredients until the noodles were coated in the sweet and salty sauce.
And fried chicken smelt of ginger and was crisp.
By the time we finished, we were full but not so full we could not handle a matcha green tea-flavoured ice cream and red bean paste (VND28,000). Wikipedia describes matcha as a finely milled green tea.
Besides soft drinks and beers, the restaurant also offers various kinds of Japanese desserts like matcha twist which is green tea jelly, soy bean, and red beans.
In the end it did turn out to be a big meal for me and my friend.
We were already planning our next visit to the restaurant. Next time, we hope to try its bento, a single-portion takeout meal consisting of rice, fish or meat, and vegetables. It is priced at VND120,000 189,000. — VNS