Suddenly, a tyre pressure warning light lit up as I was cruising along Blackfriars Road on my way to the ice rink. Oh no, has it not be checked out and was given all clear by RAC last Friday?? I had exactly the same problem the previous Monday at exactly the same stretch of the road. This is a deja vu, I sighed.
So this morning, I took the car to a garage in order to investigate if any of the tyres had a slow puncture. After leaving the car at the dealership, I headed back to West End, thinking about only one thing. ‘Why don’t I have lunch at Kanada-Ya?’
Kanada-Ya is one of London’s newbie-ish ramen noodle bars which specializes in tonkotsu style soup. The owner served his apprenticeship at the Kanada-Ya in Fukuoka, Japan and was granted to open a ramen bar under the same name in London.
The bar is also famous for a long queue of eager diners who wait in line for more than 40 minutes on their busiest days. Intrigued by all those anecdotes, I wanted to sample their ramen to find out if they were Just another hype or for real.
When I arrived at the bar on St Giles High Street near Tottenham Court Road at 11:40, there was a couple standing by the entrance already and a spontaneous queue started to form around ten to twelve…
At noon, a maître d’ ushered us into their dining room and started to take orders. I opted for a bowl of Chashu noodle with a boiled egg marinated in soy sauce as an extra. I also asked the maître d’ if I could have my noodle to be cooked “hard” – semi undercooked.
Voila, my Chashu-Men!
It took me by surprise because the bowl arrived at my window side table very promptly. In the ecru tinted broth, there were seven large Chashu slices, chopped spring onion, thinly sliced cooked brown mushroom, a seasoned soft boiled egg halved and underneath them all, hand made noodle.
I sipped the broth first. It was creamy and delicately flavoured. It was in fact a little too light in seasoning so I added a few teaspoons of Hatougarashi – spicy Japanese pickle and Benishoga – shredded red ginger in the soup to make it more zingy. How was my verdict regarding the noodle? Mmmm…, it was 6 out of 10. Don’t get me wrong. The noodle was fine. But for me, it was too fatty and rich.
The majority of Londoners seem to perceive tonkotsu as a typical ramen broth. Tonkotsu was introduced to the city by ramen pioneers, such as Shoryu, Bone Daddies and Ippudo, and their choice of flavour was pork-based tonkotsu soup. One thing most of the British ramen enthusiasts aren’t aware is that Japanese ramen flavours differ depending on the regions. Tonkotsu is a quintessentially southern Japanese flavour and for someone like me who is from the northeastern region, pork-based broth is not at all familiar as I associate light soy sauce flavoured chicken stock or fish stock (or a blend of both) with a typical ramen broth. My first experience with tonkotsu ramen was in my late teens. A new ramen bar opened near my aunt’s local area in Tokyo and they were specialized in tonkotsu. In there, I learnt about “kaedama” – adding an extra helping of noodle to the remaining broth if so desired. And adding Benishoga to ramen soup as an addition flavour was another surprise I experienced on that day.
The environment I grew up was not very pro-ramen. My mum was not very fond of the dish. And my dad preferred soba noodle to ramen. Therefore, I didn’t eat ramen as often as some had done. One episode I still remember vividly occurred when mum took me and my sister to a new noodle bar in downtown. The noodle bar offered Dosanko style ramen from the furtherest northern region of Japan, Hokkaido. Their broth was typically a miso (soybean paste) based one. Tan coloured soup was opaque and it tasted robust and flavoursome. However, mum was mortified because she detected garlic in the broth. ‘Oh no, you must keep your mouth closed during our bus journey home!’ Mum was so concerned if our garlicky breath might offend fellow bus passengers and forbade us from chatting on the bus. So my sister and I ended up eyeballing each other while suppressing a sudden urge to giggle about this whole situation. Every time our cheeks puffed up as we resisited a fit of giggle, mum threw a reprimanding stare to our direction, reminding us we shan’t disappoint her…
By the way, the garage found two punctures on the tyre. They were sorry that they had to replace a tyre but I was relieved to find the cause.
On my way home, however, a sudden loud noise startled me. An intermittent noise sounded like two men making conversation. Then, I realised that a mechanic left his walkie talkie on my passenger seat!
I didn’t know how to turn it off and it kept on hissing and crackling every time the car passed some walkie talkie hotspots. I called the garage once I parked the car safely, explaining the situation. The radio had no obvious on/off switch and hissing didn’t stop. And Hubbie resorted to removing a battery. Oh dear…