Tag Archives: pork

Kimchi Cha-Shu Ramen at Ramen Dojo.

30 Sep

“Dojo” is a Japanese term that means “place of the way”, often referred to a formal training place for a practice to forms of arts. At Ramen Dojo, this would be where the chefs practiced, and we observed, the art of the slurpy noodles.

The first lesson at Ramen Dojo was that of patience. With a shop this size and the fervent fan base, the average wait time was about an hour to an hour and half. Adult beverages a block down at a dive bar ironically named Yuppie definitely helped us through the process; but the more devout stood brave in the cold.

The restaurant was a small, cozy one. It was warmly lit, with tables and chairs enough for only 20, while an L shaped counter top allowing an additional eight, also conveniently carved out the register section. Parallel to the front door was the entrance to its kitchen, a small cave of florescent light and steaming pots of broth. Chefs working away cooking noodles and adding toppings to the giant bowls.

It was almost like a made-to-order sandwich shop or pizzeria: select your basics and add to your liking. The ramen come in three broths of soy sauce, garlic pork, and miso, at three degrees of spiciness, and the garnishes of sliced pork, quail egg, roasted garlic, greens and saffron. Available toppings included boiled egg, bamboo shoots, corn, kimchi, and many other standard favorites. What made me gleeful was their giant slogan: “Our Ramen is not Vegetarian Food”.  As ramen broths were often pork based, I appreciated the declaration.

Before we were seated, we were inquired if all four of us will be having ramen. Which probably allowed them to prep the noodles in time, so that when we ordered they would only need to add broth and toppings. That was the second lesson: organized assembly. Efficiency was nice, but definitely added a more nervous atmosphere. The waitress stood glaring while we giggled our way through the menu, pressured to think fast. We ordered a round of beer just to buy a little bit more time.

But these tiny tests to our dedication came with great reward, the reward being our bowls of ramen. Ramen Dojo had been on the way of ramen and back a few times, the wait was not for naught. First of all, it was one of the most beautiful ramen I had seen. The bowl was filled with a gold richness containing tiny red flakes; steam rose through the pile of noodles and garnishes seducing our olfactory senses. The toppings were nearly piled, faced up with a wink. A tiny bunch of saffron acted like the ethereal red bow on the head of a brunette beauty, creating an airy structure to the image.

I had chosen the miso broth, which was rich and warmed the soul. The sliced pork was beautifully marbled, with just the right amount of fat-to-muscle ratio, its flavor deepened by the char. Tanginess of kimchi helped cut through the thick broth, giving away a crunching texture against the egg’s softness. Meanwhile, packed full of harvest’s eve, the roasted garlics melted like butter at my bite.

But the most wondrous for me were the noodles. Too often had I tasted noodles al dente at first but soon succumb to the power of the broth and sag into a sop of sadness. Not at Ramen Dojo, where their noodles were properly trainer to the way. It was almost reminiscent of spaghetti in firmness at first bite. Five minutes in, however, the ramen noodles came to life and became one with the broth: it was springing yet light, while the broth clung to their curves coating it was that extra pack of flavor.  It danced. Like the noodles at Ippudo I’ve tasted, but in a meatier symphony this time. And life was amazing.

I resurfaced twenty minutes later, tiny beads of sweat gathered on my forehead, face red and shone. The last bits of broth laid at the bottom of the bowl, last smoke of steam waving for me to consume it. My stomach was close to bursting, but somehow, my hands moved as if with minds of their own, and held the bowl up high so I could devour even the last drops of delicious soup. It is here that I learnt my third and final lesson at this place of the ramen way: there was no such thing as self-control in front of the ultimate deliciousness, such as this bowl of divine ramen.

Ramen Dojo | 805 S B Street | San Mateo, CA 94401 | 650.401.6568

 

Spicy Beef Tendon & Dumplings.

23 Jul

It’s not a figurative speech when they called Kingdom of Dumplings a hole-in-the-wall joint. Hidden far away in Park Side, without the sign and the line of people waiting in the from, it could easily been mistaken for some sort of elevated basement. Despite being tightly packed into the square room, the patrons waited patiently to be served, as the late afternoon shined through the front windows.

Here we are, the Kingdom of Dumplings! The space was tight and slightly too warm, the walls appeared to be a tad greased, but the servers were all smiles and kindness. We are here for the dumplings, and some Northern Chinese eats that cannot be found on the East side of San Francisco – where the Cantonese and Hunan cuisine dominated.

I was most excited to have found spicy beef tendon on the menu, even more when it appeared before my eyes. Beef tendons cooked in soy sauce, rock sugar and anise seed, chilled then thinly sliced. It is then mixed with chili oil, garlic, pepper, chopped cilantro and sesame oil.

The tendons see-through when picked up. It was cold and refreshing at first, the texture gelatinous but on the chewy side. Chopped up cilantro brought a nice aroma that erased any unwanted fattiness. Then – as we sat and ate, before we knew it, the stealthy numbing spice hit us. Like wild fire it spread through our mouth, making us sweat yet unable to stop going for more.

It was really a ‘thank goodness’ moment when the dumplings arrived. For we could then divert our attention from the tasty, killer beef tendons, and move on to something else. Sitting in the mess of our tiny plastic-covered table, 12 cute little boiled dumplings sat and stared. “Eat us instead!” they said. The heat was making me slightly delirious.

You could really taste the hand-knead dough. Thicker than the store-bought, machine-made ones, the dumpling skin was thicker and a chewier, the perfect kind that holds the stuffing together. Inside, ground pork and cabbage made a great pair – juicy, sweet, with a nice crunch from the green veggie. A light dip in black vinegar and some ginger slices gave a rounded taste.

Yumm’s the word! Next up, our taste buds travelled to Shenghai for some soup dumplings. Also known as tiao long bao, the dough is traditionally slightly softer, thinner and more translucent compared to ones use on the dumplings. Though it seems that Kingdom of Dumplings just used the same hand-knead dough.

These dumplings were steamed instead of boiled. Enveloped within is a pork filling, prepared with solid pork aspics that melted into the tasty broth when heated. Because of the hot soup that could burst at the bite, it was recommended that we open up the dumplings a bit to let it cool before eating.


Umami was its profile. The broth was on the greasier side, but tasty nonetheless. It provided a whole different experience next to the spicy tendon and the boiled dumplings – which were felt like a hugely satisfying, working man’s meal. The soup dumpling, despite its thicker skin, felt delicate and gentle. To my tummy that was happy, that went for a long sigh and said: What. A. Day.

1713 Taraval Street | San Francisco, CA 94116 | 415.566.6143