I don’t deal well with uncertainty. K always makes fun of me as I am a big planner – I like to know exactly what’s going to happen when, and freak out when we have open-ended plans like “we’re going to catch up with X and Y on Friday night but I don’t know when or where yet”. For peace of mind, I usually end up being the one to make all the plans and sort out our social calendar – “Okay, well let’s meet them at A Restaurant at 7.30pm on Friday, I’ll call and make a reservation”. A psychologist would probably counsel me to learn to give into uncertainty, and to let go of some of my more controlling tendencies.
Given this, you can probably imagine my reaction when we planned to go to Ajisen Ramen in Haymarket one night, only to find that the branch had shut down. I had spent the whole day working myself up for ramen – daydreaming of piping hot bowls of clear broth and silky smooth noodles. To have these daydreams torn down was most alarming! Unwilling to let these dreams of hot soupy ramen go, I insisted that we go to the next closest ramen joint we could find – the let’s-play-into-cultural-stereotypes named Kungfu Ramen opposite Market City.
Greeted by the staff in Chinese as we entered the large cafeteria-like space, it became clear that Kungfu Ramen specialised in Chinese-style dishes, unlike the Japanese-style ramen of Ajisen Ramen.
I ordered the house special – a “kungfu” ramen of hand-made noodles in a clear broth. It’s simply garnished with a few pieces of bokchoy, a hard-boiled egg and some thin slices of roast beef – and a sprinkling of coriander on top. It’s a very simple and plain dish – but you couldn’t call it bland as the broth is simply teeming with flavour and you just know that the base stock has been simmering away on the stove since early morning. The noodles are a great consistency too, with a good ‘bite’ to them while maintaining that soft chewiness that I adore.
K orders the Special Stewed Beef Ramen with a rich thick deep red soup, surprisingly garnished with tomatoes on top. The broth is incredibly rich and full-bodied, and has a fantastic beefy flavour. The meat is amazingly tender, and simply falls apart as you bite into it.
In our usual bid to be slightly healthier and eat more greens, we order a side dish of cold spinach with ginger to share. The dish is slightly sour, and has clearly been initially quickly cooked with a dash of vinegar, garlic and ginger before being cooled. On it’s own the dish would be too sour for most people, however when combined with the sweeter flavours of the ramen broth, it’s a real winner.
The decor of Kungfu Ramen is bland and the service is abrupt and entirely conducted in Chinese – but Kungfu Ramen know how to serve up a bowl of piping hot comfort food that can even soothe the nerves of a chronic overplanner. It’s extremely good value for money, and seems to be very popular with late-night workers and single men watching Chinese movies on their iPads as they eat!
Overall, I rate Kungfu Ramen a 6.5 out of 10, and will be keeping it on my list of backup restaurants the next time a ramen craving gets the best of me!