May 5 does not just mark celebration by Mexicans. For me and Ramen Raff, it was altogether something different: Free Comic Book Day. Going eleven years strong, Free Comic Book Day seeks to introduce more readers to comics by giving them a sample of the different kind of stories available. Large and independent publishers alike participate, in cooperation with book stores and local comic shops, in welcoming the throngs of comic books readers, occassionally in cosplay, and hopefully, some of their non-reader friends. To entice readers further, comic book shops mark down their trade paperbacks and other collections (though not the floppies or single issues).
Inadvertently, the day also meant something else for me: Ramen Day.
Raff has the Tonkatsu Ramen ($10.90), which while he says is good, it’s not the thick soup he’s used to (more on this later).
I have the Hot and Spicy Ramen ($11.50), which was entirely disappointing. Think Michael Douglas in Falling Down, getting a meal much unlike the picture in the menu. Instead of the abundance of chicken I was expecting, I got two tiny specks. The soup lived up to its name though: it was deadly hot.
We shared a couple of entrees, the Chicken Karaage ($3.00) and the Pork Gyoza ($3.00). Both were unremarkable and unworthy of further comment.
The word? Great company did not save the disappointing food at Ramen Kan, which is more like Ramen Can’t. I won’t be back.
Undeterred, I was keen for Ramen Redemption. I was keen to try the reknowned Gumshara at Eating World food court but Ramen Raff had had it a couple of nights prior, and wanted to branch out. You don’t earn a nickname like that by being a slouch.
Gumshara, he reckons, serves one of the best, if not the best, ramen he’s had. Sounds like Ramen Day was to be redeemed yet.
I met up with B after parting ways with Raff. Come dinner time, I floated the idea of Gumshara. He was keen.
How could a mere food court stall be so highly regarded? It isn’t even in a “clean” food court.
Tangent: There are at least three kinds of food courts. The first, more known kind is your conventional shopping centre food court; with their generic burger franchise, sandwich franchise and fried chicken franchise. A more varied version of this will include a kebab franchise and a North Indian franchise and a few non-descript Asian stalls. The second kind is a schmancier version of this; think the upstairs food court at Westfields Bondi Junction or, better yet, Westfields Pitt Street. The third kind is the exact opposite; the dingy food courts predominated by Asian stalls. These are perpetually dirty, character-less and have not been updated since the 80s. Dixon Street Food Court has double the dirt thanks to the tacky mirrored ceilings. Other potential indicators of this kind of food court are the existence of at least one sizzling plate place and only one drinks place. Eating World jostled for the role of Dirtiest Food Court in Chinatown until it underwent renovations in the mid-noughties. Now, though relatively cleaner then before, it’s still cramped and noisy and you constantly want to wash your hands after making contact with the sticky tables.
Let’s be clear: I love the “dirty” food courts. The competition here is so stiff that stalls can’t compete by price alone; the size, flavour and freshness of your dishes will make or break your business. Besides, Asian food is my default go-to cuisine whenever I visit a food court anyway so expanding my options to 100% of the choices is brilliant.
B has the Tonkatsu Ramen in Thick Soup. The generous size takes you back a bit but even once you realise the bowl is actually quite cone-shaped, it’s still a lot of food.
I have the Pork Spare Ribs in Thick Soup ($15.50), which come with a humongculous cut of fried spare rib. I have it with a side of BBQ Pork Skewers ($2.50).
The thick soup itself has a strong porky flavour. They proudly announce its curative properties: “Our soup is made by traditional Japanese way to cook which only uses fresh pork bone and water. NO MSG is used. The richness of the soup comes from the marrow of the bone and the soft bone. It contains a lot of collagen, which is essential to maintain a and smooth skin.”
The star condiment they had was the garlic sauce, large chunks of sliced garlic which appear to have been preseved in a soy-based sauce.
One thing they have on the menu that I will be back for one day is the Mega Ramen for $25. It’s thick tonkatsu soup topped with the spare ribs, roast pork slices, skewer and an egg for good measure.
The word? A little dearer than ramens from other, cleaner establishments, the price is justified by the fantastic soup and generous toppings. Definitely a winner.