It's been a good few months since I decided I would set myself an A - Z Challenge for eating various dishes. I've been busy, of course, but A is not exactly an easy letter of the alphabet to start with either. The only dishes starting with A I could think of, which were not desserts, were things borrowed from other countries. I haven't yet tried an arepa in South America, so I am in no position to judge what I find here in Auckland. Instead, I have picked ajitsuke tamago, which is not really a dish, but an important component of one.
For those of you who have not come across the term before, it refers to the marinated egg which is often served with ramen. As I mentioned in my previous post on Japanese eggs, the yolk should be just beginning to set: a gooey centre which is translucent, but not runny. No matter how good the ramen might actually be, I am always a little disappointed if it is served with a fully boiled egg with a powdery yolk!
1) Tanpopo Ramen
At Tanpopo Ramen, you don't automatically get egg with your noodles. You have to order it as an extra, and it arrives as a whole egg, still chilled from the refrigerator. But do it, because it is good, as is their piping hot soup base, I might add!
|Miso ramen with extra egg.|
Presumably named after the 1985 movie "Tampopo", a Japanese comedy featuring ramen, this basic little store now also has a branch in Howick. Owner Michio trained the young couple running Little Ramen Bar in Melbourne as well.
When Ramen Do opened in 2012, they made exactly the kind of fully boiled egg I complain about. You can still see pictures of them on their website. By the time I blogged about the eatery, however, they had learnt to make beautiful eggs, and were at the top of their game for the ramen too. Since then, I have heard consistently bad reviews for their short-lived city branch, and on our latest visit to their original Eden Terrace branch, the soup and noodles were unfortunately also disappointing.Their business card and street signage have been changed, so perhaps there are new owners?
|Egg a little too underdone.|
The eggs erred on the side of liquid yolks, but this is preferable to overcooked egg. I also liked the fact that you get half an egg by default with every ramen.
3) Ramen Takara
Ramen Takara is a bit further from the central city than the other places mentioned here: all the way in Browns Bay, but with the bonus of being near the beach.
Despite being more beautifully fitted out, and having plenty of choices in the menu (thick or thin noodles, unusual combinations like spicy black sesame, clearly marked gluten free and vegetarian alternatives), the egg we ordered was slightly overcooked, pale and powdery at the edges.
|Spicy black tan-tan ramen, with extra egg.|
Still, the centre of the egg was a beautiful vibrant orange. And we haven't eaten here enough times to know whether this was an anomaly.
4) Maruten Ramen
Maruten Ramen is only a little stall in the Mercury Plaza food court, but it has some restaurant level touches. For example:
- there's a choice of thick or thin homemade noodles for your ramen; you can also ask for the noodles to be cooked firmer or softer as you prefer
- they have smooth, round bamboo chopsticks, rather than the pull-apart disposable ones (never mind that even some high-end Japanese restaurants like Masu use pull-apart disposable chopsticks)
- the moyashi (bean sprout) ramen we ordered came with an unseasoned chicken broth, in case we needed to thin out the thick and salty soup base; they also gave us some vinegar to adjust the flavour to taste
- they gave us complimentary dessert (not sure if this is standard practice)!
- when we asked for a takeaway container, the chef said we could ask for more bean sprouts and less noodle next time
- they had Japanese comic books you can borrow, which we saw people reading on a couple of tables
- when we walked past on the way out of the food court, they saw us and called out to us
|Syo-yu ramen with extra egg.|
Have you come across any other ramen shops with ajitsuke tamago? Or do you not care about the state of the egg if the rest of the dish is good?
[Added 10 June 2016: The newish Ramen Lab also has some good looking eggs]