I can never get tired looking at a big slab of pork spare rib on my blog.
After visiting the Shin Yokohoma Raumen Museum in Japan last year, I was convinced that I will never find another bowl of ramen that is as good as the one I’ve had in the museum. However, looks like I may have to rectify what I’ve said after tasting what had been widely known as the “Chronic” on Twitter, an expression given by Lotus chef Dan Hong. My hope for a good bowl of ramen had been resurrected by Gumshara.
The word has got out and Gumshara is now one of the most popular kids on the block, with its one full page article in Sydney Morning Herald recently. There is no swanky decor, and definitely no expensive kitchen fittings, in fact, there isn’t even a restaurant of its own! Gumshara is just a little humble dingy ramen stall hidden in the Eating World food court in Chinatown, that’s where the devoted pilgrims from afar like me, come all the way here simply for that special bowl of ramen by Chef Mori.
What has made Gumshara so popular due to its highly concentrated tonkotsu pork bone soup, which Chef Mori spends 12 hours everyday to make them. A big white cardboard sign at the front of the shop explains how the tonkotsu is made by slowly boiling 120kg of pork bones each day for a long period of time until all the marrows and tendons are melted to form a thick collagen in the soup. It also claims that the collagen is essential to main a healthy bone structure and smooth skin (Ladies take note).
Gumshara offers only a small handful of ramen varieties with both Tonkotsu soup or Hakata soup (a lighter broth). I also noticed there is a now a new special of Tomato Soup noodle is also available. But I am here for the ‘special’ Pork spare rib noodle that only limited to ten bowls per day. Since I arrived at Eating World after 1pm, so I am not having high hope of getting a bowl of that special ramen. When I walk up to the counter and ask the girl whether there is still any left, it seems like I have just given the correct password to obtain the holy grail. She didn’t seem to believe that I’ve just requested for the special ramen at first and did a double take, but then she smiles away and let me know that it is still available and also asked me whether I want the soft-boiled egg to go with my ramen. I kindly declined her offer but order a side of gyoza instead.
While waiting, I can see Chef Mori is rather busy behind the kitchen, holding four noodle boiling baskets with ramen in them, shaking vigorously to drain all the water out then pour the noodle in each bowl. The apprentice will then ladle the thick tonkotsu soup into each bowl and Chef Mori will get a spoon and taste every single one of them. A few seconds of pauses, Chef Mori then nods his head with approval that the ramen are ready to send out to customers. The whole process is simply mesmerising.
After 10 minutes wait, my number is finally called. I walk up to the counter to pick up my ramen, where there are also a tray of complimentary condiments you can add to your ramen. I sprinkle a smidgen of sesame seeds on top, and some fresh pickled ginger on the side. I was so focus on my bowl of ramen and I didn’t even notice that I am actually being watched. When I finally look up, I only then noticed that Chef Mori has been looking at what I am doing from the kitchen the whole time! (I hope my extra condiments on the ramen didn’t fail him) We caught each other eyes, he quickly thanks me in both English and Japanese in a powerful sturdy voice. I bow and thank him back clumsily with the bowl of ramen and gyoza on the tray in my hands, slowly reversing back out from the crowd to a quieter area for a “me” time – just me and my pork spare rib tonkotsu ramen and nothing else! A brighter corner always help for the compulsory photo taking session.
By the time when I finished photographing the bowl of ramen which takes no more than a minute, a layer of skin has already congealed on the top of soup. On my first sip of the opaque tonkotsu soup, it instantly sends me back to Japan and reminded me of that bowl of ramen I’ve had at the Raumen Museum. It is so thick and full of collagen, surprisingly it doesn’t taste fatty or greasy on the tongue, but more like drinking a heavy gravy. I happily slurp up the noodle loudly to aerate them in my mouth, it definitely helps to enhance the flavour of the soup even further. Don’t be shy, it is a Japanese tradition by slurping your noodle loudly to show your appreciation. The ramen noodle is well cooked with nice mouth-feel. I believe the noodle is possibly from the same noodle factory where Ichiban-Boshi gets theirs from.
I quickly take a big bite out of the piece of pork spare rib before its flavour get diluted in the soup. The hunk of pork is tender and sweet from the caramelisation. There is plenty of meat on the bone, but you definitely need to use your fingers to chew on the very last bits of it for that ultimate pleasure. A sheet of nori already wilted and gone all soggy touching the hot soup right from the beginning. A handful of chopped spring onion possibly not enough to counterbalance the richness of the soup, but it does bring a dash of colour to the shades of brown. The red pickled ginger also adds a new dimension of tingly sharpness to the dish.
I also ordered a side of gyoza dumplings which unfortunately gets outshone by the special ramen. The pork mince inside is light and garlicky, while the skin is pan fried to an irresistible crisp. My way of devouring them – bite and eat half of the dumpling to acknowledge its real flavour, then dip the next half into the ramen and soak up the tonkotsu soup. The sweet broth simply oozes out on each bite, porn-a-licious indeed. A perfect side dish to go with the ramen I say.
It takes me about 10 minutes to devour the whole bowl of ramen and the side of gyozas, PLUS all the tonkotsu soup! Usually I don’t drink all the soup simply because I usually found them too salty from the high content of MSG added and makes you thirsty afterwards. Chef Mori claims that his tonkotsu soup contains no sugar, no salt and no MSG but only uses pork bones and water, then soy sauce are finally added at the last phase. I finished the whole bowl of soup without missing a drop, but only found that my lips are now glued together from the collagen. Wipe the lips with tissue will just make it worse.
I actually don’t feel too bad after finishing the bowl of ramen, not like the others that suffered “chronic” syndrome afterwards. When I met up with ChocolateSuze at her Biscuit Tree stall at Mosman market, only then her dad told me that the soft-boiled egg is a MUST order. I am sure it will be on my next bowl of special ramen next time when I am at Gumshara.
To think of it, now I am wondering whether Chef Mori was sneakily hiding in a corner watching me eat the whole time, just to make sure that I am a right candidate who really deserves one of his limited ten bowls of special ramen.
~Sigh…. I am not worthy…
Gumshara Eating World Harbour Plaza Shop 209, 25-29 Dixon Street (enter from Goulburn Street or Factory Street) Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney Business Hours: Open Tuesday to Sunday 10am-10pm Closed on Mondays