what: tonkotsu ramen
where: Menkoi Ramen House, 1004 Gervais St., 708-1569
I admit, I once thought ramen (the instant kind) was just the type of food broke college kids ate. And for good reason, since I was such a student, years before Menkoi, Columbia’s first and only authentic ramen house, opened downtown. Now, thanks to having a real ramen house in the Vista for the last couple years (and Netflix-ing the first season of the PBS series “The Mind of a Chef”), I’ve learned there’s much more to ramen than meets the eye. In Japan, ramen stocks and ingredients vary from region to region, not unlike the many barbecue traditions across the American South. And like barbecue, a good ramen stock can’t be rushed. Menkoi chef Sato says his tonkotsu pork broth simmers for two whole days before it is ready to serve. Two whole days. The flavor and consistency of this silky, marrow-rich, almost creamy broth is heavenly. Comes with marinated pork tenderloin, a soft boiled egg hiding under a sheet of nori, bean sprouts, green onion, spinach, the requisite naruto slice, and of course, ramen noodles — yellow, dense and chewy from their alkaline ingredients. Also pictured: an order of syumai (also known as shumai, $6.50), a set of five delicately hand-wrapped shrimp dumplings, steamed in a soft wonton flour skin and served with a little wasabi-infused soy sauce.
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