Two simple words that, somehow, managed to nag me endlessly for weeks, ever since I came across the first blog post on Gamushara (or, phonetically, Gumshara). The thought of thick, tonkotsu (pork bone) stock, chashu and ramen haunted my mind ever since.
To me, anything with yellow noodles is a reminder of Dad. My father is a big noodle lover. A gourmet in his own right. Most of my earliest memories involve food, all thanks to him. On one occasion during my grandfather's visit to HK, he drove his Mercedes to this Dai Pai Dong (HK street vendor) for beef noodles after dinner one night. Just him, and his father-in-law. It was so good, my grandfather talked about it to no end, claiming that the beef noodles he had in HK was "the best in the universe". Nothing else compared, according to Grandad. And it irked me to no end that Dad never once thought of taking me there fo a bowl of beef noodles. It was a grudge I held until last year. And man were they good.
Noodles, to be more precise, ramen, formed one of the two reasons for him visiting Japan (the other being onsen, but that's somewhat a different story). Last year it happened twice: once in January, and the second time in December. Both times I was assigned the task of planning the itiniery (he had bought airfares+accommodation, not tour group, because "my daughter speaks Japanese"), and his only request was for ramen. So instead of going to Tsukiji for sushi and sashimi, we loitered around Shibuya and Shinjuku looking for obscure noodle stands. It irked my mum and aunt so much they decided to take matters into their own hands and went to a kaiten sushi for our last meal in Tokyo, leaving Dad and I to enjoy steaming bowls of ramen with only a plastic sheet between our backs and the hurling winter winds outside.
But the best ramen we've had so far was in Osaka, at a place called Kiou Ramen (亀王らーめん). The 黑肉一本面 had a big piece of Kuroniku, their special boneless pork rib chunk which rested on a steaming bowl of noodles, with the usual sides in a white, thick tonkotsu stock. It was so good we were there for two nights in a row. Had the kid from the other family we were travelling with not gotten ill from indigestion (he ate 2 bowls of ramen the previous night), we probably would've made it three.
So, when Gamushara began appearing on blog posts everywhere (well, almost), I wanted to check it out for myself. See what the fuss was about. And if it lived up to the amazing ramen I've had over the years.
Condiments (self-serve, from left to right): roasted sesame seeds, pickled garlic, pickled ginger.
It was Sunday, and way past lunchtime, so the food court was relatively empty. I spotted the stall at once upon entering the food court: all I could see was the back of a man slaving over a pot of stock, who, upon seeing me with eyes at the back of his head or something, turned around and greeted me with a smile. Orders were promptly taken, and about 5 minutes later the bell was rung.
"If the soup is too thick, just bring it back and I'll thin it down for you."
Tonkotsu Ramen ($8.50) with half-cooked egg ($1.50)
I look down on the tray, and can't help but smile. The stock would be the least of my problems: it was just what I wanted. Thick, collagen-rich, it slid over my tongue and lingered on my tastebuds like velvet. It was almost as good as what I had tasted in Japan, or anywhere, for that matter. The chashu was much leaner than a lot of the chashu elsewhere-it had more meat and less fat, which was the way I liked it. And this was before I tasted the noodles.
Oh, the noodles.
The thick tonkotsu stock clung to each strand, like a child refusing to let go of their parents on the first day of school. It carried the richness and flavour of the stock perfectly; and I was done with half the bowl before realising that the condiments remained untouched on the side. Hastily they were added, and what resulted was a nuttier, richer, with the hint and bite of ginger and garlic which merely elevated the experience. Stares came from the neighbouring table, wondering why this silly little girl sitting on her own with three humungous bags was grinning like an idiot while eating her bowl of noodles.
Somehow, I managed to finish the entire bowl. It was only then that I started to feel guilty, remembering all the tales of unfinished ramen and realising my expanding appetite...and gluttony. That I had a special occasion dress to fit into at the end of the week. That I was supposed to be on a "diet" of sorts. That thick, collagen-filled bowls of ramen was definitely NOT diet food.
But the heck with diets. Dad would approve, though he may want a thinner soup. Which means it was worth every single mouthful. And every cent of the $10 I paid.
Gamushara (Gumshara) Ramen
25-29 Dixon Street,
Food Court is open 10am-10pm, 7 days.