Super bowl: Ramen at Kanada-Ya is close to perfection
21 November, 2019 — By Tom Moggach
Ramen – noodles are simmered in broth for 18 hours to a secret recipe
RAMEN, a bowl of noodles in broth, is a dish that inspires fierce devotion. In Japan, it’s the nation’s soul food and sold on every street corner.
Here in Britain, it inspired the trashy Pot Noodle – a brand launched in 1977 and still going strong.
In recent years, several ramen specialists have rolled out restaurants across London, including Bone Daddies, Tonkotsu and Shoryu.
Ramen fanatics will squabble – at mind-numbing length – over which serves the most authentic rendition. But I’ve got a soft spot for Kanada-Ya, a business that just celebrated its fifth birthday.
There are now three branches of Kanada-Ya – in Haymarket, Covent Garden and Islington. I visited their Upper Street location, which was gently buzzing on a weekday evening.
Forget the décor – this is a functional space where service is swift and the food does the talking.
The ramen are made with wheat flour, salt and kansui – an alkaline solution that reacts with gluten to give the noodle its trademark springy texture.
At Kanada-Ya, they imported a special machine from Japan to help with production. You can choose between soft, regular, hard or extra hard noodles – a nice touch that will please the connoisseur.
The chefs simmer the broth for 18 hours to a secret recipe that involves plenty of pork bones.
I chose the Gekikara ramen (£13), topped with strips of chashu pork belly, a thin sheet of nori seaweed, wood-ear fungus, spring onion, beansprouts and a small mound of spicy minced pork.
My companion went for the vegetarian (£10) with a mushroom-spiked stock, asparagus and similar vegetable toppings.
Top marks for presentation – the chefs carefully compose each bowl with an eye for colour and texture.
The depth of flavour is terrific: layered and intense with a lip-smacking umami. You’re meant to loudly slurp the noodles for full effect, to enhance flavour and demonstrate appreciation.
The menu offers a short list of optional extras.
Purists would insist on adding a soft-boiled egg to your ramen, sold here for £2.
If you like your food spicy, try a spoonful of karamiso – a blend of miso and chilli that had me reaching for my homemade lemonade.
Side dishes include edamame beans sprinkled with truffle salt and strips of karage – chicken rolled in panko breadcrumbs then deep fried and served with a yuzu mayonnaise.
If you enjoy sake, then hold on tight – there’s a long list of premium rice wines from cult breweries in Japan, served hot or cold.
Kanada-Ya is a place to refuel rather than linger. At weekday lunchtimes, they do a special deal of £10.50 for a ramen and soft drink. Next time, I’ll try their pan-fried gyoza dumplings – sadly sold out this time round.
Done right, ramen is a dish that’s close to perfection. You get a full meal in one bowl and never a dull mouthful.
35 Upper Street, N1
0207 288 2787