It's called RAMEN (rah-men) noodles and I'm totally addicted. It's slightly chewy and long wheat noodles that are added to a delicious soup and served in the biggest bowl you can find. As a child I've always loved noodles in soup and it continues to be one of my favourites to eat and slurp away - my comfort foods next to rice and congee.
When I was growing up my dad had an office in Chinatown and we were right beside several noodle shops. Back then, for about $2.50 you could feed me and my sister with one big bowl of delicious, savoury soup noodles with various additions like dumplings, brisket, pork and veggies anytime or season. I still love any noodles in a big soup bowl - udon, soba, egg noodles in wonton soup, pho, rice vermicelli, thai street noodles, spicy tamtam noodles my list goes on.
A couple of weeks ago I was really craving good ramen noodles in soup and it didn't take me long to stumble across Kinton Ramen on the little restaurant row on Baldwin Street (Toronto). With my kids in tow we patiently waited for our communal table in the heatwave. Yes, it's a total Asian thing to still want a hot bowl of noodle soup on a 40C day with no AC on that day either.
The traditional ramen is a Japanese noodle dish and is available all over Japan. The tradition of noodles in broth goes back apparently to the 1700s and continues to be popular as street food in Asia as well as ramen noodle shops in cosmopolitan cities. The noodles are made of wheat by hand and the broth is usually chicken, pork, fish or miso based. (By the way, the packaged instant noodles you get at the grocery store are NOT the same).
Kinton Ramen is a very modern and very cool spot that plays loungey music. The crowd is generally young. Families with small children are only permitted to sit at the back table. It's a narrow restaurant with mostly bar like seating and open kitchen. And when you walk to your table you get a loud welcome. Sometimes you hear the chefs sing in unison (sort of) and when you leave, they give you a warm cheer goodbye!
They are known for being masters of ramen and have created special methods in making their in house ramen and soup bases. The consistency of their ramen is perfection. Slightly chewy and full of flavour.
Their house made pork is the mostly requested accompaniment with the ramen. According to
their chefs, good pork fat with rich collagen is believed to be beneficial to our health and is effective in keeping skin beautiful. They say that people form the Okinawa islands in the souther part of Japan, are known to have the healthiest and longest lifespan in the world. Their diet involves a lot of pork and pork fat oil.
Kinton Ramen has a following and a Facebook page where photos are posted of customers who actually finish their noodle bowls - The "Kinton Bowler". My little guy and I shared one order last night and we have yet to completely finish off a bowl. One day!
There are many yummy noodle shops in our city, and actually, any city in the world that has a healthy Asian population. My husband knows that when we travel, I must have my comfort food. I will seek out information on the internet before a trip and send out a plea on twitter or ask hotel staff for local favourites.
And it's always a healthy and affordable meal. Each noodle bowl about $10 average at this restaurant.
My kids love noodle soups too and they have fun hearing the chefs do their greetings at Kinton Ramen while we wait, we play a game of how many pigs are in this restaurant (not people inhaling their noodles but golden pigs are along the front wall and hidden spots).
Check out their website for more information and menu at www.kintonramen.com
Kinton Ramen is located at 51 Baldwin St, 2 blocks north of the Art Gallery of Ontario. No reservations.
And here are some words that you may hear when you are at a Japanese restaurant...
moshi moshi - casual welcome
ohiyo gozaimus - formal hello
irasshaimase - please come in, welcome
arigato - thank you very much
oyasumi nasai - good night!
So, what's your comfort food?