I'm not a chef. I'm just a dweeb who becomes easily obsessed with things and I have totally fallen in love with ramen.
I got off to a slow start, forcing my poor wife to sit through endless terrible bowls of tonkotsu, but as I’ve slowly been able to track down proper ingredients (not as easy it sounds in this country) and even more slowly started to really get the hang of the nuances of this amazing food - improving the tare-, broth-, and noodle-making, generally unpicking the methods and techniques as I went along - it’s become harder and harder to stop myself from trying a pop-up.
And what better place than Cardiff? What better place than Wales, where as far as I can tell there’s not a single standalone ramen shop! I really believe that this country deserves proper ramen and I hope a hundred more noodle joints open after me. I just hope that people love this food as much as I do.
You'll notice I say proper ramen, rather than authentic ramen. That's because the idea of authentic ramen is a bit of a misnomer. Ramen is synonymous with Japan, and in the UK you can't hope to find the ingredients that they have, as hard as I've tried. Besides, ramen was invented in China, only later making its way to Japan. Now it's a cultural phenomenon in the US, where the likes of Keizo Shimamoto, Mike Satinover, Ivan Orkin and Sarah Gavigan - the people who've really inspired me - have been quick to share their knowledge in a way that is hard to find and impossible to decipher in their Japanese counterparts. Ultimately, if you've got broth, a tare (often-complex seasoning) and some alkaline noodles, it's ramen.
If you come along to a pop-up, it's likely I’ll be serving a short menu full of classics, with hopefully something for everyone. From the artery-clogging double-pork goodness of the tonkotsu, via its chicken-y cousin the tori paitan, to the more delicately balanced shio and shoyu bowls (one chicken version, one vegan mushroom version), via the hearty, umami-stuffed warmth of the misos. All our bowls are served with hand-made noodles, long-simmered broths and deeply flavoured tares and toppings.
When your bowl arrives, get it down you as quickly as you can. There's nothing sadder to a ramen cook than a bowl that's been left to sit and disintegrate. So, don't try to be polite - slurp away as noisily as possible.