Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ramen Masterclass with Chef Shinichi Kanai @ Gokuraku Ramen, Mid Valley Megamall, Kuala Lumpur

Recently, I had the privilege of dining with Chef Shinichi Kanai san of Gokuraku Ramen (GRR), whereby he shared his experience on making the ultimate ramen. It was definitely one of the most interesting and informative reviews I have been to; we got to witness how the noodles and soup were made on top of the food tasting.

The young chef, Shinichi Kanai san and restaurant manager, Yau


Every bowl of noodles is made with the heart..

The noodles are made fresh daily with their ramen-making machine. You may be able to catch the process since the machine is placed in the shop window. Firstly, the flour is placed into a machine to mix to a paste. This process takes 15 minutes. Then, the paste undergoes the rolling process twice, firstly to create a roll of noodles then the second stage of rolling combines two of the noodle rolls into one smoother roll ready for cutting thick or thin. Then, it is aged for 30 minutes to relax the noodles.


Keep rolling, rolling, rolling..
video


Does it remind you of something else?


One of the most important components is the soup. High quality ingredients such as pork bone marrow, pork joint, chicken and fish is simmered for at least 48 hours to create the exquisite taste. The quality of water is also very important, GRR imported a water filter from Japan to supply pure RO water for the soup.


The noodle bowls are kept heated since they believe this contributes to the making of the ultimate ramen.


If you look closely at the chefs working in the open kitchen, you will notice that a lot of their cooking stations are automated. For example, the noodle cooking station. At first, the chef will loosen the noodles and massage it gently before placing it in the sieve. Then, he presses the button which will lower the sieve in the hot water for an allocated time depending on the thickness of the noodles. Pretty impressive, this means the noodles will always be consistently cooked during every visit.

Automated noodle cooking machine
video


There are two thickness of noodles used here in GRR. The thinner noodles are used in the less rich soups such as tonkotsu, whereas the thicker noodles are used in the richer soups such as Gokuraku miso.


The gyoza at GRR is steamed on one side and grilled on the other. The chef applies some tempura water to create a crisp layer on the grilled side.


We were treated to a selection of appetizers, ramen, rice dishes and desserts from their a la carte menu. We started off with the Pirikara Negi Char Siew, which was topped with crispy deep fried garlic, special homemade chilli sauce, lettuce, Japanese leek and onions. The pork was really tender and the sauce complimented it really well.



Next up, the gyoza a.k.a pork dumplings. The filling was wonderfully juicy and flavoursome. As mentioned earlier, the dumplings have been steamed on one side and grilled on the other side. The thin layer you see is the tempura water. I really enjoyed this since it is non-oily and delicious.



Served with either the classic sauce (soy/vinegar/hot sesame oil) or waku (oba/miso) sauce.


Other than ramen, GRR also serves rice dishes. The Ishiyaki Garlic Rice is similar to the Korean bibimbap in the sense that it is served in a stone pot. There is just something very alluring about a raw egg topped on top of anything. Give the garlic fried rice, spicy minced pork and raw egg a good mix and dig in. The crusty bits from the sides of the stone pot were my favorite.


Mix well

We sampled two types of grilled skewers, the tomato maki (cherry tomato wrapped with bacon) and buta bara kushi (pork belly). The tomato maki was excellent, the sweet juices of the cherry tomato enveloping the slightly salty bacon is great.

Tomato maki and buta bara kushi
We were then served a few different types of ramen dishes; Tonkotsu Ramen, Miso Tonkotsu Ramen, Goku Raku Ramen, Goku Raku Miso Ramen and Ultimate Tonkotsu Ramen. Tonkotsu is the clearest and lightest soup since only pork joint/ bone marrow is used. Gokuraku soup base is made up of chicken, pork joint and fish and is much thicker. My personal favorite is the Tonkotsu soup since I prefer the lighter taste. In terms of noodle thickness, I don't have a preference both are equally satisfying. Ramen is best consumed immediately after serving, within 7-8 minutes.

During our ramen tasting, chef Kanai san shared a few interesting facts which were new to me, since I have never been to Japan:
1. When eating ramen, you're not supposed to drink anything else other than ice water. Green tea which Malaysians often order in Japanese outlets actually is a big no-no since it prevents you from fully enjoying the soup as both attempt to coat your tongue and hence affects the tastebuds.
2. In Japan, the ramen soup is usually very salty, hence they only eat the noodles and not drink the soup. However, because Malaysians are a soup drinking bunch, GRR has reduced their salt levels in soup by 40% to suit our tastebuds.
3. Ramen is a very casual food in Japan, diners usually go in and out of a ramen joint within 15 minutes.

Ultimate Tonkotsu Ramen



Finally, we were served a trio of desserts; banana fritter with vanilla ice-cream, annin tofu (almond jelly) and rare cheesecake. I liked them all, but if I had to pick a favorite, then it would be the annin tofu. :)


On our previous visit to this newly opened outlet we both enjoyed our ramen but were very full after one bowl each and therefore didn't have space left in our tummies to dig deeper into the menu. This highly informative Facebook Fans invited review was truly an eye opener. It not only gave us an insight into Japanese ramen culture, the chance to witness firsthand the care taken in preparing ramen at this outlet but also we were able to sample a range of items with the chef which will undoubtedly make our next visit even more enjoyable.

Thanks again to Gokuraku Ramen for the invite.

For those interested in attending a ramen masterclass, please join Goku Raku Ramen's Facebook page and you might be selected as one of the lucky fans for their future reviews.



Click here to read about our previous visit. Full set of photos are available here.

Opening times: 10am - 10pm daily.

Location: Gokuraku Ramen, S025-S026, Midvalley Megamall, Mid Valley City, Lingkaran Syed Putra, 59200 Kuala Lumpur (FOS Side)

Tel: 03-5622 5340

Website: http://www.gokuraku-ramen.com

20 comments:

  1. That's a really interesting experience! Such modern & efficient equipment in making & cooking ramen - wow!

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  2. Wow I would like to experience this too, can see the noodle making process and dine with the chef :) So nice.

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  3. Mmm, i like crusty rice at the bottom of claypot (stone pot in this case) :D

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  4. How interesting! Really liked your tips on eating ramen - I will bear those in mind:)

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  5. wow, fascinating trivia, about how the japanese don't drink their ramen soup because it's very salty. but i wonder why they don't reduce the salt instead. ramen soup is yummy! :D

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  6. Wah, they are damn gung ho about this whole ramen thing!

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  7. 1 of the main reason why Goku suffered in slow business compared to Zanmai group, is their slow adaptation to the power of internet, especially Facebook, always slow in responding to their customer enquiry. Secondly by too concentrating on their pork menu, they offer less choices compared to other more established Japanese restaurant in Mid Valley.

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  8. The chef who cook the soup is cute :P

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  9. Wasn't impressed wth what i had the last time i was there hence never returned. Seems that they have improved?

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  10. PureGlutton: It was really interesting, learnt so many new things that day.

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  11. Fujiko: Hehe can be a fan on their Facebook page and put yr name down for the next session :)

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  12. Zoe: Me too! That's the best part :D

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  13. Hungry Female: All new to me too. Will come in handy when I do visit Japan someday.

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  14. Sean: Maybe in Japan they just throw salt in the soup and not boil it for many hours with pork like they do in KL. Maybe you can go visit Japan and check this theory out for me? :P

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  15. Michelle: So many new ramen places in KL now.. just visited Tokyo St today and in Pavilion itself, got a few ramen places edi.

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  16. Zorro: I think they're picking up now.

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  17. Choi Yen: Hahahaha his name is Victor!!! Dont let your hubby see this :P

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  18. Ciki: Love the tonkotsu ramen here yo! Whats yr fav ramen place in KL?

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  19. Rebecca: Our first visit was good, they have many different soup bases here, you just have to find the one that suits your tastebud. Ranges from mild to thick (rich).

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Please drop any comments or questions you may have here. Thank you so much for reading!

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