(Agonda Beach Road)
The stifling heat of Kerala was left behind by the night trains gentle rocking. Morning came, after a night full of disturbances from screaming kids and the snoring geriatric 30 centimetres from my bunk. Three buses, a rickshaw and a short stroll later I checked into my new abode on Agonda Beach.
First step: google Tibetan restaurants for Thukpa.
Found one 20 meters away down the road and decided to wait until the next day to try it out for breakfast. Woke, showered, headed down, owner was a smiling Tibetan man who asked "You like spicy or non spicy?". I answered "spicy" of course, not knowing what I had gotten myself in to. Usually thukpa is not hot, so a spicy thukpa sounded like a relatively painless bowl of goodness.
The meal came, I dove in. The broth was a little "cornflour-thick" but had some decent flavour and then the kick came. Blew my head off. I ate through the noodles and vegetables, choking on hidden chilis strewn all throughout the bowl like mines waiting to explode. I managed to eat 4/5ths of it before having to throw in the towel. My eyes were tearing up, my nose running, my throat and tongue numb and my stomach tense at the expectation of what was coming it's way.
Apart from the intense shock of heat, the soup was a decent offering. Had better, had worse. Perhaps it was just what the doctor ordered to kill this lingering cold....
(I/942, KB Jacob Rd, Fort Nagar, Fort Kochi)
Knowing my propensity for pleasure found at the bottom of a bowl of noodles, it didn't take long to find another one. I landed late last night in Kochi after an uneventful flight from Malaysia. Managed to find the guesthouse and hit the hay around 3am. Woken numerous times by screaming kids, then by adults screaming at the screaming kids, I gave up sleep around midday and started searching for lunch.
Just down the lane was a highly rated Tibetan place which was perfect for a brunch-type deal. It was located after the turn in a very narrow alleyway, and another Indian restaurant had sprung a genius plan of sabotaging the Tibetan place by having a huge banner saying MOMOS on their wall so that the unsuspecting tourist would think this was the spot. In fact the real place was out of view around the corner. I almost got duped but had seen photos of the interior online so I knew something was fishy.
I sat upstairs, away from the German tour groups peering eyes. Chicken Thukpa, Lime Soda plain no sugar no salt.
The broth was rich and delicious, the noodles were the packet-type affair, the chicken was tender and the vegetables added a nice crunch. Delicious start to my 2 months in India.
Facing the prospect of a couple months without a bowl of Ramen, I made the snap decision to book a Grab taxi and head back to Bankara to sample their Tonkotsu bowl. Tomorrow heralds the departure to India for 2 months, where bowls of ramen will be swapped with rice and curry and the closest thing i'll come to a bowl of divine goodness will be Thukpa.
The last time I visited I opted for their signature ramen which was an oil slick of shame. This time I went for the tried and tested Tonkotsu which I've enjoyed more times than I can remember at their branch in Bangkok. The service on both occasions here is good, but they are a bit pushy in what THEY want YOU to eat, so you have to repeat yourself three times before they agree to let you decide your own fate. Mildly annoying.
In the end, there are only so many adjectives one can use describing what is, in essence: Broth, Noodles, Meat, Egg, Garnishes.
Pork was succulent and tender, egg was perfectly cooked, noodles had resistance, the woodear mushrooms are always a nice touch and the seaweed adds that funkiness.
Relieved to have ended my 3 month ramen binge on a high note, slightly emotional at the unknown future, and glad to be heading to India to amp up the spices.
7.5/10 (the branch in Bangkok is better)
(41, Jalan Kuchai Maju 7)
Having spent the better part of the day moving from Chinatown over to Bangar, and sorting out practical stuff that took far longer than anticipated, I was left with the horrifying discovery that it was 7pm and I hadn't eaten yet.
Torazou had been on my list for a while now, but being quite a trek outside of the city-centre, I never made it. Until today.
The Grab taxi pulled up outside my hotel after performing hi-jinx U-turn maneouvers in the middle of the road. He started driving, checked his map, turned around and said "Oh traffic! 29 minutes". I braced myself.
23 minutes later we pulled up outside the restaurant in a part of KL I would never otherwise explore. Ordered the regular ramen and an Asahi and sat watching at least 20 people clutching their chopsticks like life-vests and pummelling the bowl.
Was it worth the trip? Yes.
This wasn't amazing ramen, although the actual noodles were great since they are made fresh in house. The broth had a decent enough flavour but was left lacking a bit in the depth department. The pork also had too high a ratio of fat-meat on it so you felt like you only got fat and not enough texture. The egg was strong average.
Service-wise it was great, the location was quirky and i'm sure people who live nearby just congregate here instead of driving to Bankara since its aaaalmost as good without the hassle of leaving your neighbourhood.
(Berjaya Times Square, 2nd Floor, East Wing)
The sun here is beginning to take its toll. 34 degree days, leaving my hotel room showered and ready to face anything the day spins at me, only to walk 500 meters and be reduced to a sweating, pale imitation of myself. The humidity is killer. It doesn't even let up at night. With all that in mind, I decided to throw a triumphant fist in the air and march the 3.2 kilometres to try out a new ramen spot achieving suspiciously high reviews across the board for their brand of Tori Paitan soup.
My previous experiences in Thailand and Indonesia with this arm of the ramen octopus had been grave affairs. Nanase's broth had the texture of thick gravy, and Seirock-Ya's was just far too fatty. I buckled down and found the place at the far end of a corridor with only vacant store-fronts. There was one customer in there attacking his bowl with gusto (I always eat at odd times so the restaurants are invariably empty, kinda the plan). I sat as far away from him as possible, affording him time for his broth-meditation, and me less chance of looking like a total plum for photographing my food from multiple angles.
The cheery waitress set the bowl of ramen down in front of me and i got that immediate feeling that this was going to be a good one. First step, taste the broth. Deep, flavoursome, rich but not too rich, lots of great chicken flavour without the thick-gravy-fat assault of previous tries.
Onto specifics. The noodles were your standard thin wheat ramen type. Sufficient. The pork was cut slightly thicker, but still fell apart at the touch and had a nice rich marinade taste. The egg was a touch on the sweet side, too much Mirin perhaps. All things considered this was a superb bowl of Ramen. I devoured it as quickly as I could but found the mountain unsurmountable and had to throw in the towel with 1/4 to go. The waitress seemed disappointed, but I convinced her I had enjoyed it.
Definitely a spot to check out if you're passing through KL.
(86, Jalan Tun H S Lee, City Centre, 50050 Kuala Lumpur)
Malaysian (Chinese) Beef noodles are very different to the type i'm most used to from Taiwan. There is always beef balls (something I never got in Taipei) and the broth is sweeter, the noodles generally thinner and most bowls are loaded with tripe (which I asked to kindly forego).
However, two of the highest rated one's in Kuala Lumpur are literally 200 and 160 meters respectively from my hotel. The first one I tried last week, was great, so today I figured I might as well check out the competition. This place was three times the size, and equally packed. I seemed to have arrived at the perfect time because as soon as I sat down throngs of locals turned up and had to wait.
I ordered the small bowl of beef ball noodles and a 100 plus. It was 34 degrees. Stiflingly hot. The city heaved under the pressure of the humidity. Cars added insult to injury, but inside was fairly ok. The labouring AC machines working overtime to keep the fire at bay.
The food was delicious. Completely different to Shin Kee down the road which was a clearer soup, different noodles and had minced beef added too. The beef balls here tasted better and had a more pleasant texture, the noodles were better over there, but the most important thing: the broth, was a dead tie. Tho differing in taste and recipe, they both had their plus and minus points.
I'll give this head-to-head a draw.