In days gone by when overseas travel was still on the table, I found myself on a culinary pilgrimage across Japan. What started as a hunt for some of their best street food like yakitori and okonomiyaki, soon became an obsession for one dish in particular: ramen.
We’ve all had to resort to the two-minute versions at some destitute dinner time and I’ve been known to delve into an instant cup noodle or some pimped-up mi goreng every now and then. That trip to Japan even included a tour of the Cup Noodle Museum in Yokohama – which, as it turns out, is more famous for its noodles than it is for motorbikes. But whether you’re spending $2 or $20, anyone who has tried a bowl of the real version of ramen knows we’re talking about a very different proposition, no matter where in the world you are.
Now as our home remains tightly girt by sea, I’ve been searching for the same satisfaction I had each day of that hand-made noodle-infused adventure. And I think I’ve finally found it.
Kazumi Ramen opened its wooden-clad storefront on The Parade in Norwood just a few short and delicious months ago, and the line-ups out the street will prove that in the food game, word of mouth and Instagram shots are your best marketing tool.
While developing flavours of the perfect ramen relies on ingredients, the most important one is time: 72 hours, to be exact. That’s the amount of time that Kazumi gives the base broth for its main meal to develop. It’s also why diners who rock up late at night have had to be sent away – when stocks are down, the closed sign goes up.
Thankfully, over the months since opening, Kazumi has increased its stock and also the number of options on the menu.
So here I am, back for visit number six in about as many weeks.
A giant octopus emerges from the waters that surround Mount Fuji, with prawns and storms overhead. A red sun peeks through the clouds alongside a cow and a rooster. I’m sure that scripture must tell the tale of the origins of this nationally renowned dish, for those that haven’t visited Yokohama and are fluent in Japanese. But enough about the cool and quirky interior, we’re here for the main event: lunch.
The first dish isn’t ramen but is a great introduction to our meal. It’s another classic Japanese snack – gyoza. Kazumi’s version is as good as any I’ve tried, with a silky wrapper that’s been partially fried golden enveloping a succulent filling of wagyu beef that has created its own (delicious) interior soup. And then karaage chicken offers a lot more crunch and some definite heat. A soy and sesame dressing slowly seeps into the coating and of course there’s plenty of kewpie mayo to make this guilty pleasure even more satisfying.
Agedashi tofu is a surprisingly flavoursome delight. Perfectly uniform squares are silky in the centre with a light coating of tempura-style batter and sprinkling of shredded nori that offer different textures and umami flavour.
The main issue I’ve found with ramen, and especially from numerous visits to Kazumi, is deciding which one to choose. There are typically four different kinds of ramen and, like many things, a bit of practice (or a little pre-research) will help. Shio is the most basic and traditional type, with a clear and relatively salty base. And then there’s shoyu, with its soy flavour and addition of, typically, chicken or pork. Miso is a regionally specific version hailing from Hokkaido, with most of its flavour imparted from its namesake’s salty soybean base. And lastly, tonkotsu, which uses pork bones that result in a thick and creamy soup.
There are six adaptions of ramen on Kazumi’s menu that include steak, curry, vegetarian, and three that feature wagyu beef, another meaty ingredient that hails from Japan.
Today I select the shoyo version topped with generous slices of wagyu that break apart with the slightest encouragement of a chopstick. Handmade noodles swim beneath a surface of carefully arranged ingredients including bamboo and beansprouts, sesame seeds and slivers of spring onion. These are not just there for decoration: each adds a certain element of taste and texture, as they swim in the hearty, flavour-fuelled broth that has benefited from every minute of the 72 hours.
And in my last lesson for today I can tell you that when eating ramen it’s tradition to slurp from the big wooden spoons – it’s a sign of (gluttonous) respect, if you will.
When your entire business model essentially relies on creating different versions of the same dish, you really need to get it right, and Kazumi does. And when you visit, you’ll respect the effort, energy, clear passion and time that is put into these elevated staple dishes. Slurp, by delicious slurp.
150 The Parade, Norwood
Seven days – 11am to 9pm
No bookings – walk-ins only