I wish I could count the stacks upon stacks of Maruchan brand ramen I ate while serving my mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Seattle.
Seattle has a very high cost of living and when we missionaries only got $160 each month for food, that meant a lot of ramen.
I tried my best to add a bit of flair. I felt a bit like Emeril Lagasse when I dropped an egg while cooking my ramen, effectively making a poor man’s egg drop ramen.
I believe that missionary me would’ve drooled with envy at the ramen dished out by Haku Ramen House, which recently opened in American Fork.
Haku Ramen is a few-frills kind of eatery that I find myself particularly attracted to. I’ve opined in previous reviews that I make it a point to find restaurants that dedicate their menus to a few items. Haku Ramen House pulls this off effortlessly, serving four kinds of ramen with a handful of appetizers.
My wife and I felt a bit peaky, so we ordered three different appetizers: Karaage Chicken, Gyoza and Chashu Buns.
Karaage is a Japanese method of frying chicken, that employs small cuts of chicken, typically dark meat, marinated in mirin, soy sauce, sake and other flavors, before being dredged in potato or corn starch and fried. Karaage is often served without an accompanying sauce, but ours was served with a toasted sesame sauce. My wife remarked throughout the night that this was her favorite part of the meal. The chicken was tender and the included sauce was a nice touch of flavor to an already delicious side.
The Pork Gyoza was pretty typical fare, aside from one thing. Something about each gyoza bite was sweeter than most that I could remember. And trust me, my wife and I love gyoza and pot stickers, and we’d never experienced that sweet flavor so well coupled with gyoza. At writing, I honestly can’t assess what the flavor was, but it certainly earned the gyoza high praise.
Chashu buns are almost like a comfort food to me, with the soft, almost sticky steamed buns perfectly cradling slabs of pork belly in between. The pork cuts were perfectly tender in a marinated house sauce clearly based with soy sauce and teriyaki notes. I could happily eat just steamed buns for a meal, and have on many occasions.
But that’s not what this meal was about. We were here for the ramen. I ordered a Haku Ramen, which was basically tonkotsu ramen. Tonkotsu ramen takes dedication and a lot of time to execute perfectly. Pork marrow bones are cooked for hours to extract every last vessel of flavor from each crevice of the bone. It’s not replicable from one ramen house to another, each bowl with mild differences of flavor notes to the next.
The Haku Ramen was remarkably creamy. Each dip of the spoon pushed ripples of broth over the toppings of pork, green onions, soft boiled egg, bamboo shoots, mushroom and chili threads, imbuing more and more flavor into each slurp of soup. Each noodle glided graciously through the soup, bringing perfect touches of flavor into every bite.
My wife opted for the Shoyu Ramen, which came with the same toppings, but this time, in a pool of chicken broth rather than the tonkotsu broth. She was less impressed with hers than mine, and yearned for just a peck more of flavor.
After our bowls had been nearly emptied, we determined that a dish of Mochi ice cream would be a perfect conclusion. Mochi is a small ball of ice cream blanketed in a rice flour dough. The result is a sticky, sweet dessert that is becoming a newly popular trend. The mango Mochi tasted as if the mango slices were just barely cut, while the strawberry Mochi was a fresh reminder of the spectacular summer season. Each bite was a scoop of childhood memories wrapped in a new tradition.
The wait staff was extremely attentive, friendly and willing to assist with menu recommendations and requests. Portions were fairly reasonable and prices were more than fair. That, combined with the unbelievable bowl of ramen, will surely make Haku Ramen House a regular entry in our rotation of restaurants.
Ramen and noodle houses have become trendier and a more common site. My first trip to a ramen house was six years ago in Manhattan, and I was less than impressed. I would’ve preferred the 20 cent brick of dried noodles and pack of sodium and flavor to the odd amalgam of chicken broth and seafood — including octopus tentacle — I subjected myself to that day.
But it’s because of restaurants like Haku Ramen House that I’ve changed my tone and eagerly dive taste buds first into each bowl of ramen.