We already know that Zen Box chef/owners John Ng and Linda Goh have been working mightily to step up their ramen game. They don't miss any opportunity to travel, research, and eat ramen and then return to Minneapolis to serve to us all they've learned. But now they're traveling to Nashville along with five others who've been chosen as the country's best ramen chefs, to showcase what they know to raise money for childhood cancer and further step up their noodle game.
They're in good company, too. Last year's Nashville's XL Ramen Fest featured ramen legends Ivan Orkin of Japan and New York City's Ivan Ramen, Yuji Haraguchi from Yuji Ramen, and Shige Nakamura of Ramen Lab, all bigwigs in the game.
Ng and his fellow chefs will be tasked with presenting 300 bowls of ramen using a special recipe created for the event. Ng will be serving Chuka Kamo Ramen, which he says is considered to be the original historical Chinese ramen, and since Ng is of Chinese descent, he wants to represent, as the kids say. "Some say ramen in Japan was introduced from China in the late 1800s to early 1900s, while the first specialized ramen shop opened in Yokohama by a Chinese ramen chef," Ng tells us.
The flavor profile will include Chinese-style chicken and pork clear bone broth, and duck shoyu tare (tare is the base sauce that provides flavor structure to ramen).
"Broth is the basic structure of a bowl of ramen; for example, our tonkotsu (pork bone) broth is the master broth for all of our ramen dishes, but we create different tare like kimchi and miso for additional flavors to create different tastes."
The ramen will also incorporate duck chashu (a popular way to flavor and prepare BBQ pork in Cantonese cuisine), mizuna (peppery Japanese greens), crispy shaved burdock, duck aroma oil, and Sun Noodle's Tokyo wavy noodles.
It's fun to see our local talent getting national and international recognition every time we turn around. Most recently it's Jim Christiansen of Heyday receiving a best new chef award from Food and Wine, Gavin Kaysen of Spoon and Stable leading his team to the Silver in Bocouse d' Or, and John Kraus of Patisserie 46 leading his team to bronze in the Coupe de Monde. And now you can brag to all your friends that we have some of the best ramen in the country.
This showcase ramen will be available as a special when Ng returns from the event, and we'll keep you posted as to when you can get it.
Good luck, Zen Box!
Send your story tips to Hot Dish.