Jess and I had the opportunity to attend a local pop-up ramen night at Local Loaf in uptown Charlotte at the 7th Street Public Market tonight.
There were three varieties to choose from: Shio, Shoyu, and a spicy flavor. Jess and I opted for the traditional Shio and Shoyu soups, as they are the two classics by which I typically judge all other ramen. While Shoyu tends to be my favorite, it is also Jess’s favorite, so I went with the Shio.
If you read this blog or have a passing interest in ramen, you probably already know that Shoyu ramen is made with a soy sauce base (shoyu means soy), and Shio ramen is made from a lighter, saltier base, with a fishier flavor. Shio is the oldest and most classic form of ramen, while Shoyu tends to be more popular in Tokyo (hence Tokyo Shoyu Ramen).
The Shio Ramen
Sadly, there was no tamago available – being a pop-up, things happen, and the consistency of the poached egg was not to the chef’s liking. I appreciate that we were served the ramen quickly rather than being made to wait for an entire new batch of eggs, although I believe the presentation with egg probably would’ve made the chef happier. You can tell where they would have gone. Next time!
The toppings complimented the lighter, clear broth nicely, with an absolutely delicious serving of pork belly as the protein. The noodles were easy to slurp, and the broth had the right consistency of salty and seafood-y. If there were two criticisms I would have of the dish, they would be that the fat from the pork belly caused the broth to be a little greasier than typical, but not so much that it was un-appetizing, just noticeable. The noodles slurped easily. I’m actually not sure if they were hand made or ordered, but they had a nice texture and the extra fat from the pork belly actually made them very easy to grab.
The pork belly ended up being the absolute star of the dish. It soaked up the broth beautifully, and the texture was dead-on – I’m not sure that I’ve had a better pork belly in ramen. I, personally, have shied away from using pork belly in my ramen, mostly due to the fact that I can never get this sort of flexibility – my pork belly always ends up too tough to go in a bowl of soup. This presentation has inspired me to try again, it was so delicious.
Overall, the Shio had a flavor that reminded me of the Shio I ate at the Ramen museum all those years ago. It was light, airy, and perfect for a cold November night.
The Shoyu Ramen
If there’s one thing by which you should judge your Shoyu, it’s whether or not it contains that hearty, earthy, soulful flavor a traditional Shoyu contains. This definitely nailed it. After trying Jess’s Shoyu, I immediately wished it were possible for me to order a second bowl so I could have an order for myself. Although the noodles and toppings remain the same, the flavor of the Shoyu elevated this dish light years beyond the Shio.
To be fair, I’m a Shoyu fan. Tonkotsu and Shoyu tend to be my favorite of the ramen offerings, with Shoyu edging out Tonkotsu on most days.
I was actually worried at first that it would be too heavy on the soy sauce, due to the darker nature of the broth – Shoyu tends to be a bit more clear. However, after tasting it, my fears were certainly assuaged. I am so jealous that Jess got to enjoy this one in its entirety, I wanted it for myself!
One final criticism: serving size. I wanted TWICE that portion! According to Jess, this criticism is due to the fact that I love ramen, so it may be unfair.
Tonight’s pop-up ramen event was absolutely fantastic to attend. Not only do I hope there are more opportunities for this sort of event in Charlotte, I hope they do this specific event again – I didn’t get enough ramen! I certainly hope to get the chance to try Chef Bose’s ramen recipes again, and I can’t wait to see what he comes up with next.
Thank you to Stephanie and Brian Conlon, Chef Bose, and everybody attending, who I’m sure went home with a hankering to try real ramen again.