February’s favourites: 5 Ramen bars in London I love

It’s been a while since I thought about writing a post about the best ramen bars in London and whoever read my post in the previous months, knows how I was dedicated at finding the best place in town that could satisfy my ramen craving here in this cold part of Europe.

Aware of the fact that London is full Japanese restaurants and the ramen fashion is rapidly picking up, I decided to visit the most popular ramen bars in town. After careful consideration (as those many rejection email I’m receiving start) I decided to briefly describe my personal favourite places, ranking them for a precise feature that makes their product stand out.

For first starters: Shoryu Ramen. This is the first place where I had the chance to eat ramen in London after my sublime foodie experience in Japan. The Origin Tonkotsu has a pretty well balanced harmony of flavour between the the broth and the toppings. A nice place to start your ramen appreciation. Unfortunately I don’t have a review for Shoryu, because I went there before I started this blog. However I still remember a pleasant experience.

For broth: Ippudo. A bowl of ramen without the perfect broth would just be pointless (see instant ramen cups) Here the broth is creamy and milky as it’s supposed to be after pork bones are violently boiled for 20 hours and release their collagen. Taste is meaty, satisfying, but at the same time it’s almost sweet,  “clean” I would define it, meaning it does not leave a strong greasy aftertaste in your mouth. Read my complete review here.

Ippudo

Shiromaru Hakata Classic @Ippudo

For noodles: Tonkotsu. These guys make their noodles on the premises thanks to their Japanese noodle machine and the use of local ingredients (let’s not forget the research for the perfect alkaline salted water) that perfectly abide by the original recipe. I love their tsukemen noodle so much for their “bite”. Unfortunately they are available only at their Tonkotsu East location. Read my complete review here.

Detail of the noodles.

Noodles for Tsukemen @ Tonkotsu East

For the marinated soft boiled egg: Kanada-ya. Ok, I know, you think I am kidding right? Simply, I’m not. Everybody who had the chance to try a real bowl of ramen (no, the instant one you had in college don’t count) know how extremely important the egg is to the whole flavour of the recipe. It has to be still runny, so the yolk mixes a bit with the soup, and white should have nicely absorbed the soy sauce overnight or more. In other words it should be a concentrate of Umami. Kanada-ya’s egg was absolute perfection, but unfortunately it comes with an additional price of £2. This is not a deterrent to hungry customers, because it seems to sell out very quickly. Read my complete review here.

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Kanada ya. That egg over there is to die for.

For strong flavours: Bone Daddies. Considering that when on a diet, ramen in general might not be the best choice for your calorie count, Bone Daddies’ speciality requires customers who want enjoy the full flavour experience and preferably without any sense of guilt after eating. Rich (or fatty maybe?) and intense broth, contrasting aromas and different textures in just one dish. Read my complete review here.

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@Bone Daddies

The winner or should I say winners

I think it depends on the occasion and the the atmosphere I’d like to give to my meal. In fact I would definitely choose Ippudo for a girls’ night out both because the place looks a bit fancier than the other ramen bars and because the broth base has an authentic flavour, but at the same time it tastes clean, not greasy at all.

However if I wanted a foodie date without frills or a highly satisfying solo lunch experience I would definitely choose Bone Daddies’ insanely rich Tonkotsu ramen.
What about you guys, have you visited any of these five places?

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Super quick review for a super quick brunch: Andina Shoreditch

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I had this place on my list of bars/restaurants to try for quite a bit and I don’t know why I didn’t stop there before, since I pass by it almost every day.

So, last Sunday I decided on a whim to grab a bite before deliberately losing myself in the craziness of the Christmas Shopping District: Oxford Street. After all, I have gifts to buy like everyone else.

Little sister of the famous Ceviche in Soho, Andina is a Peruvian Bar which concentrates its focus on Andean soul food with a modern touch, a necessity if you want to make it among the uncountable hip restaurants in Shoreditch and London in general.

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The first thing you notice as soon as you get in is the brightness of the place, thanks to the natural light coming from the big windows that surrounds the room. Then the quirky decor of the yellow tiles, the wicker basket chandeliers and the colored yarn hung on the walls add authenticity and modernity without weighing the interior down.

Unfortunately for us, G and I were seated downstairs in a very much different room with an aseptic bar, dim lights, furniture almost totally made of aged wood and a large mirror that covers completely a wall.

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I ordered simple poached eggs and avocado sourdough toast, just to play it safe after the flu I got during the week, while G got the Chicharron sandwich, which according to Andina’s menu should be the best bacon sandwich: chunks of confit pork belly with camote (sweet potato) ketchup, with red onions and tomato. Challenge accepted.

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The service was fairly quick, and in no time we had our plates. While mine was a bit bland in flavour and unfortunately cold, G’s sandwich was too much for me to handle, not really the best bacon sandwich as the menu claims. Excessively greasy with a strong pork flavour, that remained in my mouth for quite a bit that afternoon, even until dinner time.

My vote: I expected more from this place, to be honest. I cannot talk about their other specialities or their famous ceviche which I would like to try one day, but as a place for brunch I give Andina a 6. In my opinion there are far better places in Shoreditch and in London in general, to have a bite.

Andina,1 Redchurch St, London E2.

Kanada-ya ramen bar, London review: not bad.

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There’s always a tremendous queue outside Kanada-ya ramen bar. The place is undoubtedly small, but the fact that customers are willing to wait for their turn to eat, should often be taken as a good sign of superb food.

Kanada-ya was founded by Kanada Kazuhiro in Yukuhashi, Japan, back in 2009 but only recently their management has considered expanding abroad, with the opening of two new restaurants in Hong Kong and London. This one is located just opposite to the major competitor in town: Ippudo. Let the ramen war begin!

As much as the cold weather and the light rain put me off, the die-hard foodie inside me never surrenders, so there I was, waiting for my piping hot bowl of ramen.

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The queue was even longer.

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While waiting…

After 45 minutes outside in the freezing cold, I was actually questioning my intellect. “This is crazy, this ramen had better be the most amazing I ever had.” Which, of course I doubted, having tried the real thing back in Japan. Anyway, Finally G and I were seated at the main shared table, together with other 6 people.

The decor is minimal, with a dominant theme of aged wood tables and brick walls painted in white, that reflects the light from the two big windows and creates the illusion of a wider space.

At the table I immediately noticed a tall glass filled with reusable chopsticks and I could not hide a bit of disappointment. Just to be clear, I’m not some hygiene freak, and I don’t doubt the health and safety standards of the place. Plus I’m always in for green choices and reusable materials. The unbearable truth is: I can’t eat by using reusable chopsticks without looking stupid, because their lacquered surface lets slip the noodles and I end up splashing soup all over the place.

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Original Ramen

While I was wondering how to limit the damages, our order arrived quicker than the time spent queuing. Both G and I got Kanada-ya’s Original Ramen, which consisted in a bowl of noodles underneath a thick white and foamy 18 hour pork bone broth and topped with chashu pork belly, nori seaweed, wood ear fungus and spring onions. We both added the seasoned soft boiled egg, because without it, ramen would have been just profane, right?

I first tasted the soup, which was intensely rich, meaty, just as I imagined it would be after boiling for 18 hours, but unfortunately it left an unpleasant greasy residual in my mouth. Stop! I know what you’re thinking: pork broth is fat, no wonder that ramen is so high in calories. Yes, true, but I tried a lot of ramen places where broth tasted “cleaner”, without leaving any oily feeling on my tongue.

Noodles were thin, but with firm texture. As for the toppings, the seasoned soft boiled egg was cooked to perfection, with some of the yolk melting heavenly into the soup. However, I wasn’t really convinced by the pork belly, because it was sliced so thinly to the point of looking like prosciutto. It should be thicker, as everybody who tried ramen in Japan knows, otherwise the texture and meat juices are noticeably reduced to the detriment of the overall flavour.

I have to say that I was not super impressed with Kanada-ya’s ramen. I think that after 45 minutes queuing outside, I was expecting an almost perfect bowl of noodles. Unfortunately, some characteristics of this dish did not meet my expectations.

For this reason, my vote for Kanada-ya is 7, because although I find the product not bad, I think that some aspects of both the management of the place and the ramen itself should be improved.


Kanada-ya, 64 St Giles High Street, WC2H 8LE London.

“Agnello Cacio e Ova” (Lamb, Cheese and Eggs) a typical Molisan recipe for Easter

I started The Weird Frittata with the intention to talk about food and the industry that gravitates around it.This means I have deliberately chosen not to write recipes, first because there are millions of blogs that outstandingly do this already. Secondly, because I am a perfectionist and I think that I still have a lot to learn before giving directions and advices. However, I promised myself to share with my readers stories and traditions about Molise, the Italian region I come from, and this time it’s a recipe. This could be seen as a contradiction, but I actually chose to share a particular recipe not only because it’s an important part of Easter traditions in Molise, but also because the dish I’m going to talk about, is unlikely to be translated into English or even in Italian cookbooks.

The recipe takes its name from three fundamental ingredients, in fact Agnello Cacio e Ova can be translated from dialect as Lamb, Cheese and Eggs. Lamb and eggs are strong symbols of the Easter traditions, in fact Lamb represents the young generation of the flock and it is therefore associated with Jesus Christ. As for eggs, they were considered as the symbol of life since the beginning of human history, assuming the metaphorical meaning of eternal life in the Christian tradition later on. As a lucky coincidence, lamb and eggs are typical products of Molise, whose mountainous landscapes have allowed, throughout the centuries, the development of an economy largely based on agriculture and farming.

And what about cheese, you may ask. Sheep breeding in Molise was, and still is aimed at dairy production, therefore pecorino cheese is mainly used in this recipe as a traditional ingredient. However, as it often happens, each family has their own variation, so the cheese may differ according to the recipe. For example, in my Nonna’s recipe pecorino is substituted with grated Parmigiano but I assure you the final result won’t lose to the original one.

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“Agnello Cacio e Ova” 

Ingredients for 6 people:

  • 1 whole deboned and diced lamb leg
  • 10 eggs
  • the juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 300 gr of grated Parmigiano
  • 300 gr of breadcrumbs
  • white wine
  • rosemary
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil

Directions:

Take a medium cake tin and sizzle the diced lamb, garlic and rosemary in olive oil. When the meat looks nice and brown, add a splash of white wine and wait for it to be evaporated. Then set aside and wait until it cools down. Take out both the rosemary and the garlic but leave the meat in the tin.

While waiting, beat the eggs with the lemon juice, Parmigiano, salt and pepper. Add the breadcrumbs little by little, so that the final mixture would result neither runny nor dry.

Pour the egg mixture over the lamb into the cake tin until the meat is covered and give it a stir.

Bake in preheated oven at 200° until the cake becomes amber coloured. At this point low the temperature to 140° and cook for another 10 minutes.

The final result has to look like a sponge cake. Or a giant, meaty frittata.

Happy Easter!

And now in Italian.

Ho iniziato a scrivere su The Weird Frittata con l’intenzione di parlare di cibo e le varie sfaccettature del mondo che gira intorno ad esso. Tutto ciò significa che ho volutamente scelto di non scrivere un blog di ricette, per due motivi: primo, perché ci sono già milioni di blog su cui trovare tutte le dritte per realizzare piatti straordinari. Poi perché, fondamentalmente, sono una perfezionista e penso di avere ancora molto da imparare prima di dare indicazioni e consigli su come preparare un determinato piatto. Tuttavia, mi sono ripromessa di condividere con i miei lettori storie e tradizioni riguardanti il Molise, la regione da cui provengo, e questa volta si tratta di una ricetta. E’ una contraddizione direte, ma in realtà ho scelto di condividere una ricetta particolare, non solo perché si tratta di un piatto fondamentale nella tradizione pasquale molisana, ma anche perché è impossibile trovare questa ricetta nei libri di cucina. E anche quelle che ci sono in rete, indicano un piatto simile, ma della tradizione abbruzzese.

La ricetta prende il nome dai suoi tre ingredienti fondamentali: agnello, formaggio e uova. L’agnello e l’uovo sono importanti simboli delle tradizioni pasquali, infatti l’agnello rappresenta la giovane generazione del gregge ed è, quindi, associato con Gesù Cristo come figlio di Dio. Per quanto riguarda le uova, esse sono considerate il simbolo della vita fin dall’inizio della storia dell’umanità, assumendo, con il passare dei secoli, il significato metaforico di vita eterna nella tradizione cristiana. Per una fortunata coincidenza, agnello e uova sono i prodotti tipici del Molise, i cui paesaggi montani hanno permesso, nel tempo, lo sviluppo di un’economia quasi interamente basata su agricoltura e allevamento.

E il formaggio? vi chiederete. L’allevamento di ovini in Molise era, ed è ancora mirato non solo alla macellazione, ma soprattutto alla produzione lattiero-casearia. Per questo motivo il formaggio pecorino viene utilizzato nella ricetta come ingrediente tradizionale del territorio.

Come spesso accade, ogni famiglia ha la sua ricetta che spesso presenta delle varianti. Per esempio, mia Nonna preferisce usare il Parmigiano al posto del pecorino, ma vi assicuro che il risultato finale non perde affatto di sapidità. Questo è ciòche accade quando si può contare su materie prime di qualità.

Agnello Cacio e Ova

Ingredienti per circa 6 persone:

  • 1 cosciotto di agnello disossato e tagliato a cubetti
  • 10 uova
  • il succo di 1 limone
  • 2 spicchi di aglio
  • 300 gr di Parmigiano grattugiato
  • 300 gr di mollica di pane finemente tritata
  • vino bianco
  • rosmarino
  • sale e pepe
  • olio d’oliva

Procedimento:

Prendete uno stampo rotondo per torte e fate soffriggere l’agnello tagliato a dadini insieme all’aglio e il rosmarino in olio d’oliva. Quando la carne si colora, aggiungete una spruzzata di vino bianco e attendete che evapori. Poi mettete da parte e aspettate che si raffreddi. Lasciate la carne nello stampo, ma non dimenticate di togliere l’aglio e il rosmarino.

Nel mentre sbattete le uova con il succo di limone, il Parmigiano, sale e pepe. Versate la mollica poco alla volta e regolate la quantità, poiché Il composto non deve risultare troppo liquido ma nemmeno troppo asciutto.

Versate il composto di uova sopra l’agnello nella tortiera fino a coprire la carne. Date una mescolata e fate cuocere in forno preriscaldato a 200 ° fino a quando la “torta” diventerà ambrata. A questo punto abbassate la temperatura a 140 ° e cuocete per altri 10 minuti.

Deve assumere l’aspetto un Pan di Spagna. O una frittata gigante.

Buona Pasqua!

The Revenge of Eggs in Gourmet Cuisine

There’s a good story about Dante Alighieri’s excellent memory. He used to sit on a rock while watching the construction of Florence’s Duomo when, one day he was abruptly asked by a fellow citizen what food he liked the most. Dante’s immediate reply was “Eggs”. One year later, the same citizen found Dante in the same place, and tried to test poet’s memory by asking him: “How?”, and Dante replied: “Salted”.

I have to agree with Dante on this one, as eggs with just a pinch of salt are really one of the best foods. Word. Cheap, easy to cook and packed with proteins, eggs are considered a basic ingredient in every kitchen.

Now, the question is, would you get eggs when eating out? I think I wouldn’t, unless we are talking about something really particular, like Century eggs.

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Century egg
Photo: wikipedia

Well, it seems that chefs are reevaluating eggs and their role in the gourmet cuisine, from an emulsifying ingredient to main course, also considering in their dishes, egg’s primordial and philosophical meaning as a metaphor of life’s origins.

In his book, The squaring of the egg, the two starred chef Carlo Cracco claimed that an egg is like an old actor who changes his face and appearance with the passing of time. However, this doesn’t mean that there’s nothing else to discover, another role to play. That’s why Cracco came up with the idea of his most amazing signature dish: Marinated yolk on Parmigiano fondue. Basically, the yolk is marinated in salt, sugar and bean puree for 7 hours. Then it’s washed and served with the fondue.

Another Italian chef, Davide Scabin, started to experiment with eggs more than a decade ago, when he tried to substitute the eggshell with plastic wrap. This concept led to his signature dish, the Cyber Egg.

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Cyber egg
Photo: dottorgourmeta

The recipe is simple, easy to follow and to be recreated at home. Well, of course if you happen to have some caviar close at hand. On plastic wrap put 2 teaspoons of caviar and top it with chopped scallion. Then you put the egg yolk and season with pepper and 4 drops of vodka, then wrap the content tightly. Prepare at least 30 minutes before serving in order for the vodka to “cook” the yolk. The Cyber Egg must be eaten by making a cut on the plastic wrap and immediately squeeze the content in the mouth. This represents a mind blowing experience -according to Scabin- because diners can’t touch or smell the content of the “package”, so the brain can’t create any prejudice beforehand.

Of course even Adrià experimented with eggs, creating one of elBulli’s masterpieces, the Golden Egg, which consisted in a yolk covered in caramel and sprinkled with salt.

Golden egg Photo: K Tao

Golden egg
Photo: K Tao

The three starred chef René Redzepi from Noma, created an easier dish, “The hen and the egg” (a fried egg with local Danish herbs and flowers) to engage diners’ participation in the process of cooking, and at the same time considering the egg as a symbol, to show customers “how easy food can be if you have time and a thought behind it”.

To sum up, we could say that in the Gourmet Cuisine, egg is like the poor Cinderella, who dresses up to go the ball and gets her happy ending. The reinterpretation of how to cook eggs represents not only the revenge of those cheap ingredients used in daily life, but it’s also the demonstration of how versatile and surprising cooking is. This is because there is always something to experiment with and to discover, just like other ways to cook an egg, apart from frying, poaching or scrambling it. Which, by the way, I love.

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And now in Italian.

 Secondo un curioso aneddoto riguardante la straordinaria memoria di Dante, il poeta sedeva spesso su un masso vicino il duomo di Firenze quando, un giorno, un concittadino gli chiese quale cibo fosse il più buono. Dante rispose immediatamente. “L’uovo”. Dopo un anno, Dante incontrò nuovamente l’uomo, che a bruciapelo gli chiese: “Come?”, e Dante rispose: “Con il sale”.

Sono d’accordo con Dante, perché le uova con un po’ di sale sono davvero buonissime. Costano poco, sono facili da cucinare e sono un’ottima fonte di proteine, per questo motivo sono un alimento da sempre presente in tutte le cucine.

Ora, la domanda è, scegliereste mai di mangiare uova in un ristorante? io non penso che lo farei, a meno che non si tratti di qualcosa di particolare come le Uova Centenarie.

Però sembra che, negli ultimi tempi, i top chef stiano rivalutando il ruolo delle uova nell’alta cucina, passando da ingrediente emulsionante a vero e proprio protagonista del piatto, senza dimenticare il suo significato primordiale e filosofico come metafora di vita.

Nel suo libro, La quadratura dell’uovo, lo chef stellato Carlo Cracco dichiara che l’uovo è come un vecchio attore che cambia faccia e apparenza con il passare del tempo. Questo però, non significa che non ci sia altro da scoprire, un altro ruolo da interpretare. E’ partendo da questo concetto che Cracco ha avuto l’idea per il suo piatto più conosciuto: il tuorlo d’uovo marinato su fonduta di parmigiano. In pratica, il tuorlo viene marinato in una pasta composta da sale, zucchero e purea di fagioli per 7 ore. Poi viene lavato e servito sulla fonduta.

Un altro chef stellato, Davide Scabin, inizio a sperimentare le sue idee sulle uova più di dieci anni fa, quando provò a sostituire il guscio con la pellicola trasparente. Questo concetto diede vita al suo famoso Cyber Egg.

La ricetta è semplice e può essere facilmente replicata a casa, ovviamente se si ha del caviale a portata di mano: su uno strato di pellicola, disponete due cucchiaini di caviale e aggiungete dello scalogno tritato. Poi il tuorlo, del pepe, 4 gocce di vodka e avvolgete il tutto. Preparate il Cyber Egg almeno 30 minuti prima di servirlo, in modo da permettere alla vodka di “cuocere” il tuorlo. Il Cyber Egg deve essere mangiato praticando un taglio sull’involucro di plastica e spremendone immediatamente il contenuto in bocca. Secondo Scabin, questa è un’esperienza sorprendente per il nostro gusto, poiché non potendo toccare o odorare il contenuto dell’involucro, il nostro cervello non può creare preconcetti.

Ovviamente, anche Adrià ha pensato alle uova, creando uno dei piatti più famosi  che venissero serviti a elBulli, il Golden Egg, che consiste in un tuorlo ricoperto di caramello e sale.

René Redzepi del Noma, ha pensato ad una soluzione più semplice, con il suo piatto, chiamato La gallina e l’uovo (un uovo fritto condito con erbe e fiori danesi), coinvolge i suoi clienti nel processo di cucina e, allo stesso tempo, considera l’uovo come un simbolo che possa dimostrare quanto sia facile cucinare se si hanno tempo e idee.

Alla fine, possiamo dire che l’uovo nell’alta cucina è come la povera Cenerentola che si veste bene per andare al ballo, e ottiene il lieto fine. La reinterpretazione della cottura delle uova, non solo rappresenta la rivincita degli ingredienti economici utilizzati tutti i giorni, ma è anche la dimostrazione di quanto la cucina sia versatile e sorprendente. Questo perché c’è sempre qualcosa da sperimentare e da scoprire, come appunto altri modi di cuocere un uovo, a parte friggere, farlo in camicia o strapazzato. Che, per inciso, adoro.

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