|Hakata-Maru's white tonkotsu ramen|
Diet and calories counting be damned. This cheap and cheerful ramen joint (located dangerously close to uni) is too amazing to be missed.
Hakata-Maru Ramen is the new kid on the ramen block in Sydney. It's a child of Toridoll Corporation that has about 800 shops around the world, and this branch is actually their first ramen shop overseas.
|Hakata-Maru Ramen, Market City|
It's tucked in one of the corners of Market City food court, promising great quality ramen with affordable price. The place doesn't look fancy like Ippudo, but it does have a warm and comforting vibe.
I was invited by Mr Hide, and he kindly let me into the kitchen and filling me up with interesting information. Apparently the ingredients are imported from Japan, and they make everything fresh on the premises.
|Counter and open kitchen|
See those big pots? It's where the cook the spectacular tonkotsu broth. They usually need three pots on the weekends, and usually two pots will be enough for each weekday.
When I arrived, unfortunately, they had finished making the noodles. I would love to see how that machine works!
|Tonkotsu broth pots and noodles machine|
The freshly-made noodles will then be stored in a chiller, where the temperature and humidity are closely controlled. Hakata-Maru specializes in Hakata-style noodles which has thin & straight noodles and milky, rich tonkotsu broth.
The thin & straight noodles have low moisture level, which makes it only takes a few seconds to cook. It's usually boiled quickly for 40 seconds, or 20 seconds if you want a harder texture.
|Freshly made noodles in the chiller|
The broth also needs a special attention. It consists of pork bone (lots and lots of them), and they have to be crushed regularly with a huge wooden spoon so that the soup reaches a perfect consistency.
They also store their serving bowls in hot water to ensure hygiene.
|Crushing bones in tonkotsu soup|
On this picture, the soup needs to be reduced to half of the amount.
Watching the staff preparing bowls of ramen was quite mesmerizing. He put the soup first, then the noodles (after a few stirs in the boiler), and then the toppings.
There are three toppings available to make your bowl a party. Sesame seeds and pickled ginger are on the list, but the one that grabs most of my attention is the spicy takana, pickled mustard leaves. It goes really well with the ramen, and I would gladly eat it as a snack on its own.
|Free flow toppings: (top to bottom) spicy takana, sesame seeds, pickled ginger|
We were offered the 'square one' option: white tonkotsu ramen. To make it interesting, a small amount of black garlic oil & garlic flakes (which makes the black tonkotsu ramen) and spicy miso (which makes the red tonkotsu ramen) were given, so we could try both selections.
The white, creamy tonkotsu is such a source of happiness. It's not too oily or packed fully with collagen yet deliciously rich; it's light enough to be eaten without the guilt afterwards. The noodles were cooked on normal level, which suits me. I always love the addition of black mushrooms, and the gooey-yolk seasoned egg is not something to be skipped. They use lean pork shoulder instead of pork belly. Although I prefer the fatter pork belly, this one works just fine for me.
|White tonkotsu ramen - $7.8|
Putting the black garlic oil & garlic flakes gives it the flavour of black tonkotsu ramen. The fragrant oil will definitely tantalize your senses, and garlic lovers out there would love this one, I believe.
My preference goes to the red tonkotsu ramen, which is white tonkotsu ramen mixed with a blob of spicy miso. While it is not as fiery as it appears, it does give a addictive sting on the tongue, pushing you to get another slurp from your bowl of belly-warming ramen. I know what I am getting next time.
|Thin, straight noodles|
The prawn and vegetables ramen is something new. It's the classic tonkotsu soup blended with soy-sauce-based stir fried prawns and vegetables. It brings a different flavour from the tonkotsu soup; something more complex and interesting. A must try for the adventurous ones.
|Prawn & vegetables ramen - $11.8|
Pork donburi is on the side-dishes list, but I reckon this bowl can fill you up nicely. Perfectly cooked rice with pork & fat cubes, mushrooms, and bamboo shoots in tasty brown sauce. Would you say no? Especially when the gooey-yolk egg is also out there to play.
To combine this with a bowl of ramen will be a real filler, even for the hungry boys.
|Pork donburi - $3.8 (as a set with ramen $10.8)|
Their wings karaage succeeds in making me day-dreaming about its juicy flesh and crunchy jacket. They have also omitted one bone from the wings, so it will only be one bone inside, which can be easily removed by twisting and pulling it out. Awesome idea.
|Wings karaage - $3 (as a set with ramen $9.8)|
And another thing is, they offer kaedama, an extra serving of noodles to your bowl for just $1. Mr Hide emphasized that this is a practice of Japanese food culture. Extra portion of soup can be also purchased for just $1.
Have I mentioned that the prices are really a bargain? It's lower than the other ramen joints I have visited, which is a really great point for me. I love cheap & delicious lunch fix, you know.
So yeah, keep this one on your to-go list.
Currency: $1 = IDR 9,300
Rating: 4/5 (Recommended)
Great ramen and side dishes, friendly and quick service, food-court ambiance, relatively lower price than other ramen joints.
Irene's Getting Fat! sampled Hakata-Maru Ramen courtesy of Hidetoshi Tsuboi and team. Thank you very much! All opinions are based on my personal taste.
Market City Lvl. 3
9-13 Hay St
Haymarket, NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 9281 6648
Facebook page: Hakata-Maru