Ippudo Shojin Vegetarian Ramen, Ippudo Sydney

I love my Japanese food, and I love my ramen.

Picture this: my Japan trip, circa 2008. Our flight just arrived in Osaka from Australia. It was 5 degrees C outside, almost 9pm, raining cats and dogs, and we were starving. Starving I tell you (what do you expect from a 9 hour flight on a budget airline?)! Walked around the empty streets of Osaka, the sound of the pachinko machines echoing in the background, when we saw a stream of yellow light coming out of a narrow opened doorway. The smell of broth ushered us in, and we suddenly found ourselves inside a hole in a wall, 2 table ramen restaurant being manned by the happiest noodle-turning, broth bubbling ramen guy on this side of the planet. And the ramen? It was manna from heaven – tonkotsu broth, noodles, boiled egg, chashu (pork slices), nori (seaweed), shinachiku (seasoned bamboo shoots), sesame seeds, and a hint of garlic. H E A V E N.

Tori Shoyu Special: simmered pork belly, roasted seaweed, flavoured black mushroom and bamboo shoots, spring onions.

Back home in Australia, my love for ramen continues and one of my favourite spots to get my ramen fix is Ippudo. Have you tried their ramen? And pork buns? And sake-based cocktails? No? Do yourself a favour – grab a spot now and order these three pronto. These are my go-to meal fix especially when I’m feeling nostalgic about my Japan trip. Thanks to Narisa from SD Marketing and Ippudo, I received a very generous invitation to try out their SHOJIN Vegetarian ramen – a lightly brothed soup with whole grain noodles, served with deep fried vegetable kakiage (fried vegetable bits – carrots, corn, etc) and soy protein wrapped in seaweed. A quick search on the Ippudo website showed me that:

The term “SHOJIN” is not just a vegetarian ramen, but one that adheres to strict Buddhist principles. Its aim is to bring out the original flavours of the ingredients and is a cuisine of devotion to details.

Shojin Vegetarian Ramen
Ippudo Sydney bar

We were also treated to an array of Ippudo’s ‘bests’: Pork Bun, Unagi Gohan (grilled eel on rice), and the uber drinks Tokyo Sunrise (sake, grapefruit juice, lychee juice, grenadine), Ippudo Ginjo (Ippudo original house sake), and Ginrei Umeshu on the rocks (plum wine – YUM!).

Thanks to SD Marketing and Ippudo Sydney for the invitation and the warm welcome, dinner, and drinks. Sugarlace & guests dined as guests of Ippudo Sydney. Special thanks to the Ippudo crew especially Mark who looked after us (and our other little guest, baby Talya!).

Ippudo Ginjo original house sake
Tokyo Sunrise: sake, grapefruit juice, lychee juice, grenadine
Ginrei Umeshu on the rocks: plum wine
Ippudo Pork Buns: steamed bun with braised pork and original Ippudo sauce.
Unagi Gohan: grilled eel on rice
Tori Shoyu Ramen toppings
Shojin Vegetarian Ramen broth & noodles
Shojin vegetable toppings

Ippudo Sydney
http://www.ippudo.com.au/
Address: Shop 5021, Level 5, Westfield Shopping Centre/188 Pitt Street Sydney Australia, 2000
Phone:(02) 8078 7020

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Ton Ton Regent, Sydney

Picture this: two starving human beings, walking around aimlessly in George Street at 9pm on a Saturday night, while their tummies rumble and grumble angrily.

That was Mr J and me last Saturday night.

We just finished watching 500 Days of Summer (which, surprisingly, was an enjoyable movie!), it was 8:30pm, and we were hungry! Our plans of trying out Mamak after their renovations flew out the window the moment we saw the queue: IT WAS LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONG! Well, we expected a queue anyway but not THAT long. I suppose that’s typical Mamak on a Saturday night, whatever the time is!

So, we figured that we should just walk around some more and eventually we’ll surely find a restaurant that we’d fancy because we were in the hub of Chinatown and Chinatown equals restaurants.

Correct?

Yes.

Did we fancy them?

No.

So, walked around a bit more, turn left here, around the corner there, and we found ourselves right back to where we started: George St cinemas. We were almost about to give up our little find-a-restaurant-with-decent-food-and-decent-price-on-a-Saturday-night-in-Sydney when we saw a sign that said there’s a casual Japanese restaurant just inside the Lumiere building and that we should follow through…

The sign that spoke to our stomachs, "Come hither, my pretties!"

At this point, Mr J and I just didn’t care where to go and what to eat: we just wanted food! So, we rounded the corner, saw tables and chairs, walked up the counter, ordered the first thing that we saw, sat down, and waited.

And wait we did for only about 5 minutes (I love Japanese service!).

Pork Gyoza

First up was the pork gyoza. This pot sucker sticker was everything a gyoza should be: crispy fried skin, and a moist and almost-juicy vegetable-filled inside. The cabbages were cooked just right – in fact, almost sweet rather than bitter – and you can tell that they were just freshly made and cooked. Mr J was popping the piece by piece in his mouth from hunger and also satisfaction, and I didn’t blame him. It was just delicious!

Beef Sukiyaki-Don

The beef sukiyaki-don is a generous bowl of meat on top and rice in the bottom: the perfect serving of protein and carbs for a big, hungry (growing!) boy. Mr J loves his meat, and this perfectly satiated his hunger. The meat was tender, with just the right saltiness and “curing”. The boy quickly polished this off in record time.

Teriyaki Whitefish

I ordered the Teriyaki Whitefish because it sounded like something I’d like. I was expecting steamed or poached fish with teriyaki sauce, and to be honest I would’ve been quite happy with that. But what came out of the kitchen and laid infront of me was something quite unexpected:

A lightly tempura battered coating, crispy outside and moist and tender white meat inside that amazingly… AMAZINGLY… taste so damn freaking good! The teriyaki sauce is sweet with a slight hint of chilli, and it works so well with the fish that I did not want dinner to end.

What this small pocket of George Street, hidden away from the hustle and bustle of Sydney on a Saturday night, offered to the hungry Mr J and I really amazed us. I never knew this little Japanese dining place even existed, but our stomachs and noses guided us there. I’d like to think that this was a great gastronomical discovery the size of Christopher Columbus, but I know that Ton Ton Regent has been visited and revisited by so many Sydneysiders out there. What I can do, however, is just show you and narrate to you the incredibly dinner that a certain Mr J & Trish had one Saturday night in Sydney.

Ton Ton Takeaway Regent

Ground Floor
501 George St
Sydney 2000

Ph: 02 9267 1313

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Eggplant Tempura

Although I love Japanese food and Japanese culture and Japan itself, I’m no expert in any of these fields. I try and have a Japanese dinner night once a week where I cook a Japanese dish, however my knowledge and skills only extend as far as, well, not very far at all.

One dish I’ve learned to cook is tempura. And one type of tempura I love to eat everywhere I go is eggplant tempura.

I know not alot of people are keen on eggplants, but I love the taste and texture of both the skin and the flesh. And I’ve just noticed now, but I always ALWAYS eat it with soy sauce. Must be from my Filipino roots.

Eggplant Tempura

Makes approximately 2-3 servings

1 medium sized eggplant, sliced

Canola oil for pan frying

Batter

1 cup ice cold water

1 egg

4 tbsp all purpose flour

  1. Pour oil in the pan and turn on heat.
  2. Meanwhile, make the tempura batter by beating the water and egg together. Add the flour and whisk to combine well.
  3. Dip the eggplant slices on to the batter. Once the oil has heated up to the right temperature, place the dipped eggplants and pan fry until golden brown.

I still had some batter left because I think my eggplant was a bit smaller than the usual medium size, so one look around the fridge and I found this:

There is a mushroom tempura, right? RIGHT?

The sauce is just a pre-made bottled tempura sauce that you can find from any Japanese or Asian stores. You just add 4 parts boiling water to 1 part concentrated tempura sauce, and I like to add a few drops of sesame oil just to infuse it with that Japanese flavour.

They get reeeeally oily so pat them with a towel to remove excess oil!

Eat with rice and a side of miso soup and there you have it! YUMYUMYUM!

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