Ramen, an Evolution of Model Soup Phenomenon
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Wok Tok is a pan-Asian speciality restaurant that blends in the best of Vietnamese, Thai, Japanese and Chinese culinary excellence. The restaurant is located at The Grand New Delhi where Executive Chef Anuj Kapoor has been preparing the most intricate and significant time-consuming broths. These broths take anywhere between 6 to 12 hours to be ready. Bursting with flavours, they are then married with the choicest speciality ingredients flown in from Japan, Singapore and Thailand.
“Ramen is arguably one of the most intricate preparations, with substantial time-consuming broths that are both intense and delicate at the same time.”
~Executive Chef Anuj Kapoor
In a candid conversation with Restaurant India, Executive Chef of The Grand New Delhi, Anuj Kapoor speaks about the importance of maintaining the authentic flavours, especially at pan-Asian restaurants, while serving soups to the diners.
Serving Ramen Noodles at Wok Tok
Spicy Tofu Ramen
Ramen is an authentic Japanese preparation and it’s quite a wave now, worldwide. It’s much popular among people in Japan and the US, and now is entering the European market as well. People are going gaga over ramen. Most of the versions of ramen that I had tasted in India are the shoddy versions of thupka. The broth is the building block of the ramen. The beauty of real ramen lies in the potency and intricacy of its broth or the stalk, which has to be treated with an utmost sanctity. I am right now doing six varieties of ramens at Wok Tok, the Pan-Asian restaurant at The Grand New Delhi. Each one has a separate, dedicated broth. For example, the sea food’s ramen has a broth made of lots of shellfish, crabs, prawn heads and shells, and lobster head in the water. It takes two hours, beyond that if you boil, the broth turns bitter.
A sweet direction is given to the seafood ramen. I had added celery, carrots and fennel bulbs. It’s not sweet in taste, but in flavours. Six-eight hours are required to create the broths. They are very intricate. When I talk about the chicken ramen, in every sip of the broth you will taste the meat. Shitake Mushrooms Gyoza or the dim-sums have the chicken fillings inside; there is a veg version of Gyoza too. Tofu version of ramen is also there; the filling is chicken mince. I have added a twist in Pad Thai by infusing Thai flavours; even the noodle changes. The noodle here is flat rice noodle, and the broth has Thai herbs. It has Kafir lime and lemongrass. I have used intense flavours. I had used straw mushroom which is rare.
Cooking With Artisanal Soya Sauce
I have used artisanal soya sauce which is still being made in a few parts of Japan. There, the sauce is made in a very manual and a home-style manner wherein they have these huge wooden screens, a big pit in the house where soya bean is fermented; the sauce is made with fermented toasted soya beans. The slurry from the pit is taken out after weeks or months, and even years, and then placed on the wooden trays or screens where they are pressed manually to get the extract. As compared to the industrial preparations of the sauce, the artisanal soya gives a much better rounded-off flavour rather than sharp, salty.
Ramen Trends: India is Now Opening up to International Influences
Ramen trends have only begun to catch up. Only very few people have introduced the ramen so far. But India has been the land of Tibetan food of thupkas. Traditionally, India is not a soup country. We don’t really have more soups that we could speak of. Mulligatawny is supposedly a soup from Andhra and is internationally acclaimed. But that’s the only soup you can think of. Others are tamatar dhaniya ka shorba, dal ka shorba. We, Indians, do not eat course wise, traditionally. In the past two generations, people have opened up to international influences. It is still a long way for other cuisines to happen in India at a mass scale. But Chinese (Sino-Ludhianvi, Chinjabi), Italian, Thai and then others are happening slowly. Tibetan has been long enough here for people to love their dim sums, noodles, and soup on a mass scale. Thupka and ramen are examples of noodle soup. I think it’s only an evolution of the model soup phenomenon.
Pad Thai Ramen
Fresh and Locally-sourced Produce Will Take the Lead in 2019
There will be more focus on organic, fresh and locally-sourced produce. I see a reduction in the processed veggies at least in the high-end circuits. The processed foods start from the uppermost edge of the spectrum and then filter down to upper-middle, middle and then lower-middle class. Right now, the processed foods in terms of fresh veggies, the perishables, have had their stay with the top echelon of the society. It will filter now to upper and lower-middle class where it will find huge volumes. But the upper echelons, due to the health reasons, will see a decline in using the processed veggies and will move towards the fresh produce.
The processed veggies industry will see much more massive consumption among the middle class. Processed food is something very different and is not going out of fashion any time soon.