It was only 5 months ago when I wrote about how Melbourne is out of its depth with ramen. Imagine my surprise when I saw a new shop called ‘Shop Ramen’ in business on Smith Street, the hipster hub.
I already had a title in mind before eating there: 'Yet another shop to proof white people still cannot tell one bad ramen from another’, but thought that’d just be unfair.
So when I had my first free Saturday noon in weeks, I arrived so early that the shop hasn’t open yet. Such was my anticipation to pay $13 to prove that the ramen in Melbourne isn’t up to standard.
One look at the menu and I started smirking. The Shoyu Ramen is cooked in chicken broth, the Tan Tan Ramen is not your traditional Chinese minced pork with spicy miso but comes with beef brisket (what?) and pork belly. (Again, what?) The sides made me laugh too: oyster mushroom? Black fungus? Coriander? PIE? Oh man.
And then I took my first spoonful.
It wasn’t as bad as I thought.
You know how they say, with low expectation comes small disappointment? Maybe that’s what it was.
It’s definitely not authentic, no doubt about it. But as a soup noodle dish, I think the Shoyu ramen tasted better than some that try so hard to be authentic. Egg was perfectly gooey, the pork belly is generous to say the least. Noodles lack seasoning, but texture was pretty good.
This is the classic western execution of the oriental idea of ramen: They use a pasta machine to roll out the dough, the eggs are probably sou vide’d to perfection, the chicken broth is probably more appealing to the people who can’t stand the thick, smelly, pork broth which is strenuous to make. Not too sure about buns and pies, but these simply screams ’ ramen shop for white folks ’.
It’s probably disgusting for people like me to pass pedestrian remark on someone’s business venture, but such is the cruelty of the food industry.
This is a good social experiment to measure the caucasian taste bud. And it’s a very good business plan.
This is not fusion; it is the illusion of being authentic by using Asian jargons to sensationalise you into thinking that it’s from a different country.
This is not the first nor last of its kind, and it is not anyone’s fault. Australia has great produce, just that the customers wants exotic food. They want entertainment.
If you can’t be the most authentic place, at least be the most original copycat.