Ippudo Tonkotsu Ramen Specialty Store Penang
The buzz about Ippudo Tonkotsu Ramen Specialty Store Penang is the fact that it’s new and there is a long queue outside their flagship store at Gurney Plaza.
I missed the grand opening of the ultimate meal-in-a-bowl iconic Japanese dish that the world fell in love with. When we found time to go, we went on hump day before 7.00 pm. Amazingly it was packed to the rafters. We peered in. The diners didn’t look so happy. Our happiness to be the sixth in line was soon to be tested.
We were shown to two seats at the bar, directly in front of the sink. I wondered why since the other end of the bar was empty.
What is Tonkotsu Ramen?
Tonkotsu- (pork bone based soup) Ramen (noodles) to the uninitiated, the Tonkotsu broth is seemingly impossible to achieve in terms of taste and texture of all noodle soup broths. Creamy and milky white in color, the broth (not soup!) is thick, full-bodied and reduced from boiling pork marrow bones and pork fat for hours. This simmering process is what nailed the process of making the soup a perfect balance of body, meat, and aromatics.
Not too porky. Not too brown and definitely too oily. I would call it a suave and refined broth. It’s almost manly and handsome.
The wonderful world of Ramen
Japan’s 47 prefectures (県 ken) and their urban cities have their own ramen specialties and local ramen creations. The varieties and deliciousness of the pork bone broth are what memories are made of. I remember a trip to Tokyo and Osaka where we queued for almost 40min in the cold before we got to savor our ramen. Funnily enough, my travel companions and I can’t remember the name of that particular hot bowl. It was a specialty shop that only sold one type of ramen. Bouncy noodles with a firm al dente bite, three slices of meltingly-tender Chashu Pork (チャーシュー) (Marinated Braised Pork Belly Roll), half a soy sauce marinated egg Ajitsuke Tamago (味付け玉子) or Nitamago (煮玉子).
What remains years on is the fond memory of hot thick silky milk broth that warmed our tummies and our cold hands.
Everyone Has Their Own Favorite Way of Savoring Ramen
Miso, sea salt broth, soy sauce, it is the ultimate savory pork bone broth that evokes a real Tonkotsu mania among fans and connoisseurs.
What we ordered
Edamame is tasty young soybeans that are power packed with clean protein. I’ve had this boiled as a snack with a sprinkling of sea salt. We asked the young waiter if the soybeans are shelled prior to wok frying. He doesn’t know except to recommend that it is a popular item on the menu.
There were three types of Edamame on the menu.
Boiled Edamame (RM8.50)
Peperon Edamame (RM8.50)
Pan Fried Edamame (RM11.50)
When it arrived we were perplexed about eating it without staining our fingers. The bean arrived coated with garlic chips and garlic oil. We should have stuck to ordering the boiled Edamame.
Kushi (串) Not Yakitori
In Japanese, Kushi (串) refers to the skewers used as the waiter explained. He couldn’t explain how the food was cooked.
We’re used to Yakiton, similar grilled creative combinations of meat and vegetables typically seasoned in shio (salt) and dipped in tare (sauce).
As the menu has no photo and the waitstaff doesn’t know, we looked up Ippudo Malaysia’s Instagram for photos of what we could expect!
What You See Is Not What You Get!
Our order of Pork Kushi (RM8.90) and Bacon Tamago Kushi (RM8.90) was pale, cold and served without any condiments except for some grated cabbage. I wanted asupara-bacon (bites of asparagus wrapped in bacon) bacon-wrapped cherry tomatoes or just about anything wrapped in bacon and grilled with a sweet teriyaki sauce.
Without a picture menu and a service staff not trained to explain the difference, we were rather disappointed with our order. For part-time wait staff in attendance, perhaps a quick note to ask the restaurant manager to explain would be the order of the day (or night, sigh!)
Avocado Smoothie (RM18.90)
The Star Ramen Ippudo Kuro Special (Main Dish)
The choice for the Japanese ramen comes in 3 level of spiciness available for the soup base.
There is original to spiciness level 1 to 3 (extremely spicy). There is a choice of noodle texture from normal to hard or very hard.
Below is a photo of the Ippudo Kuro Special from Ippudo Malaysia’s Instagram
We chose the Ippudo Kuro Special (RM35.90). Ippudo’s Original Tonkotsu Broth served with ultra-thin chewy noodles, salted onsen tamago (poached eggs), pork loin and pork belly, bean sprouts, kikurage, spring onions, and seaweed. This is a classic Hakata-style Ramen.
The noodles are springy and perfect. The signature Tonkotsu Broth is not a delicate creamy broth. It was flavorful but the soup is a darkish color and not milky (see above promotional photo). Even though we enjoyed this large one bowl dish, alas an hour later, we had experienced extreme thirst akin to the “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”. We were very thirsty and drank copious glasses of water about 2 hours later. My dining partner developed a headache.
Could this be due to the excessive use of MSG?
Below is a photo of the actual Ippudo Kuro Special we ordered. The broth is a darkish color instead of a milky white.
For Ippudo Tonkotsu Ramen Specialty Store Penang, the buzz and long wait are overrated. We expected more from such a premium brand and were not impressed with the level of service nor the food which was not extraordinary. As bar snacks both the Pork Kushi and Bacon Tamago Kushi were a huge disappointment and tasted ordinary.
Ippudo Gurney Plaza
Address: 170-G-37, Gurney Plaza, Penang.
Operating Hour: 10:30 a.m.-11 p.m. (Daily)