Lining up for pork-broth ramen in Jakarta
Going north: Hakata Ikkousha ramen in Muara Angke, Jakarta, is drawing crowds for its homemade noodles and pork-based broth.It’s common to see people lined up in front of a restaurant only to grumble and leave out of hunger and impatience.
“Quick, let’s go while the line is not too long,” a woman told her friend before sprinting to stand with the other patient customers at Santouka Ramen in Plaza Indonesia shopping mall in Jakarta.
At noon, the one-week-old restaurant that serves ramen in the style of Hokkaido, Japan, had at least 10 people waiting to have a taste of their pork-broth ramen.
And as if opening a restaurant using pork broth in a Muslim country wasn’t risky enough, Santouka sells practically nothing but pork. Santouka president director Albert Wijaya admitted he was worried at first, but it was a risk worth taking, and fortunately events have worked in their favor.
Only after having my first shoyu pork belly ramen did it make sense to me why people were so patient. With a rich broth that takes 16 hours to prepare using pork bones and other imported ingredients measured to the decimal point, Santouka’s ramen is indeed exceptional.
“Even my staff haven’t mastered [the cooking] yet,” Albert said. He admits the procedure is very complicated, which is probably why he handles most of the cooking himself despite his senior position, while the other cooks follow along.
By spending around Rp 60,000 (US$6.50) for a small bowl of ramen with your choice of soup: shio (salt), shoyu (soy), miso (soybean paste) and kara-miso, Santouka puts in plenty of noodles and pork, garnished with bamboo shoots and a kind of mushroom. A special topping for the shio ramen is red Japanese pickled plum, which adds a light crunchiness to the dish.
If only I could see for myself whether the rest of the menu is just as good. Some of the dishes are not offered yet like the chicken ramen and roasted pork cheeks. I decided to indulge in the gyoza (fried dumplings) as an appetizer — which sadly arrived after I was halfway done with my ramen — and the Futami lychee tea, which, by the way, I had seconds.
From the outside, Santouka might seem like a typical Japanese ramen shop with its wooden interior, with waitresses greeting customers with “Irashaimase” (meaning “welcome”) loudly, but wait until you taste the ramen.
Another ramen place on a more modest scale is Hakata Ikkousha in Muara Karang, North Jakarta.
Except for the young Japanese cook, everything else is locally obtained, with the restaurant specifically noting on their menu that they only use ingredients from Indonesia.
Identical with Santouka’s wooden interior and waiters wearing Japanese head covers, Ikkousha offers a similar menu. Their famous dish is also pork ramen, only with a slightly lighter, more diluted soup.
Their tasty ramen has people patiently waiting in the heat outside the restaurant, too. Expecting cooler surroundings upon entering, I was disappointed by the heat inside. Maybe it was the hungry crowd or perhaps there were just too many waitresses loitering inside aimlessly. I couldn’t imagine how the dozen working in the kitchen could do their jobs.
But with the plentifully staffed kitchen and a Japanese cook communicating with hand gestures, they sure got the ramen satisfactory.
Not only were the noodles delivered to my table sooner than I expected at Rp 40,000 ($4.25) per bowl, Ikkousha brings you mouth-watering ramen, only not as elaborately garnished as Santouka.
Like a magician possessive over his tricks, Ikkousha was careful not say anything about the recipe for their broth except that it is simmered for hours a day. Nevertheless, one enjoys a magic trick when it remains a mystery.
For those living in the Pluit area, perhaps instead of stuffing yourself with the fried rice noodles or chicken rice Muara Karang is famous for, let Ikkousha or Santouka — if you prefer a fancier place— satisfy your hunger. Itadakimasu!