LIKE Japanese Anime and Manga, Gumshara, a hole-in-the-wall ramen-ya in Sydney Chinatown’s ‘Eating World’ hawker centre is currently gaining a cult following.
Eating World houses a collection of Asian hawker-style/food court spots and is in the Harbour Plaza complex on a corner of Dixon and Goulburn streets. I have been a regular to some of its many (and some now defunct), food outlets for over a decade.
Gumshara only sells ramen (and only a small, niche variety – just under a dozen). Its cult following is due to the stock which Japanese ramen master Mori prepares. Mori’s ‘master’ tonkotsu soup it is made over seven days using 120kg of pork bones and water (and nothing else). There is a lighter Hakata-style broth for other ramen styles which is probably also used to dilute the tonkotsu broths if customers request.
Brewing pork bones for days on end produces a brown, thin gravy-like stock which creates a mouth-puckering, collagen-enriched noodle soup that is slightly viscous, rich and almost “nutty”.
On my first visit to Gumshara I had the sho-yu ramen with soft-boiled egg ($12 + $1.50).
Once the steaming bowl of ramen comes out you can add any of the toppings available at the service counter – sliced pickled garlic, pickled ginger, sesame seeds, and chilli flakes.
It takes about five minutes for the ramen to be assembled (slightly longer during peak lunch times) with Master Mori tasting each one before it comes out.
The sho-yu ramen had four sheets of nori, two egg halves, four slices of pork, sliced spring onion and menma (pickled bamboo), with a light brown broth with a slight viscosity. I decided to add some of the pickled garlic from the condiments tray. The broth whacks you. It is nutty and rich with collagen, leaving what seems like a slight film on the roof of the mouth and your lips. The sliced pork was tender and the noodles chewy. The egg halves were exceptional – they were perfectly cooked with a golden and almost gooey centre and slightly seasoned. The four sheets of nori adds a sea-like saltiness to the broth. For almost the remainder of the day my palate was somewhat ‘fatigued’.
I decided to return to Gumshara a second time to have its limited pork rib ramen with soft-boiled egg ($14.50 +$1.50) and was served by Master Mori himself. He told me that only 20 of the pork rib ramen were available daily. This time I decided to add a couple more of Gumshara’s condiments – along with the sliced garlic I added a teaspoon of sesame seeds and a pinch of julienne pickled ginger.
This style of ramen came with one sheet of nori, chopped spring onion, menma and a fair-sized and meaty pork rib. Again, the tonkotsu broth was nutty and full of that lip-smacking collagen – the eggs halves still had that fabulous golden and almost gooey centre and the noodles nice and chewy. But the highlight was the pork rib. It was slightly season and obviously sealed at high temperature. It had been scored along the top making it easy to eat. The meat was tender and juicy with the slight layer of caramelised fat just adding a lovely toffee-like flavour (and there was plenty of flesh on the bone). With that collagen-enriched broth my lips became as silky and smooth as a baby’s ‘you know what’.
One thing that I found this time round having Gumshara ramen is that the pickled ginger is a must as it cuts through the intensity of the broth and really awakens the palate.
Gumshara also has other side dishes available (such as gyoza) or additions to ramen to enhance its flavour (such as fish, curry or chilli ‘bomb’ for $2). To Gumshara’s credit, it recognizes the overwhelming power of its stock and offers customers the opportunity to adjust its saltiness or ‘strength’ when ordering.
Gumshara excels in delivering hand-crafted ramen. Thankfully, if it wasn’t for Sydney City Council’s oppressive parking controls around this area of town, Japanese truckies would be parked the length of Goulburn Street.
The verdict: This is die hard rocker ramen – big, bold and loud and dressed in leather with a big monstrous mouthfeel that lasts for hours. It may be a little bit loud or grungy for some but Gumshara can tone the volume down. This is ramen that Goro (of Tampopo fame), would approve of.
What: Gumshara, Shop 209 Harbour Plaza Eating World, 25-29 Dixon Street, Haymarket NSW 2000. Open Tuesday to Saturday from 11.30am to 10.30pm and on Sunday from 11.30am to 10pm. Closed Mondays.
Ate there: 2 and 19 August 2010.
Go to the Oodles of Noodles page for more information on ramen.