I’ve long had the misconception that authentic ramen was just the “homemade” original version of the 25-cent instant noodles so many college students live on.
It didn’t help that all of the Korean delis near my office basically rip open a bag of said instant noodles to use as the base for their “authentic” ramen soups. Even one specialty place I went to many years ago had noodles that mirrored the very wavy form typical of the noodles sold by Maruchan and their competitors.
That’s not the case with the ramen on the menu at Ajisen Ramen at the Queens Crossing center in downtown Flushing, Queens, New York where they serve a dozen and a half varieties of the popular dish.
Ajisen has been at Queens Crossing since it opened years ago, but for some reason I can’t fathom I just never tried their food… a problem I rectified last weekend while visiting family in Flushing for the celebration of Chinese New Year.
I wanted to try something relatively “safe” since this was my first foray into Ajisen’s menu so being a fan of beef I went with one of only two offerings that included it — I ordered the Beef Sukiyaki Ramen (number 7). At $9.25 it’s one of the pricier ramen dishes, but in my opinion it’s well worth the price since the bowl is filled to the brim with strips of tender beef, a generous portion of ramen noodles (heartier noodles than the thinner, wavy noodles in the $0.25 bags sold at Chinese supermarkets), bean sprouts, a brined and hard boiled egg, some seaweed, and plenty of chopped scallions.
The “white broth” is especially tasty. The recipe is based on the traditional techniques used by establishments that specialize in tonkotsu ramen in which pork bones and fat are simmered for hours to extract all the delicious pork flavor and create a cloudy soup with a creamy consistency.
Fair warning, though: Ajisen is a “fast food chain” sort of ramen shop. As with practically any chain restaurant there’s going to be some corner cut somewhere, and in the case of Ajisen it’s in the broth which is — shocker — not actually boiled for the dozens of hours it would take for a truly authentic and outstanding tonkotsu broth but rather reconstituted from a concentrate that is made from broth that was cooked using the traditional methods at Ajisen’s home base in Japan. At least that’s what the company claims, and I’m willing to take them on their word for that since the soup tastes exponentially better than the chemical-laden potables you’ll get from the instant stuff.
At the very least I enjoyed the meal enough that I went back the very next day to try another one of their dishes, their namesake Ajisen Deluxe Ramen which included the same peripheral ingredients but featured slices of pork chop along with a massive chunk of nice fatty pork rib — it tastes a lot better than it sounds, but I prefer the Beef Sukiyaki.