Why it’s taken this long for a good ramen shop to hit the Edmonton scene is puzzling to me. There are a couple of spots in town that offer this Japanese soup, but none that would really turn heads or get tongues wagging. Until now. Kazoku Ramen opened at 165 Street on 100 Avenue, and with three visits under my belt, I’m pretty happy with what I’ve tasted.
Ramen is more than just noodle soup. Good ramen results after days of work where quality ingredients are prepared by someone who understands food in its totality: its character, its nuances, its history and its potential. Shortcuts don’t (or shouldn’t exist) in the world of good ramen. Jackson Leung at Kazoku Ramen understands. He’s young, but he’s intuitive and he’s hell-bent on serving Edmontonians the type of ramen he experienced in Japan and Los Angeles.
Four types of pork broth ramen are served at Kazoku. Jackson is considering making a vegetarian ramen but for now, you have your choice of tonkotsu (pork bone), shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt) or miso (fermented bean paste). You will only get to know your preference by tasting each type.Ramen noodles are made of wheat flour, salt, water, an alkaline water called kansui, which gives the noodles their springy texture and golden colour. The noodles are just as important as the broth. The noodles at Kazoku come from a company in Vancouver. They had just the right chewiness to them.
If you have a solid base (broth) and quality noodles, then you can add almost anything you want to your bowl, but char siu (roasted pork) and a medium-boiled egg are the two next important ingredients.
The pork belly char siu is cut into thin slices and placed in the bowl. The fatty slices are tender, tasty and imbue an element of richness. All of the ramen bowls include bamboo shoots, but these shoots aren’t like what you usually find in dishes at Asian restaurants. These shoots are fresh, not canned, and taste and look more like a mushroom stem.
Besides ramen, the menu features rice bowls, a few tempura items and a small list of starters like beef tataki, gyoza and spicy chicken karaage. The karaage was flying out of the kitchen as fast as the ramen, so I wanted to see what the deal was.
The deal is six pieces of tender, dark-meat chicken breaded with a light, crispy breading and served with a spicy, citrus-soy dipping sauce.
The beef tataki is a generous portion of sliced rare beef served on a bed of onions in a ponzu sauce. My personal preference is for the beef to be thinner, but flavour-wise, everything works here. All food comes served on (or in) beautiful pottery dishes.
The word, Kazoku, means family in Japanese and the Leung’s motto of guaranteeing to serve only food that they would serve to their family is a reassuring message. Jackson’s mother, Gail, works the floor and makes sure customers are happy.
Opinions about ramen are as varied as opinions about pizza and Leung’s ramen is already attracting a lot of discussion. Jackson Leung makes a very good ramen—one that will only get better as this young chef matures and fine tunes his technique. I’ll be happy to return often and witness his progress bowl by bowl.
More details of my experience at Kazoku can be heard here on CBC Edmonton AM.