Intense tasty umami
There will never be seven ramen shops in a row, each with lineups, like I witnessed at Tokyo’s Shinagawa station in Vancouver. In Japan, where there was a high traffic destination like train stations and shopping districts, there was a cluster of ramen shops. Each noodle slinger offered something different in hopes of attracting customers: dipping noodle, different broths, refined toppings, and noodles that ranged from skinny to lasagna wide. There was a ramen for your mood, what ever it may be.
Vancouver is predominantly a pork tonkostsu ramen town, but it is starting to change. I believe Lower Mainlanders are starting to become more sophisticated with their noodle slurping habits. Chicken soups, broths accented with dry fish, tsukemen, and even fancy sous vide meats are becoming welcomed and accepted by locals.
Another iteration that has surfaced is Iekei style ramen. The first shop in the area to serve this style is Yah Yah Ya but another, Yaguchiya Ramen (across from Metrotown) is dishing out a piping hot bowl originally from Yokohama as well.
I’m not kidding when I say the bowl is hot. The pork, chicken and shoyu blended soup is served at the highest temperature I have ever experienced in YVR. To prevent injury, be careful with your first few sips.
When I asked why it was this way, the server replied that it is the way that the chef, with 20 years of experience, learned in Japan. He doesn’t want to deviate from his training. In fairness, the Japanese loudly slurp their noodles to cool down them down so they can get in and out of an eatery in 20 – 30 minutes. Consequently, I did notice Japanese ramen is served warmer than in Vancouver.
It’s a feature that one just has to accept. As a result of the chef sticking to his standard, he has also produced an amazingly savoury, have to drink every last drop broth. I could taste the shoyu and a meat sweetness created by the chicken and pork broth. The umami level is phenomenal.
Lastly don’t be shy about adding the provided chilli, garlic and ginger paste, and vinegar. It changes and enhances the complexity of the soup, especially the ginger.
The yellow thicker noodle used were a surprising good match to the soup. They arrived al dente but I was expecting them to turn into mush within 10 minutes due to the hotness of the soup. Although softened a bit, they managed to survive their hot tub soak and retain their integrity.
Spinach, nori and chicken fat seem to be the standard topping for an Iekei style ramen. One can ask for the chicken fat to be reduced or omitted from their order.
The ramen egg I ordered to go with my regular shoyu ramen was acceptably prepared. It had the gel yolk one would expect and was seasoned. The only minor complaint I had was the cha-su. The two small rounds were a touch chewy. I would prefer them to be more tender.
I made my meal a combo by adding a small green salad and three pieces of gyoza for four dollars more. The salad was fresh and aptly dressed with an aromatic and creamy sesame soy mixture.
The fried dumplings had a golden bottom. The pork filling was juicy. It was a solid serving of gyoza.
Yaguchiya Ramen and its Iekei style, is a great addition to the local ramen scene that’s slowing diversifying. I may never see the clusters of shops around the city like in Tokyo, but at least I may get access to same wide variety. Perhaps the reign of pork tonkotsu in Vancouver is coming to an end?
Burnaby, BC V5H 2B3
Phone: (604) 620-4679