Pork Tonkotsu Ramen and Chicken Teriyaki Donburi – Japanese Canteen, Middlesex Street

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Junk is capable of healthy activities apart from those conducted in pubs. Yesterday’s outing was case in point. Bought a couple of vouchers for African Drumming class after work and had to look for something quick to eat for dinner. Most of the dinner places around the Spitalfields area are sit down, big menu, slightly long drawn out affairs unless one resorts to pub grub. Luckily, I found this place.

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Japanese Canteen is another Jap food chain catering mostly to the lunch crowd. But this branch at Middlesex Street, a stone throw away from Spitalfields also serves dinner. It was rather empty when we were there and it’s perfect for a quick eat and run dinner. I think this branch is rather new as it was not there when I was working in the area less then a year back.

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The menu is extensive and one can chose between donburi, bento box, ramen, sushi with a couple of non Japanese options like bibimbapgua bao and even Dan Dan noodles. Prices are very reasonable and definitely won’t break the bank!

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As expected, I could not resist any soupy noodles on a menu and seeing that the ramen is freshly made and they have a tonkotsu soup base, I’m sold! The Tweet being his usual boring self, went with the mundane option of Chicken Teriyaki Donburi. *Yawn* To each his own I guess. Total bill came to £11.40, good deal on paper.

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So is the deal as good taste wise? The Tweet was not impressed by his Chicken Teriyaki Donburi and neither am I. The chicken pieces according to the menu were supposed to be grilled but we could not see scorched marks nor taste any smokiness. Worse yet, the chook was tough and dry! The teriyaki sauce was typical, sweet, savoury and sticky while Tweet thinks the rice is too mushy. With just a sprinkling of spring onion as garnish, we both think this dish needs some other taste sensation. I had to donate all of my bok choy to Tweet to make his meal more enjoyable.

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What about the more complicated ramen dish? At £5.95, I was not expecting much from the Pork Tonkotsu Ramen especially when I was disappointing by the much hyped Tonkotsu in Soho at more than double the price. One should not underestimate chain outlets I’d say, like the offering at Wagamama, I was impressed!

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The toppings were generous with beansprouts, half a boiled egg, menma, nori, bok choy, spinach and 2 cuts of pork. The thinly sliced pork belly was tender but would be better if they were grilled while the shredded slow cooked pork was great soaked in a slight sweet and smoky sauce. The freshly made ramen could be cooked less but I’ve always prefer my noodles with bite. The star of the dish has to be the broth! Rich, milky with a slight hint of porkiness, just right and not too overpowering. The slight sheen of pork fat with a slight sweet and savoury taste complimented everything exceptionally well. The Tweet asked whether it was a 2 thumbs up and I violently nodded my head.

I have tried another branch of Japanese Canteen awhile back and I was not impressed. After this experience, I will definitely locate another branch near me to be my staple for lunch!

Japanese Canteen
100 Middlesex Street
London E1 7EZ

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Pork Ramen – Wagamama, Clink Street, London Bridge

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Today’s post might not to everyone’s liking since I’m going to blog about a High Street joint. There is a Wagamama just around the corner from work and I was starving and craving for something nice and warming. Sorry if you’d thought I sold out.

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With the recent ramen craze sweeping major cities around the world, London is in on the act as well. Recent openings like Tonkotsu, Ittenbari, Bone Daddies and Shoryu were all blogged to death by regular food blogs. I did try out Tonkotsu with high hopes but sadly they were dashed beyond oblivion. Understand that Wagamama revamped their menu slightly to jump on the ramen bandwagon so thought why not give it a chance?

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Decided to go with the Pork Ramen seeing it’s supposedly new on the menu. Also gave myself a treat with a side order of Tori Kaarage, for those of you not in the know, tori = bird in Japanese, i.e. Chicken Kaarage. Also added some sliced red chilies as I can’t live without heat! The ramen was £8.50, the kaarage was £4.85 while the sliced chilies were £0.70. All in lunch was £14.10. Service was not included and since the servers were all very attentive, I dropped £16 when the bill came. Junk deserves a treat sometimes.

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I was glad I gave this a go! The Tori Kaarage had a very crispy and well seasoned coating of batter which has seaweed mixed into it. Unlike most places, the kaarage were truly bite size pieces, like the popcorn chicken from KFC. While the size is convenient for popping into your mouth, I think there is a higher tendency for some pieces to be dry as the size means the moisture in the meat is more exposed to the heat. The dipping sauce that came with it complimented the kaarage well, a mix of soy sauce with some chili and garlic. Recommend that you squeeze some of the lime juice into the dipping sauce to give it a tangy edge.

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On to the Pork Ramen. Ok, I really pimped this up with the chili oil and shichimi togarashi provided. On hindsight, I could have saved £0.70 for the sliced chili since the complimentary condiments gave me the heat I wanted. Pimping aside, the miso and chicken broth was deep but not too coying, the noodles had a nice bite while still maintaining the fresh ramen texture, the menma, wakame and pea shoots added some crunch while the half tea stained egg could be marinated a bit more. But the true delight of this dish has to be the barbecue pork belly slices! The portion was generous, the belly slices were tender with melt in your mouth fat yet has the smoky and charred flavour typical of a good searing. Thought I died and gone to heaven.

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So in all, Junk was a very satisfied customer. Two thumbs up!

Wagamama
1 Clink Street
London SE1 9BU
0207 403 3659