I am ever so impressed with our younger generation of F&B entrepreneurs. Firstly because they have chosen to return and start businesses in Ipoh and secondly, they do it with such flair and innovation.
Since the start of the pandemic and with the sporadic spates of lockdowns, a number of restaurants have suffered big losses as the takeaway business just cannot bring in the margins needed to sustain the fixed costs of staffing and rentals.
Not so the young and creative entrepreneurs like Ally Loke and Johnny Liew. Fresh out of school in Australia, Ally opened Como Kafe in Falim in 2017 and two years later, the Mad Ramen Bar in 2019 which was a runaway success.
Unfortunately the pandemic hit and many of the delectable items on their Japanese menu had to be put on hold for dine-in enjoyment and only a handful of their dishes are available on Grab and foodpanda for takeaway.
We all know though, that takeaway food, no matter how well packaged and fast the delivery, loses something in travelling time and it’s never quite like sitting down at the restaurant and slurping a piping hot bowl of ramen noodles, straight from the kitchen.
But leave it to the visionary pair to come up with innovative ideas: frozen Ramen packs and Gyoza which require the minimum of preparation, all with complete instructions and full garnishing.
I had the pleasure of trying out all three of their Ramen packs recently as well as their delectable Gyoza. And the result is fabulous.
I cooked and tasted the Gyoza first. The instructions were very clear; I could boil and then pan fry them, deep fry or just boil and eat. I chose to boil it and served it with my own sauce of black vinegar and slivered fresh ginger. The dumplings were juicy, the wrapping medium-thick and the filling of pork, chives and cabbage well seasoned. 12 pieces in a pack for RM18. Well worth keeping a few packs in your freezer for when the munchies hit.
I tried the three types of Ramen over a three-day period. The preparation was a no-brainer. Blanch the Ramen in hot water (clear instructions for time); boil the broth which comes in a disposable bottle; open all the different garnishing; add to bowl on top of the blanched Ramen; pour in the hot broth, add the nori seaweed last to retain its crispiness and voila— you’re the star Japanese Ramen Chef!!
Tonkotsu Ramen is distinguished by its robust pork broth, a specialty dish from Fukuoka, Kyushu Island. The Tonkotsu broth consists of a large amount of pork bones boiled over 8 hours or longer to extract all the bone gelatin and collagen goodness. Then the broth is mixed with different tare (a concentrated sauce mixture) for the different variations of White, Black and Red Tonkotsu ramens.
For White Tonkotsu, which is the original tonkotsu soup, it has the addition of tare made with a mix of root vegetables, kombu and seasonings. Black Tonkotsu, is with the black garlic oil tare made with black garlic (very healthy) and black sesame. Red Tonkotsu, is a spicy tare made with house-blend chili paste and Korean chili spices.
The Kyushu ramen noodles are made locally with a controlled recipe by the Japanese for a true authentic Japanese ramen texture and flavour.
All the garnishings are the same, comprising one thick slice of Chasu (Japanese Char Siew), black wood ear fungus, corn and Nori.
The Chashu (Japanese version of our Chinese Char Siew) remained surprisingly tender despite the freezer treatment and required no cooking, as did the rest of the condiments and toppings.
What an easy way to feel like a top chef and for some of you who may wish to cheat a little…..don’t tell your family members that their bowl of Ramen came frozen. Smile deprecatingly when family members shower you with compliments!!
White and Black Tonkotsu are RM18.80. Spicy Tonkotsu is RM19.80. Very generous portions of broth and noodles are guaranteed to fill you up.
Another innovative idea, this time from Ally and a friend of hers, is the Happy Box. Instead of sending flowers or cakes to friends for birthdays, anniversaries and the like, the Happy Box features beautifully arranged soupçon samplings of cheeses, delicate biscuits and other delectables of the season.
The first recently launched range in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival is The Play Box. The idea actually comes from their personal nostalgic memories where they miss the good old times with family gatherings, playing with lanterns while enjoying the full moon and mooncakes. Ally feels that many of the simple traditions are slowly disappearing in our fast-moving society or are not known by the younger generations, and especially now with the lockdown, many are away from home. Hence the Play Box includes some fun little play kits with lanterns, candles, gum balloons,and some of the sweets and candies they used to munch on as kids to invoke those childhood memories.
My Play Box that arrived had some superb and yummilicious little moon cakes. Every box comes with a description of what’s inside and the type of mooncake you’re eating.
The miniature mooncakes in my Happy Box consisted of Red bean & Kuaci, Pandan Lotus & Salted Egg Yolk stamped as a mahjong tile, Shanghai Mooncake with Lotus & Salted Egg Yolk, Snow Skin Hojicha Cheese, Organic Charcoal with Pineapple Jam and one Lemon Macaron. These were all bite-sized pieces with my favourite being the Snow Skin Hojicha Cheese.
A bottle of their Lumi cocktail was part of the offering, with mine being the Harvest Tree, a concoction of Gold Rum, Peach and Lemon Tea and Kuaci Syrup. A tad too sweet for my palate but the addition of ice and water soon fixed that and I was happily sipping away.
Other selections in the Lumi cocktail range are: Red Moon (vodka, rose, raspberry cordial and rooibos tea); non-alcoholic Violet Dusk (Blue Pea flower, Passion fruit and osmanthus); Jade Emperor (Vodka, Pandan, Matcha, Clarified milk); and Autumn Leaf (Gaoliang, peach, Oolong tea and honey Kumquat).
The Sides in my Happy Box consisted of Handpicked Assorted Fruits, Premium Chamomile Rose Tea, as well as a Play Kit with one paper lantern and Childhood Candies.
For inquiries: 012-5052926 / 012-5501103
Other items on the Mad Ramen menu can be ordered on GrabFood and foodpanda. But the frozen ramen kits are not listed on it. Only selected menu items are listed.
They also have an in-house delivery service, and people can order by calling in store or via their website. Their website will have the full takeaway menu for self pick up or delivery.
Mad Ramen Bar
3 Jalan Panglima, 30000 Ipoh
Ordering website: https://madramenbar.justorder.today/