Justin Healy developed a ramen fixation while he was staging (doing an unpaid internship) at Michelin-starred restaurant Relae in Copenhagen. He arrived with just $750 in his bank account: enough to cover his rent, but not his love affair with a local ramen kitchen called Slurp.
“I would work extra shifts [at other restaurants within the Relae group] and sustain myself on staff meals so I could afford to spend my money on noods,” Healy says.
“During the coronavirus lockdown, I guess a bit of boredom set in and I started cooking ramen at home for friends and cousins to see if it was good enough to sell,” says Healy.
“I started the Instagram page Quality Noods, and I’ve always loved ramen and always found it was a good way to convey products. The tricky part is getting people around to the fact that you can have great ramen, but it can come from a [bad] source, where the ingredients are factory-farmed or have growth hormones.
“My focus is to highlight great producers and use free-range pork and show why a bowl of ramen can cost a little more – because the product is good.”
Healy’s Quality Noods will pop up at The Exeter fortnightly on Sundays, beginning on August 16. He’ll be slinging two types of ramen: shio (salt) ramen with Dairyman smoked-pork broth, shio tare (seasoning), house-made noodles, pork jowl, ham, soy egg, black fungus and spring onions, and a vegan miso ramen with shiitake broth, roasted koji (an umami-rich mould used to ferment sake and soy sauce) and miso tare, oyster mushrooms, chewy golden beets, spinach, spring onions and roasted barley oil. There’ll also be sake on pour.
“There’s a big thing that ramen is very rich and full-on and that you have to feel extra full after eating it. I don’t think so. I’d rather people be not overfull or overstuffed,” he says.
Tickets to the first event are $23, and $2 from every sale goes to the Kaurna Warra Pintyanthi (an Aboriginal organisation that’s dedicated to the revival of the language of the Kaurna people). Healy hopes strong support for the pop-up will help him establish his own ramen shop.
Quality Noods pops up at the Exeter on August 16. Tickets are now sold out. Tickets to the next event will be released on August 18.