I’m calling it: this is the best ramen in Sydney, in my opinion of course. I’ve had a tough time finding a vegetarian ramen in our noodle-filled city. There absolutely could be thousands I’ve missed, but until recently I’d not had a good one.
In my experience they’re usually soy-milky (blergh) or chock-a-block full of tofu or the chunkiest pieces of mushroom you’ve ever seen. Not here, though, not at Ramen Goku in Glebe. Its vegetarian ramen is an absolute slam-dunk when it comes to a meat-free alternative to Sydney’s favourite Japanese soup.
The first time I had this I was un-savvy, un-vegetarian and blissfully unaware. I ordered the yasai (vegetable in Japanese) ramen with a miso broth.
It was thick, rich, oily (in the best way possible) and it had a how-is-this-so-delicious?! level of yumness. But alas, it was made from chicken stock. I realised the terrible error I’d made a few days later when I remembered that ramen broth is usually made with animal bones. That explained why I had such a good time with it. Lesson learned. But now I’ve got it down pat. This is not my first rodeo.
You’ll find me at Goku most early Sunday evenings. “One yasai ramen with kelp stock please,” I say, occasionally chucking on a Coca-Cola for good measure. And at $13.90 for a massive bowl, I reckon it’s excellent value.
The time I visited after the Miso Broth Incident I saw they had a kelp-stock alternative. The sign’s easy to miss – it’s written in very small letters at the counter: “vegetable kelp stock available, no extra cost”.
It’s made with a “special blend of soy sauce, some other special ingredients, kelp stock and water, no chicken or pork broth,” says owner Shiro Nakashio. I pressed Nakashio for the details of the “other special ingredients” but no cigar. No worries – I haven’t looked back since (said in the same voice as someone endorsing Proactiv).
Let me tell you about this bowl of noods. It’s a big boy; I don’t get through it most times I eat it. Its chewy egg noodles are topped with stock, sesame seeds, heaps of shallots and wok-fried bean sprouts, white onion, carrot, pay choy and sweet corn. The onion flavours the stock, which is peppery, savoury, salty and not at all seaweed-y. For some reason I’ve developed a habit of eating the individual charred corn kernels one by one with my chopsticks. There’s something about the blackened yellow trapezoids that deserve this treatment.
While I know we can’t dictate the weather, this meal is best enjoyed while sitting in the window looking out at the rain after you’ve had your way with the miscellaneous condiments. The stock is so warming you want to keep slurping it by the spoonful. And the noodles are also so good. It’s hard to know which, stock or noodles, is the highlight. The stock! Those noodles! It’s a battle – but it’s one worth having.
See you Sunday?
Molly Urquhart is Broadsheet’s social media editor.
“I Can't Stop Thinking About” is a series about Sydney dishes Broadsheet Sydney editors can't stop thinking about.