Where can you get a decent ramen for $10 these days? Spice Alley. The South East Asian street-food market has just expanded its permanent-resident list to include a northern influence: Japanese comfort-food stall Ky-oto.
There are a lot of culinary traditions in Japan, and Ky-oto chef, Yuji Osaki (ex-Sake, is concentrating on Japan’s casual cuisine. “Ky-oto food is simple. People can eat ramen, rice, udon or okonmiyaki. It's like street food,” Osaki says. “It's more easy to eat. Like Japanese fast food.”
One of the most famous dishes is tonkotsu ramen. Osaki’s isn’t the same as the type Sydney obsessed over after the hype around Gumshara, which is as rich and thick as it gets.
Although still recognisably pork-flavoured, Osaki’s is lighter. It’s an eight-hour broth with bone marrow, leg bones and, contrary to tonkotsu tradition, vegetables. “Ours is not too classic. It’s a mild flavour. We use leek and onion. The green part of the leek cuts through the smell,” he says.
Although it’s all tonkotsu-based ramen now, Osaki will experiment with some new ramen in the future. “If I have time I want to make a yuzu tonkotsu. Yuzu right now is really popular in my home town,” says the ex-Nagasaki local. Yuzu is a citrus fruit; it provides a sour flavour but a sweeter one that Western citrus.
The okonomiyaki, the Japanese equivalent of a pancake-pizza, is cooked on a teppan grill and stuffed with pork belly or seafood and topped with dried bonito flakes that dance from the pancake steam as it’s served. The don is appropriately bulky and served with pickles, julienned spring onions and either heavily marinated meat, salmon or a long slab of saucy, fatty eel.
All of it is bewildering cheap, like at Spice Alley’s other hawker stalls. The ramen maxes out at $11, okonomiyaki at $12 and there’s fried chicken and a bowl of udon for less than $10. Unlike the other stalls, Ky-oto has a little themed seated section. Just outside there are wooden benches covered by little roofs. And there’s a terrace styled with paraphernalia from Sydney’s only sake brewery, Go-Shu.