Written by Brian (@brhinos), Sydney
After extensively trying ramen all throughout Sydney, the number one spot on my favourite ramen list hasn’t changed in years. Ryo’s Noodles, Ichiban boshi, Ippudo, Menya and Ramen Zundo have all provided strong competition but the top spot goes to an unlikely candidate tucked away in the corner of a food court aptly named “Eating World”. Don’t be fooled by the dated exterior. Once you step through the doors, you’ll uncover a not so secret gem called Gumshara Ramen.
Gumshara isn’t quite a restaurant. They don’t have waiters, they don’t take bookings, they don’t even have their own tables. In fact, it’s communal dining in a food court. But what they lack in atmosphere and decor, they more than make up for in providing a foodgasm worthy bowl of tonkotsu ramen. Gumshara is not only my favourite ramen in town but in the years I’ve been in Sydney, it’s also the eatery I’ve had the most amount of meals. I’m almost certain I would qualify for platinum membership if they had a loyalty program.
Gumshara is headed up by Mori Higashida, a man that’s proven it’s never too late to pursue your dreams. A managing director of an Australian jewellery exporter, Mori quit his job at age 47 to take up an apprenticeship at Muteppou Ramen House in Japan, his favourite ramen house he discovered on a business trip to Japan. Here, he learnt and perfected the fine art of Tonkotsu Ramen. Mori recalls the commitment required to succeed in the industry stating that returning home in the early hours only to get a couple of hours sleep before returning to start the day again was a common occurrence. But with hard work and frequent 20 hour days, 7 days a week, Mori managed to complete the 5 year course in just 15 months. And lost nearly 20 kilos in the process.
Gumshara was featured in 2014 Sydney Morning Herald’s Good Food Under $30 and awarded the coveted three star rating. After all that hard work, clearly Mori and his team have been doing something right.
Gumshara’s specialty is tonkotsu ramen and certainly a broth you need hours to prepare. Tonkotsu, meaning pork bone, is the broth whereby pork bones are boiled until the collagen converts to gelatin and the marrow, fat and calcium all break down. The resultant effect is a rich, creamy, buttery broth that will leave you feeling full and satisfied for hours. Well, that’s how it makes me feel anyway.
The broth is made using three large cauldrons. Let’s call them Pot 1, 2 and 3. Each pot holds stock with varying degrees of richness, with Pot 1 holding the lightest soup and Pot 3 holding the thickest and richest of them all. The master stock. During the cooking process, the pork bones are boiled over a high heat, at which the pots must be stirred every 3 minutes. For every scoop that gets taken out of the master stock, one & a half scoops is transferred from Pot 2 into the master stock, where a more concentrated flavour is developed.
The full menu can be accessed here.
Their menu consists of 26 items (24 plus as of this month, 2 new items) with 11 different types of ramen and 15 additional toppings or side dishes. The majority of my ordering gets done from the photo above but more on that later.
The menu concisely explains how the soup is made and highlights a key health benefit.
“Our soup is made by (the) traditional Japanese way to cook which only uses fresh pork bone and water. NO MSG is used. The richness of the soup comes from the marrow of the bone and the soft bone. It contains a lot of collagen, which is essential to maintain smooth skin.”
Each ramen is accompanied an indication of “Thick Soup” or “Light Soup” and unless you request otherwise, your ramen will be served in the specified soup. If you order the thick soup, you’ll be rewarded with a deliciously rich and thick tonkotsu broth. But be warned, it is very rich and heavy and isn’t for everyone. The majority of people I take there think it’s great but saying that, the girls I dine with generally get through half a bowl before throwing in the towel. I, on the other hand, rarely leave a bowl unfinished.
An additional topping worth mentioning is the Soft Boiled Seasoned Egg. This adds a little more protein to the dish and is worth ordering at least once just to try the skillfully smooth egg texture.
After years of patronage and countless bowls of ramen, I can vouch for the consistency of the ramen, which has remained at a high quality over the years. I tried unsuccessfully to recommend three dishes but they’re all so good, here’s four.
Before I launch into my recommendations, I should mention two things. Firstly, I add the optional extras of sesame seeds, chilli and garlic to all my ramen (except the garlic ramen below which I forced myself to serve it on the side to preserve the original state of the dish. The sacrifices I make for food photography 😉 Secondly, the small brown piles you’ll see in most of the photos below are marinated sliced garlic which is amazingly delicious. Sure, it’s garlic and will give you garlic breath but chew some gum after. It’s so worth it!
Tomato Tonkotsu Ramen
Misses out on a top four finish but is still a nice meal. The base ramen plus a nice tomato and crunchy fried shallots.
4. Tonkotsu Ramen
The base model ramen with the deliciously thick soup and smooth, well cooked noodles.
3. Garlic Tonkotsu
The base model ramen plus black garlic oil and crunchy garlic granules.
A close up of the ramen noodles.
2. Miso Ramen
Here, you’re asked if you’d like “Spicy” or “non-spicy” version. I find the spicy version gives the dish a good kick and elevates the overall flavour. Subtle miso notes come through which is well balanced by the added vegetables.
1. Pork Spare Rib Ramen
The base model tonkotsu ramen plus an incredibly flavourful pork spare rib. The spare rib is so tender and delicious, it steals the show and my heart. It is known to induce what foodie circles call, the foodgasm.
A special mention goes to the Super Mega Ramen which is $25 and combines a Tonkotsu Ramen with four additional toppings – Pork spare rib, BBQ pork skewer, soft boiled egg and extra pork slices. I’ve never been game to try this but respect to any man or woman that can finish one of these.
And finally, there are two new additions to the menu this month which I have intentionally left to the end for obvious reasons. You can now order a super thick Pork Back Fat Tonkotsu Ramen or have Pork Back Fat added to your ramen. This might not look aesthetically pleasing to the eye but animal fat is a source of incredible flavour and this dish is served the same way as their flagship store, Muteppou in Japan.
For the quality you receive and based on price comparisons to competitors, Gumshara doesn’t only have the tastiest ramen in town but one of the best value ramen in town too. If you think there could be a better ramen in town, please leave us a comment below and we’ll try to check it out. Otherwise, you must try Gumshara. It will change the way you see ramen forever.
Eating World Food Court
211/25-29 Dixon St, Haymarket NSW 2000
Ph: 0410 253 180
Sun & Mon 11.30 -8.30pm, Tue to Sat 11.30-9pm (Thick soup not available between 3-5pm)