I’ve been running this blog for just shy of 10 months and I’ve only come to cover Gumshara now? Shame on me. Shame on me indeed.
Many describe Gumshara as a hidden gem of Sydney. I wholeheartedly agree with that statement, and would say so even to those who dislike the taste of its ramen (for various, but all valid reasons – it’s subjective, after all). What makes Gumshara a gem is simple – there is no other ramen-ya that does ramen like Gumshara does. You will not taste anything else like it in Sydney.
Not even close. Not one. Read on…
Date Last Visited: 25/5/2013
Address: Dixon St Haymarket, NSW 2000 (Eating World food court)
Go-to dish: Garlic Miso Ramen
Gumshara, for what it could be, is located in one of the most unlikely places. A slightly run-down food court at the end of China Town known as Eating World. There are perhaps 10-15 stalls here, but Gumshara is the only one I ever actually go to when I visit.
If it weren’t for the red banners and flashy, Izakaya-style furnishings at the storefront, you could miss it quite easily.
I’ll just say this – Gumshara could really use expansion. Its popularity is immense, but expansion isn’t going to be easy – it’s not just a matter of getting more floor space you see…
Tonkotsu broth. The magical pork broth that makes this kind of ramen tick. You can classify ramen into roughly four soup categories – Miso, Shoyu, Shio, and Tonkotsu. There’s plenty of good info on each of the four so I’m not going to regurgitate it – the only important thing here is that Tonkotsu is the thickest broth of them all.
But of course, you, ramen lover, knew that already. You also probably know that Gumshara has the thickest broth in Sydney. Kyoto-style ramen, at its finest?
For those who haven’t tried it yet, try it WITHOUT asking for broth dilution (yeah, there’s an option for that) and see how you fare.
It’s something, isn’t it.
Head chef Mori Hogashida claims that nearly 150kg of pork bones are added per day to maintain a “master stock” of ramen broth which has a full 7-day cycle time. In that time, the bones pretty much break down, releasing their gooey marrow innards, which infuse the broth with an incredible smell and texture that cannot be replicated by any other ramen-ya in Sydney, simply because this method of making tonkotsu broth is so incredibly difficult. The effort requires constant stirring, and the stock cooks nonstop. Since it’s quite high in fat (what, it’s pork what did you expect) it can spoil easily so constant vigilance is required.
That’s a lot of effort just to make the soup. But heck, the only reason I even eat noodle soup in the first place is for the soup – I may as well eat dry/fried noodles otherwise.
There is a downside to all of this – ramen stock is limited. Theoretically speaking, you could arrive late one day to find that they actually have no more ramen to sell you because stock has run out. In practice, this is very rare, as Gumshara only trades during limited hours (usually 3pm-9pm), and generally has enough stock at hand. Besides, you’d be crazy coming in to have Gumshara ramen when it’s late – you’re going to be up all night digesting all that goodness.
That goodness, luckily, doesn’t cost you an arm and a leg, despite the vastly higher cost of ingredients (for comparison, normal ramen-ya put in maybe 30-40kg of pork bones into their broth). Ramen is still ramen, and the culture of ramen was always meant to be one of affordability and accessiblility. Woe be the day when a bowl of ramen could cost more than $20.
Actually…more on that later.
So, what’s the ramen actually like? Well, people get polarised on this. Mori himself admits that his method of tonkotsu broth production is rather outdated and old-fashioned, as tastes have changed over the years. For every person I know who absolutely adores Gumshara’s ramen, another is reviled by the thickness, the pungency, the heaviness of it.
Yes, oh yes it is heavy, it is heavier than any ramen you will ever have, but if it’s not to your liking, then you are not part of Gumshara’s target market, pure and simple.
So what are my thoughts?
I think Gumshara is my best friend in winter, right up there with other greats like hot pot and laksa. The chashu pork loin slices are absolutely divine – there’s almost as much fat as there is meat, but Gumshara is one of those rare circumstances where I just don’t care. Thickness is enhanced even further with soft-boiled eggs which, if you leave it in the broth for long enough, will actually absorb the broth and take on its colour.
The broth itself is pretty much “liquid meat”, as my friend likes to describe. There’s so much protein and collagen in there, I wonder – would I have silky smooth skin if I ate Gumshara ramen every day?
If you opt for the diluted ramen, you will be served a different type of broth that very much resembles Ippudo. There is no surprise here – it’s hakata-style broth.
If you go for the miso ramen…well I don’t know why you came to Gumshara.
For something a little different, you could try the tomato tonkotsu ramen which is like the usual, but with the added sweet and subtly acidic tomato scent, colour and flavour. Worth a try mixing it up now and then.
My personal favourite is the black garlic variant. I’ve always loved black garlic, it just adds such an oomphy, tangy, almost caramellised kick to the whole package that never gets old.
At this point I should point out that the default tonkotsu broth, being flavoured only with pork bones and dashi (+ shoyu/miso if you order those variants, doesn’t actually have much of a taste itself. This is why I love the black garlic variant so much.
The broth also gets thicker the longer you take to eat it, as the ramen begins to soak up what little water is left. Also, if you leave it awhile, the collagen in the stock will form a skin. Whether that’s appetising to you or not is up to you. Many people don’t end up finishing for one or more of the above reasons. Do pick up some pickled ginger – there is no better meal to use constant palate cleansers on than this one.
I would not eat it regularly, as it really is quite heavy, but when I do I ALWAYS clean the bowl. Gotta savour that stock – it’s where half of your money goes to.
Oh yeah…about this bowl of ramen that costs more than $20…$25 in fact. Prepare yourself.
Yeah. Ever wondered what 2000+ calories in one serving looked like? This is a pretty good approximation.
Massive size serving of gumshara’s default tonkotsu ramen, double the amount of chashu, seared pork spare rib skewer, a whole roasted pork rib, and a soft boiled egg.
I’ve eaten 1kg of other food before – 1kg burrio, 1kg steak (+300g chips/salad!), 1kg pasta…etc etc. This particular dish is something else. It’s not the volume, it’s the sheer heaviness of it that really gets to you after awhile.
And of course I clean it each time – did you expect otherwise?
Btw, some of the best pork spare rib you’ll ever have. You can add it for $3 to your normal, puny-sized bowl of ramen if you’re not gun enough to take on the super mega.
Oh yeah, their tuna mayo rice – in true Gumshara tradition: ultra heavy, definitely need to share it to prevent sensory overload. But that’s what I drop dollars for (Y)
There are so many ramen shops all over Sydney that picking a favourite is an impossible task. For the record – I have no favourite. Ramen comes in so many different varieties. Gumshara would not be my “stuck-on-a-desert-island” ramen of choice (that would probably go to Menya for its all-rounded ramen), but my goodness, Gumshara…you hold a special place my heart.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
The Good: there is just nothing like it. Toppings are the best and most generous in the ramen market, black garlic tonkotsu is heavenly
What could be improved: you just can’t eat this every day, master base flavour could use improvement