‘Tonk the Disco’, the strangely named flavour-clash between Soho’s Tonkotsu and Disco Bistro EC4, is almost upon us.

Ahead of Friday’s event, Carl sent me off to meet the Soho ramen joint’s co-founder Emma Reynolds to get the lowdown on the cult Japanese noodle dish…

Tonkotsu ramen © Paul Winch-Furness

Tonkotsu’s ramen © Paul Winch-Furness

How long have the Japanese been eating ramen?

Ramen was introduced to Japan from China in the early part of the 20th century and spread across the country over the course of a few decades. It’s now one of Japan’s national dishes from the very north to the southern most island, Kyushu and counts for 25% of meals eaten outside the home. After Momofuku Ando invented dried noodles in the late 50s it became even more popular.

Can ramen be made from any kind of meat?

Traditionally, ramen is made with pork, but there are new ramen bars all over the world serving different kinds of ramen from fish to chicken.

Does ramen have to be made with lesser cuts to be considered authentic?

Lesser cuts tend to have more flavour and stand up to longer cooking and marinading times, so are perfect for making ramen, where often meat is cooked for hours and marinaded for longer. That said, there’s a Michelin-starred ramen restaurant in Hong Kong, which probably has some premium ingredients…

Is it acceptable to eat ramen for breakfast?

You’ll find people eating ramen at all times of day in Japan, it’s a post-drinking, post-clubbing kind of dish, so eaten in the early hours and there are a couple of ramen joints near Tsukiji, the fish market, in Tokyo that are busy with people breakfasting on noodle soup from 6am, so yes, it happens!

Is it true that ramen makes for a terrific hangover cure?

It is. There’s a good level of protein from meat and eggs, liquid form soup and lots of flavour to bash awake booze-addled taste buds.

You’ve created ‘smoky London ramen’ for Tonk the Disco, what’s that all about?

Fresh noodles in our shoyu-based chicken and pork stock soup topped with smoked haddock, spinach and an egg. Kind of breakfasty.

Are there any good vegetarian street food options in Japan?

In Japan, very few, but as far as London restaurants go, most offer a vegetarian version so a Shiitake and Miso Ramen at Tonkotsu for example…

MSG good or MSG bad?

We don’t use any at Tonkotsu because we wanted the produce the umami, meat deliciousness without relying on it. We managed to do that so don’t add it to anything. That said, we’re not against its use elsewhere.

Does ramen have to include noodles?

Yes. Ramen noodles are made with wheat flour, water and an alkaline salt called kansui.

Is ramen still influenced by classic Japanese cuisine?

Ramen was introduced to Japan from China in early 1900s and has been honed and adapted to the Japanese palate with the Japanese flavours in mind. Although, it could be classed as a game-changer in Japanese cuisine, facilitating the use of oils and chills that would usually be absent from Japanese cooking.

And finally, how do you slice those boiled eggs so perfectly?

Ah ha, we can’t tell you that!

Tickets for ‘Tonk the Disco’ at Disco Bistro EC4 this Friday are available here, priced £35 per person.


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