By Matthew Wexler | August 14, 2015 | Food & Drink
Momi Ramen brings an iconic dish to East Hampton.
The crab and ikura ramen is one of the spotlight dishes at Momi Ramen.
“Tell me about ramen; I don’t know what it is.” Anita Chen, owner and manager of Momi Ramen, says it’s a question she’s often asked since opening the East Hampton outpost of the famed Miami noodle shop this summer. She says “educating” customers is key to the restaurant’s success.
With no formal training, but an intense passion and fascination for ramen, Chen’s brother-in-law, Jeffrey Chen, traveled to Japan for a course before opening the Momi Ramen in 2011, although he was initially unsure if the locals would want to eat bowls of noodles in hot broth under the scorching Florida sun. He persevered, however, and, customers came. In East Hampton, Chen has faced some of the same challenges but says most Hamptonites are willing to try the dish and are pleasantly surprised by the taste of the rich tonkotsu (pork and bone marrow) broth.
With a keen understanding of her clientele, Chen has revamped the Momi menu for its Hamptons location, fine-tuning the ramen dish itself, and adding upward of 15 share plates. One highlight is the crab and ikura ramen, a cold noodle dish ideal for the waning days of summer.
Chen believes that because noodles have a historical stronghold in the American diet (think macaroni and cheese and spaghetti and meatballs), ramen is simply an exploration of a familiar food. Originating in China, the dish emigrated to Japan with 19th-century tradesmen and found its way to America by the way of Nissin Foods’s Cup O’ Noodles in 1973. The craze has spiked over the past decade, with ramen shops opening nationwide and chefs like David Chang and Ivan Orkin achieving celebrity status. But it’s the noodles themselves that command center stage.
Momi’s noodle recipe is simple: a combination of Canadian and Japanese wheat flour, salt, and water. Mixed and kneaded for nearly an hour, the dough is then rolled as many as nine times before being extracted and cut through an imported Yamato ramen-noodle machine, a process that takes more than three hours. After being boiled for 100 seconds (slightly shorter for the hot-broth dishes), the noodles are plunged into an ice bath to stop the cooking process.
Once chilled, the noodles are tossed with tsuyu sauce, an umami-packed combination of house-made dashi (dried bonito flakes and kombu), soy sauce, and mirin. The dish is then topped with Japanese snow crab, ikura (salmon roe), nori flakes, and scallions. 221 Pantigo Road, East Hampton, 324-1678
photography by Doug young