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culture

At Slurp Noodlefest, a Rainbow of Ramen

A one-day food festival showcased eight different takes on Asian noodles.

Nick Gau’s pork hakka soup.

On Sunday at The Great Hall, Toronto chowhounds slurped down ramen and other noodle dishes at Slurp Noodlefest, an event organized by Suresh Doss, the man behind Food Truck Eats and other local foodie events. Several top chefs from around Toronto cooked up their takes on the theme.

For those who don’t know, ramen is a soup with a meat- or fish-based broth. In the bowl are chewy wheat noodles, which are usually topped with meat and a variety of vegetables. It’s an extremely regional dish, so there are many different varieties.

A-OK’s salted-cod inari.

The chefs at Noodlefest embraced this creative license. True to his famed haute-cuisine style, Victor Barry, owner of Splendido and the County General, presented a porcini and truffle ramen. Nick Liu, of GwaiLo, made a pork hock hakka soup, inspired by his South African mother-in-law’s recipe. Top Chef Canada winner Carl Heinrich, now of Richmond Station, also followed in his mother-in-law’s footsteps with a Vietnamese pho swimming in a guinea-hen broth. It was topped with flanks of beef and rings of red-hot chili.

The chefs were also allowed to make a non-noodle item. A-OK’s salted-cod inari, a tofu pouch stuffed with a rice-and-cod mixture, was one of the more popular bites. Skin+Bones served up fried chicken tails, which were a bit like popcorn chicken. Victor Barry stacked up pork sliders with Kraft Singles on milk buns. The dish didn’t match the Asian theme, but the tiny sandwiches were flying off the grill, even so. Both El Vagabundo Gastronomico and Sabai Sabai offered mango sticky rice, a common Thai dessert (and notably the only vegetarian item at the event).

Mango sticky rice by Sabai Sabai.

Doss came up with the idea for Noodlefest while he was sitting around the dinner table with a few friends, including Heinrich of Richmond Station and Susur Lee of Susur. At one point, the conversation turned to Toronto’s lack of ramen joints, at least as compared to Vancouver and other North American cities. Is Toronto ultimately not a ramen town, the recent ramen mini-boom notwithstanding?

Lee doesn’t think so. In his opinion, he said, Toronto can do ramen better than Japan. His reasoning was that two of Canada’s most abundant commodities, water and meat, are the main ingredients in the classic recipe. If you start with quality ingredients, and you happen to be Susur Lee, what’s stopping you?

Noodlefest fed 500 people. Doss said there was enough interest that he might consider organizing a second one.

Photos by Rachel Lissner/Torontoist.

CORRECTION: March 5, 2012, 5:20 PM This post originally said, incorrectly, that Suresh Doss is “the man behind” Toronto Underground Market. In fact, TUM is run by its founder, Hassel Aviles, and Kate Clegg, her partner. We regret the error. Also, due to an editing error, this post originally incorrectly characterized a conversation between Doss, Susur Lee, and others. That conversation took place before Slurp Noodlefest, not during. Finally, the post originally characterized all the noodle dishes on offer at Noodlefest as “ramen,” when in fact some of them are more properly described in other ways. This point has been clarified.

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