All about ramen

In Japan, it’s been “starred” for the first time. In Milan there’s Zazà Ramen telling us about its secrets

27-12-2015
Ramen is a popular dish in Japanese cuisine, today

Ramen is a popular dish in Japanese cuisine, today made nobler thanks to excellent preparations, so much so that for the first time, a restaurant in Tokyo was awarded with a star. In Milan the point of reference is Zazà Ramen, where we took this photo

It is a long known fact that Japanese cuisine is not just about sushi or tempura. Today it is certified – for what it’s worth – by the Michelin Guide of Tokyo, which for the first time in history has given a star to a restaurant serving ramen, Tsuta, a noodle bar seating only nine people, in the northern neighbourhood of Sugamo. It thus becomes the virtual flagpole of many Japanese restaurants serving this type of traditional soup-with-noodles-and-garnish, one of the most common fast foods in the country of the Rising Sun.

Brendan Becht (the seated man with a beard) with the staff at Zazà Ramen (photo by Matteo Barro)

Brendan Becht (the seated man with a beard) with the staff at Zazà Ramen (photo by Matteo Barro)

Yet where and how can you eat good ramen in Italy? The point of reference is in Milan: Zazà Ramen, in the central Via Solferino, was born in 2013 thanks to an idea of chef-entrepreneur Brendan Becht and his Japanese partner Kevin Ageishi, who chose Italy as their homeland. The Japanese ramen tradition, reinterpreted and put into context, expresses the “synthesis by subtraction” of two important culinary cultures.

Ramen with pork and marinated egg, cabbage and glazed carrots at Zazà Ramen in Milan

Ramen with pork and marinated egg, cabbage and glazed carrots at Zazà Ramen in Milan

The result is a rigorous interpretation of ramen though careful to the ingredients of the Italian culinary culture: attention to seasonality, fresh raw materials and less fat. «It’s a contemporary version, with plenty of umami», says Becht with his cook Raffaele Mandarino.

Even Becht, as mentioned, is a chef: he’s Dutch and arrived in Italy 25 years ago, to work with Gualtiero Marchesi, «the only Italian famous abroad at the time. A very young Carlo Cracco told me about him, I was working with him at Alain Senderens’s Lucas Carton in Paris. I was planning to come to Italy so…». It was 1991, Marchesi was still in Via Bonvesin della Riva; when in 1993 he moved to Erbusco, Becht chose to stay in Milan,«I created a consultancy firm, I often went to Japan where in the late nineties I managed the opening of Marchesi’s bistro in Kobe. There I met Kevin Ageishi».

The base for ramen: pasta and broth, before the garnish

The base for ramen: pasta and broth, before the garnish

We move forward, to 2013. «Kevin told me: “There’s still no ramen restaurant in Italy, why don’t we open one?”. So we opened Zazà [Zazà is the nickname given by Lupin to inspector Zenigata, who’s crazy about ramen. The restaurant recently appeared in many scenes of the television animation series "Lupin III – L’Avventura Italiana"]». The restaurant offers meat, fish or vegetarian ramen, with seven different bases and it’s possible to pair them in many ways, with normal or whole wheat pasta (with Molino Quaglia’s flour) and three types of broth: shōyu (with soy sauce, the result will have a sapid and intense taste), miso (even thicker) or shio (with marinated seaweeds and katsuobushi: lighter in colour and structure). We recently wrote about it here.


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