Interview: Chef Takahiro Hori

Had the pleasure to sit down with Taka Hori, Ken Ken Ramen’s head chef to discuss Ken Ken’s new Canadian Crab Special Ramen. 

A new special ramen using local ingredients and seasonable high quality Canadian Crab, a pescetarian stock made from dried grilled halibut, mackerel, sardine and other fish bones. Topped with Ken Ken’s famous slow cooked eggs and featuring a thicker wavy noodle this is an interesting complex and healthy ramen option for the winter that aims to offer a balanced experience highlighting seasonable crab.

Taka shared with me his thoughts on this new dish.

What attracted to you crab? 

Taka: I wanted to make a seasonable special based on fish. Something that featured a strong unique winter season item. For all chefs this is an exciting item - crab. I wanted to make a fish broth ramen for our customers who are pescetarian and who love ramen.  Crab is part of that effort.

Could you walk us through the broth and how you came about making it?

Taka: The broth in an old school Japanese fish stock. It has a lot of different fish bones to penetrate the core essence of fish. We are using grilled fish bones that I pick up from one of my sensei’s restaurants. He uses high quality fish in a sushi restaurant and I’m lucky to use the bones for our fish stock. We grill and dry the fish bones to extract flavors. We cook all the bones, freeze them to lock in flavor and then dry them in the sun for at least 3 days to get an extra dry concentrated taste. The bones take on a beautiful amber color.  We cook these bones and this stock is the base that we mix and blend with our vegan broth using different seaweeds, veggies, mushrooms etc. Its almost like we are making a tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen but using fish bones instead.

What kind of fish bones are being using?

Taka: Halibut, Makeral, Spanish Mackeral, Sea Bass and Dried Bonito as well as scallops. 

Do some fish bones have stronger flavors than others?

Taka: Yes - as you know Bonito or certain fish that we call “blue” family fish like sardine or mackeral has a a little bit of bitter fishy taste. Snapper, sole, haliput instead have what we call a “white or clear” fish taste. I then try to balance these “clear” taste bones with the heavier fish of the “blue” to create a pleasant experience. This is our original “dashi” stock. 

Before Ken Ken - you worked also in Sushi restaurants. Did these experiences help in making this ramen?

Taka: Of course - because these original fish bones actually come from one of my sensei’s (teacher’s) high quality restaurant and I worked with him to really focus this style ramen.

The crab ramen features a new wavy noodle you developed - could you tell us more about that noodle.

Taka: The crab ramen features a lot of crab ramen with a light flavor fish stock. Very simple and clear, but this mild impact needs a strong noodle with a strong character to create harmony and impact.  We tried many noodles and with the help of our noodle factory we came up with a wide noodle that has a strong impact. This creates a balance. Soft light airy crab, fish stock and a strong character noodle. I hope this creates a harmony for customers.

What kind of tare (flavor profile) are using to finish the broth? 

Taka: I use aged soy sauce and a crunchy Mendocino sea ribbons to finish the stock. I hope customers will enjoy.

Ken Ken’s Crab ramen is available in limited servings on Tuesday and Wednesdays evenings.

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