Kimchi Ramen and a Flaming Hot Cheeto Roll at Miso Yummy: Ramen Purists Beware
While half the city was gorging themselves on ramen at Goro & Gun this weekend, I lucked upon a less crowded spot to slurp noodles: the front patio of Inversion Coffee House, where brand-new food truck Miso Yummy was parked only a few feet away. (Full disclosure: I ended up eating ramen at Goro & Gun later that night, too.)
Photos by Katharine Shilcutt Kimchi ramen with katsu chicken at Miso Yummy.
The new food truck is capitalizing on more than just the ramen craze that's hit Houston like a tsunami (still too soon?): It's also the third place in a week where I've eaten a dish based around Cheetos. To be fair, the first spot -- Poppa Burger -- has been serving its signature Bag of Flamin' Hot Cheetos Topped with Stadium Cheese for a few years now. But between the Cheeto-christened macaroni and cheese I had at Hollister Grill and the Flamin' Hot Cheeto-filled Seoul Hot roll at Miso Yummy this weekend, I'm calling it a trend.
Unfortunately, I wasn't that taken with the Seoul Hot roll. It was all talk and no game, and I'm glad to have split it between two other people. I didn't need more than two bites to realize that the gimmicky ingredients -- including an unnecessary flood of jalapeño-flecked queso across the top of the two rolls -- were just that. I'm told that Crave Sushi in Midtown has long offered a Flamin' Hot Cheeto roll of its own -- which its fans claim is actually very good -- but now I'm less eager to try it than ever.
On the bright side, the kimchi ramen was delicious. Splitting that between three people was a mistake. Although the soup was certainly large enough to go around, we all fought over its various components: dark green sheaths of spinach, a perfectly poached egg, a thicket of curly, chewy noodles and katsu (Japanese breaded-and-fried) chicken. I was surprised by how well chunks of fried chicken worked in the broth, its breading soaking up the spicy-sour flavor of kimchi and adding an extra dimension to the chicken underneath.
In fact, my only complaint -- and this is a minor quibble -- is that the soup wasn't really ramen. It was more like kimchi jjigae, a spicy Korean stew, with ramen noodles and a few other accouterments tossed in. That said, I don't care too much what Miso Yummy wants to call it as long as the truck keeps serving it. I'm a sucker for both sundubu jjigae and kimchi jjigae. All the better if it involves chewy noodles and a poached egg.
Not being a ramen purist helped my enjoyment of the soup, too. I don't know that Houston is a city capable of being purist-minded about anything. This is the place where Cajun food is co-opted and adapted by Vietnamese, Japanese by Chinese, Mex by Tex. Hoping for something pure and unmuddied from the Bayou City is akin to hoping that Texans will one day pronounce words like Refugio and Brazos correctly.
I've seen a lot of ramen ideologues disappointed in the first few days of Goro & Gun's service -- most of them on Yelp. Self-described "ramen enthusiasts" are having a field day telling the rest of the Internet how inauthentic Goro & Gun's tonkotsu ramen is, challenging that "Maruchan packet ramen is better" and advising the days-old restaurant to "[c]lose down, hire new (Japanese chefs) and start over."
All I can say is that those same people probably ought to steer clear of Miso Yummy as well, for fear of sullying their pure-minded ramen experiences with some hybrid mutt soup. Which leaves more for me.
Follow Eating Our Words on Facebook and on Twitter @EatingOurWords