Hong Kong: Amazing Ramen at Butao King

December 16th, 2010
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When planning the Hong Kong portion of our trip around Asia, I expected to partake in all sorts of Chinese food from Cantonese to Szechuan and all sorts of foods I’d never heard of. What I didn’t plan on was spending two hours in line to go to a Japanese ramen shop, but that’s what happened. The night we arrived, I picked up a copy of the local Time Out to see what food and events were below the radar of the guide books. The review for Butao King, a tiny ramen shop in Central was so amazing that there was no question we had to try it.


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On our first morning, we wandered down the Mid-levels into Central with no real idea of where we were going and just a faint memory of a google map result to guide us. After numerous wrong turns and discovering that google didn’t know the difference between Wo On Lane and On Wo Lane, we made it the Butao King only to discover about a hundred people lined up on the street waiting to get into the 14-seat restaurant.
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Quite hungry by that point, neither of us were up for the wait. The next morning, we headed there before opening and still found two dozen people in line. Prepared this time we joined up and two hours later got some of the best tonkotsu we’d ever had.
Tonkotsu, which I’ve mentioned before, is made with a particularly rich pork-bone broth that bubbles and roils for hours, constantly reducing and getting more and more potent as it does.
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At Butao King, this broth makes the base for each of the four different soups available including ones that use squid ink, spicy miso or pesto to create interesting and delicious variations on the original. Using a supplied order sheet, each customer can further customize their soup by requesting different degrees of richness, spice as well as add-ons like a medium-boiled egg, a sheet of nori or additional garlic among other options.
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Tammi chose the original, with an egg, scallions and mushrooms and loved it. Without going over the top, the flavors were still intense and amazing. I just had to try what struck me as the most unusual, the pesto, topped with extra pork, egg, a sheet of nor and more. It was like nothing I’d ever tasted before. The pesto didn’t get in the way of the other flavors as I’d feared. Instead, the basil and olive oil melded with the porky essence of the soup and made every second of waiting for this meal worth it.
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Being the only non-Asians in line and at the table, we stood out. The staff asked where we were from and when they told the chef we came from Brooklyn, he came out and asked to take a picture with me. He complimented my hair (the first of many who noted it on the trip) and thanked us for coming all the way from New York to have his soup.
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