Goodbye. Say goodbye to the emotional roller coaster of getting tickets to the exclusive Prairie Noodle Shop ramen pop-up. Since October of last year, the events have sprung up every few months or so and sold out within minutes as Edmonton ramen lovers scrambled for one of the 100 bowls. Say goodbye to the anxiety of waiting for that link on their Twitter feed and the excitement that comes when you’ve nailed down a pair of tickets. Instead, you can now look forward to a storefront, a brick and mortar space. You heard it, Prairie Noodle Shop is settling down. To celebrate? A fourth and final pop-up event with another Alberta-inspired bowl: Meat and Potatoes.Hosted at NAIT’s Ernest’s Dining Room, last Saturday’s pop-up event served up more bowls than ever. 250 bowls to be exact. Staggered half hour seating times allowed for a faster service and higher volume, something that Prairie Noodle Shop would need to ease in to when starting their new front. Inspired by the Albertan “meat and potatoes”-loving diet, this pop-up featured one of my favourite styles of ramen: tsukemen. Traditionally with thicker noodles, the broth is served separately and noodles are dipped into the broth for a different dining experience. Thicker noodles hold up against a thicker and more concentrated broth, making tsukemen a whole different ballpark than your standard ramen bowl.
Noodles are made fresh by the same secret old Asian lady and were the same thickness as before. The generous amount of ramen noodles was topped up with ground beef, sourced from D’Arcy’s Meats and mixed in with cubed potatoes. Cubed cuts of beef brisket were initially trialed during the creation of the bowl but the group figured that having meat with every bite would be more appropriate. Inspired by tantanmen (or Chinese dan dan) noodles, the ragu was mixed in with pickled Thai chilies and a chili oil, making the overall plate a real mouth tingler! I think I have a fair tolerance for heat, the bowl a perfect level for me. As with their previous bowl of garlic-ky miso cheese ramen, diners had the option of removing some of the toppings before mixing it into their noodles.The broth went above and beyond your traditional tsukemen soup, a tangy potato purée that clinged on to your noodles as you dipped them. I’m a purist at heart and like to try components separately before digging into things. By itself, the broth was clearly potato-based and the texture very reminiscent of my mother’s congee. The texture of the broth threw me for a loop but when I went in to dip my noodles, everything surprisingly clicked. It was delicious! Prairie Noodle Shop could easily give a smaller bowl of the potato broth, as I found that I would catch myself just eating the noodles and ragu by itself with residual broth mixing into the bowl as I ate. Portions this time around were (very!) generous and filling, and well worth $15 should they sell it at this price point in the future! Alongside using local, fresh ingredients, Prairie Noodle Shop is also about developing and supporting the community, not only within the culinary scene but outside as well. $2 from each bowl sold that night was donated to the late Constable Daniel Woodall’s family trust fund and cash donations were accepted and personally matched by the investors. I have to comment on Prairie Noodle Shop’s umeboshi (pickled Japanese plum) egg and bow down to whoever came up with this concept. Absolutely love the acidic touch to cut through the density and love that the colour really shined through for this bowl. Mmmmmeboshi. Catch-phrase if there ever was one and most definitely one of Prairie Noodle’s secret weapons. Thoughts overall: I’m a fan of Prairie Noodle Shop for thinking outside of the box. The demand for traditional ramen in Edmonton is growing and although we have a few shops taking a stab at it, we have none that are outstanding. But having an amazing “traditional” shop leaves it open for a lot of criticism, skepticism, and challenges. Even different regions in Japan have their own version of ramen. It’s so versatile and so easily tweaked that heck, Alberta can have their own bowl. As long as it tastes good, who cares? And that’s where Prairie Noodle Shop does it right. So which bowl do I think is the true Alberta bowl? Up to this point, my favourite was the “beer can” chicken and barley broth. The spices in this tsukemen bowl had my mouth addicted! It’s a tough call. I think I would need another round of both bowls (maybe side by side) to determine my favourite! And one day, I will be able to order both bowls at the same time. You can’t even imagine how excited I was when I heard the news that they were opening a storefront. Loved that Prairie Noodle Shop shared their restaurant concept and their plans with diners last weekend. Opening date will depend on how quickly they can get their space up and running, (permits, building spaces, equipping, etc) but with some luck, 124 Street will be home to Edmonton’s only ramen-centric shop. The past four bowls will be offered on their regular menu alongside some simple appetizers and there are plans for a rotational fifth bowl to allow for some fun creations. There’s also talk of making the noodles in-house although that’s another challenge they’ll have to figure out in the future. It’s been such an incredible journey watching the guys at Prairie Noodle Shop grow from a seemingly “traditional” pork ramen to a chicken ramen to a vegetarian miso cheese bowl to the ultimate tsukemen. Absolutely love the Prairie Noodle Shop crew and best of luck with settling down. Say goodbye to online tickets and screening for the next 100 bowls. Say hello to Prairie Noodle Shop’s next venture: permanent bowls, as many umeboshi eggs that you can afford, and what I predict will be some long line-ups out the door.
Side note: It’s been a busy couple of weeks for me and a #YEGRamen Guide is still in the works! What would you like to see in a guide? Let me know in the comments below!