Steve was super stoked to hear we were going to visit my grandmother (Pau Pau as I call her in Cantonese). This meant he could satisfy his ramen craving. With all the buzz surrounding the recent ramen festival, we had ramen on our minds. After hearing the event was poorly managed and a horrible experience for those waiting in line for upwards of 3 hours for ramen, we are glad we skipped the festival. Ramen is meant to be quick!
It is seldom too warm for ramen in San Francisco but last night was one of those hot humid nights and I felt like sweat was coming down as we ate. We had gone to the Sunset to surprise my Pau Pau with all new bedding. Surprisingly, she didn’t argue much with me tackling her bed like I was on an ambush, removing each layer of cloth. Of course, she did the usual grandma thing of complaining I spent too much money and that she was too old for new stuff but I ignored her. I made the bed and it looked lovely. At least to me it did. Pau Pau used to be seamstress so she went on to examine the stitching on the comforter which ironically, was comforting to see. She seemed pleased.
Pau Pau didn’t join us for dinner at Sawaii Ramen and it was too bad. Pau Pau would have enjoyed the sushi and tofu dishes as Sawaii Ramen has more to offer than sodium laden ramen. Apparently, most old people can’t eat too much salt. I love salt and noodles and that may have a lot to do with my upbringing. One of my fondest breakfast memories is eating instant ramen with my grandparents. When I stayed at my grandparents and they were out of jook (rice porridge), my Pau Pau would cook up ramen or goong jai mein, literally meaning doll noodles referring to the little dolls drawn on the package. It was the best breakfast surprise ever when I came into the kitchen and smelled the broth. Why shouldn’t ramen be eaten for breakfast? It warmed my tummy and filled me up with happiness all day.
Now the instant goong jai mein is pale in comparison to Sawaii Ramen’s hot steaming bowl of deliciousness. I would love to eat this shit for breakfast but sadly I’ve cut down on my gluten intake and can only eat a few bites of ramen. Plus, I’m pretty sure ramen isn’t too healthy for you in large quantities. Sawaii’s noodles are cooked just right with a little bit of chewiness but the best part is by far the savory broth and delicately cooked egg with its yellow gooey-ness. For an egg to be perfect, it has to have a dark yellow center that’s not too runny and not cooked dry. They must have cooked the broth for hours because it is thicker than the regular broth you think of and it’s medium shade of brown. When you dip your spoon into the bowl, bits and particles in the broth separate just a tinge. You take a little broth in the spoon, place some noodles in the it and then pinch off a small piece of egg with your chopsticks and set it atop the pile of noodles. Sawaii’s Spicy Garlic Pork Tonkatsu Ramen is the most delicious of their choices if you can handle spiciness. It is spicy, salty but not too much and bursting with the flavor of pork with little bits of meat and vegetables. I can’t taste too much of the garlic but I know its in there.
Their Braised Tofu with Vegetables is one of the best tofu dishes I’ve had in a Japanese noodle bar. The tofu had a very thin layer of batter and the sauce had the perfect consistency, not too thick and not too thin. You can almost see through the darkness of the sauce but the flavors are not lost in its opaqueness. As for their sushi, I had their Sawaii Roll made of spicy tuna, crab and spicy scallop and their Spicy Tuna Rainbow Roll which had spicy tuna and cucumbers in the middle versus the typical avocado and crab meat mixture. I suppose it’s obvious I love spicy tuna and these two rolls were great. They weren’t too heavy with the rice or mayo.
There’s always a long line at Sawaii Ramen so you may want to call ahead for a table. We got lucky and took the last available table. Then a line formed right behind us. They open at 11 AM so if you are a late riser, you indeed can visit Sawaii Ramen for some ramen breakfast.
Since Pau Pau didn’t come to dinner, I did the respectable any granddaughter would do. I got her a strawberry crepe from next door for dessert and walked it back to her house.
Sawaii Ramen 2240 Irving St (at 24th Ave in the Outer Sunset), San Francisco, CA 94122 (415) 665-7888