chef Jonathan at Boom.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Chef Jonathan is constantly looking for ways to improve dishes at Boom Noodle.
To call Boom Noodle 's Jonathan Hunt a


Boom Noodle's Chef Jonathan Hunt Reflects on Tasty Trips to Japan

chef Jonathan at Boom.jpg
Photo by Leslie Kelly
Chef Jonathan is constantly looking for ways to improve dishes at Boom Noodle.
To call Boom Noodle's Jonathan Hunt a seasoned chef would be an understatement. He's been in the business for 28 years, starting way back when at the gone-but-still-missed Surrogate Hostess. For a dozen years, he and a partner ran the successful Hunt-Lowell catering before he signed on with Boom in 2006. In this week's Grillaxin, the veteran chef talks about his ramen research and the special place known as Japan.

SW: We are all thinking about the terrible tragedy in Japan. You've been there--any personal reflections?

Hunt: One thing that struck me during my time in Japan was the incredible kind of rhythm that exists in everyday life. Whether it is the way ramen chefs build a bowl of soup, the perfect timing of the subway, or the sing-song beauty of the spoken language, there is such a sense of harmony there. To imagine and see all of that so severely disrupted, and the fear of the unknown everyone there is facing, is just heartbreaking.

On research trips to Japan, can you describe one particularly memorable meal?

My first meal in Japan. After a late night arrival in Kyoto, introductions with my gracious hosts, and a few Sapporos, I was hungry. Lucky for me, a late-night ramen-ya was only a few blocks away. Just after 1 a.m., I ducked under the curtain, revealing an indoor/outdoor soup kitchen run by three teenage-looking young men.

The menu was simple, comprised of gyoza with three, maybe four different styles of soup and noodle. I chose the pork-belly ramen with clams, sat down, and waited for what would be a transformational experience. I can honestly say that my "greatest meal" at Taillevent in Paris was no more perfect than this bowl of deliciousness. The julienne strips of pork belly grilled over an open flame along with baby clams, thinly cut Tokyo leeks, and fresh-ground white pepper was a flawless match with the firm noodle and rich broth. Falling asleep, I lay wondering if the meals to come would offer anything that good. Just to be sure, the next night I returned for more, an hour after finishing an awe-inspiring meal at an izakaya bar, and it was.

How has the ramen evolved since Boom first opened?

Since opening, we have used the same noodle maker from Northern California, but have modified the texture and shape of the noodle they create for us. Originally a straighter, softer noodle, we now have a wavy, more firm noodle with greater egg flavor. With the recent addition of tonkotsu to the menu came the traditional thin, straight ramen noodle it is classically served with.

In the beginning, we used bonito more prominently in the soup, and have since turned to using iriko (dried sardine) as the dominant fish component as well as kombu to fortify flavors. The result is a more nuanced broth with better balance.

We have experimented and implemented more change in our broth and stocks in order to improve and diversify our product. From Japanese sea salt to yuzu kosho, we have continued to bring in authentic, high-quality ingredients to infuse flavors into our soup. Most notably, we now offer all four major categories of Japanese ramen: shoyu (soy), shio (salt), miso (fermented soybean) and the newly added tonkotsu (creamy pork-bone soup). Outside this realm, we've also added a kimchi ramen and a spicy yuzu soup base flavoring an egg-flower ramen broth.

YUM! Hungry for more? Check back for part two of this week's Grillaxin Q&A with Boom Noodle's Jonathan Hunt.

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