A beautiful bowl of Japanese ramen to warm you up

Chekafe restaurant, a Japanese Sweets Factory in Lavington. Photo | Maryanne Owiti

What you need to know:

  • Chekafe, Japanese Sweets Factory, Lavington offers a to-die-for Ramen bowl based on the Japanese cuisine

Ramen has a reputation for being cheap fast food, and most cheap fast food tend towards style rather than substance, but in places like Japan, ramen has a bit of a cultish following with dedicated blogs, magazines, and even a museum. Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup. It consists of Chinese-style wheat noodles served in a meat or fish-based broth, often flavored with soy sauce or miso, and uses toppings such as sliced pork, nori, menma, and scallions

I don’t typically like ramen – the taste of salt always overwhelms my palate – but the Chekafe Ramen bowls aren’t your run-of-the-mill instant ramen with crimped noodles and seasoning sachets; they are, in the tradition of Japanese cuisine, a culinary experience. 

The enticing Chekafe Pork Ramen bowl appeared on my Instagram feed one night and the very next day I went to the secluded neighborhood in Lavington where the restaurant is located. The place is both quiet and lively or rather vibrant with deep wooden tables and colourful flower pots; and, the Nairobi Arts Centre is the next block over. On Sundays, the complex hosts a market with local artisans and music making for an enjoyable outing with the family. The staff match the aesthetics of the place – young, friendly, and easy-going but also professional. The service is excellent – the pacing between receiving my drink, my starter and my main is consistent and short. 

Back to the food. The building blocks of every bowl of ramen are the noodles, the broth, and the toppings. Chekafe offers four ramen bowls – pork, chicken, spicy chicken and oyster. Noodles are heart of the bowl. Nestled in a hot broth and covered with spring onions, three pieces of braised pork and a soy soaked egg, the egg noodles are thick and bouncy with a detectable egg flavour. If the noodles are the heart of ramen then the broth is the soul of the bowl. It’s the first thing you taste to know whether all will be well. The pork ramen broth is packed with flavour from the pork, the vegetables, and garlic oil, each distinct, each take turn showing up on the tongue – first the vegetable, then the pork, then the garlic oil. It’s quite interesting. The braised pork topping is delicious; not too soft that you can’t hold it with the chopsticks but not too tough either. The egg soaked in soy sauce is an acquired taste – I wasn’t a fan. 

All in all, I was deeply satisfied with my meal at Chekafe, it warmed up a rather cold afternoon. Next time –yes, there will be a next time – I want to try the oyster ramen. 

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