The words “ramen noodles” may conjure up images of a freeze-dried dietary staple for spendthrift college students, but a visit to Ejji Ramen will quickly quash thoughts of those cellophane packages of Asian-inspired noodles.
Oscar Lee and his uncle, chef Ten Vong, blended Malaysian flavors and other Asian spices to create the unique tastes at the Bethesda, Maryland, eatery, which takes its name from Ejji, the Japanese word for “edge.”
The menu takes into consideration dietary preferences, with dishes for those who prefer gluten-free or vegetarian meals. Patrons also can find many traditional pork-based Asian dishes.
Jason Hardy, general manager of Ejji Ramen in Westfield Montgomery Mall, said the secret to the unique tastes for their signature ramen dishes is in the broths, all of which are made in-house.
For instance, the pork broth is made from pork bones that have smoked for 36 hours. The vegetarian broth is made from miso, a Japanese soybean base, and corn stalks after the kernels have been stripped for use in the various dishes. There’s also a broth made from a combination of seafoods.
“A broth is personal,” Hardy said as he explained the foundation for the ramen served at the restaurant. “In Japan, every house has their own style of broth.”
Noodles at Ejji, which are all handmade, include the traditional curly noodle, a rice noodle for those who desire a gluten-free option, and a vegetable noodle made from spiraling squash, carrots and jicama.
I tried the Laksa Surfy Ramen, a seafood dish seasoned with Thai basil. The vegetarian Miso Corny Ramen was made with vegetable noodles to which I added crunchy enoki black mushrooms. The Edamame appetizer, which is smoked and grilled with hickory and lemongrass, had just enough spice.
“Traditionally, people just boil edamame, then put salt on it and it’s very bland,” Hardy said. “We take it a few steps further by adding togarashi, a seven-ingredient blend of Japanese spices.”
Patrons can build a combo that consists of one broth, one type of noodle and two toppings. All the dishes are ample in size and can easily feed two people. One of the organic soft drinks is the right accompaniment with the meal.
The Ejji Ramen management team of Lee, Vong and Hardy have been gearing up for the Montgomery Mall opening for almost a year. This new location is a scaled-down version of the original Baltimore restaurant which is still in business. Over several weeks of staff training, management had a few areas they wanted to emphasize to team members.
“Our staff is prepared for the influx of the Montgomery Mall guests,” Hardy said. “We want to instill respect for the ingredients and attention to detail.”