Eating Out: Use your noodle and head to Belfast's Bia Rebel Ramen
409 Ormeau Road,
THE hungry millennial, sat at the very front of the top deck of the 7A bus headed for Belfast city centre, turned to his equally skinny-jeaned pal who had wondered aloud where they might go for lunch.
“I’m noodled out,” he said. His mate concurred and off they went for burgers.
Is this a young person thing, this being “noodled out”? How do you end up in that state? Can it happen at home? Will Super or Pot do or does it need to be something else?
You expect it’s probably something cooler, hipper, skinnier jeanier. Something better. It’s probably something like Bia Rebel ramen.
Their truck on Donegall Quay by the Lagan has established a faithful following and now they’ve opened a new bricks and mortar place in the south of the city.
You can sit in if you want, but if you do and you find some room in the small shop you’ll be perched on a stool either facing the counter or looking out the window on to the Ormeau Road as people walking past or waiting for the 7A bus watch you try to simultaneously maintain your dignity and shovel noodles into your face.
So, like it’s vehicular sister, it’s really a takeaway place, and the stuff you get to take away will have you coming back.
The reason you’ll want to return is that when you’re done, you’ll just feel better about yourself. This is food to reaasure, to nourish, to punch you on the arm and tell you you’re doing grand.
The Belfast ramen has tender slices of pork, slippery noodles providing flavour rather than just ballast, some chew and salinity from nori seaweed and bite from bamboo and scallions.
The deep brown, tea-smoked egg adds a bitter, slightly smoky flavour but does its real work when you break it open, the yolk oozing into everything, enriching the soy-flavoured broth. Permission to slurp.
The Rebel ramen punches in the face rather than the arm, but it still delivers the blow with affection.
Noodles, pork, scallions and nori again, in the same broth, but this time the pork was minced with sweetcorn, sesame, cabbage, dried garlic and their own chilli sauce.
Powerful flavours, but balanced, clean and precise, and even as the heat builds – which it will – nothing gets out of control, which also means the quality of the ingredients needs to be there – which it is.
This is a pan-Asian enterprise, so from Korea there’s kimchi – spicy, sour fermented cabbage – and Thailand-inspired tom yum chicken wings.
The kimchi is crisp and bright and not too fiery, so you won’t be overloading yourself if you have it with one of the spicier bowls like the Rebel ramen or the Celtic ramen, with chilli beef and red broad bean paste.
The chicken wings bring a kick too, but again it doesn’t detract from the flavour, this time deeply savoury but still fragrant with a bit of zing to cut through their fat.
The kombu salad, shot through with slices of shiitake and slivers of pickled carrot was brought together with an earthy miso sesame dressing. The tangles of seaweed and meathy slices of mushroom could have done with more of the carrot (with a heftier pickle to it) to lift things a bit more but you’re still getting something that feels like it’s doing you good.
There are dumpling soups with duck and kimchi, while the vegan options include a tofu ramen and salads with turmeric potatoes or rice and tamarind tahini.
Everything is so fresh and clean you can’t help but be pleased with yourself once it’s finished. The ramens are particularly substantial, so you won’t be hungry when you’re done, but you’ll wonder how long before your can justify having another one.
Unless, of course, you’re ever so slightly noodled out.
Rebel ramen £6
Belfast ramen £8
Tom Yum chicken wings £5
Kombu salad £3