Many of us are trying to improve our home cooking skills at the moment, and trying our hand at new recipes. And restaurants, too, are trying to do whatever they can in almost impossible circumstances, from offering takeaway services to delivering full-blown meal kits.
The meal kits – offering ready-prepared dishes or ingredients that only need basic cooking and assembly at home – have proved hugely popular so far, and it’s encouraging to see ingenuity in the face of adversity: kitchens being used, staff kept in employment and local suppliers supported.
Plus, of course, it means we get to try restaurant quality dishes that we otherwise may not be making ourselves at home.
One such dish is ramen. I adore its deep, shimmering, intensely savoury stock and beautifully bouncy noodles, but I wouldn’t really consider making it myself from scratch. I know how time-consuming and labour-intensive it is.
Step forward YaoYao Noodles, a new Manchester venture launched by Omar Rodriguez, the former head chef of hugely acclaimed Japanese restaurant Umezushi, which sadly closed its doors last year.
Set up next to The Sparrows in Redbank, YaoYao specializes in ramen kits with all the hard work done for you. And they deliver nationwide, so you don’t need to be based in the city centre to try them.
Each kit costs £18 and contains everything you need to make two huge bowls of ramen, from the slow-cooked stock and meat or veg to the handmade noodles and garnishes.
And the best news – you can have them ready in just a few minutes.
We tried a rich chicken and soy broth kit, which comes with garlic and soy sesame chicken and spicy Sichuanese chilli oil so you can ramp up the heat, and a creamy tonkotsu ramen kit which comes with chashu fatty pork and aromatic browned onion and garlic oil.
Both kits also come with all the garnishes you need, including absolutely delicious ajitsuke tamago – marinated soft boiled eggs. There are also vegetarian and vegan options available.
Everything arrives in a well-insulated box that will keep ingredients cold for over 48 hours. The kits will keep in the fridge for three days, while the broth, meats and noodles can also be frozen for up to a month, so you don’t need to worry about waste.
All their boxes, insulation and ice packs are made 100% from recycled materials and are fully recyclable. The pouches and pots are also recyclable, and they group ingredients in order to reduce single-use packaging.
In terms of prep, it’s all very straightforward, with simple step-by-step instructions. It’s just a case of warming up the broth, chopping the garnishes, reheating the meat and cooking the noodles – just a minute and a half for the perfect bounce.
It’s good fun to prepare and assemble the ramen, and the finished dish is simply wonderful – without having to do the hours of prep usually required.
Rich, hearty and comforting, it’s a hug in a bowl. And we all could do with one of those at the moment.
YaoYao Noodles deliver Tuesday to Saturday, within 48 hours if you order before 4pm. They don’t charge for delivery to all orders of two kits or more, but there is a small fee of £2.50 for one kit. All kits are priced at £18 and generously feed two.