Catching up with Wilson Wu, noodle chef of Ramen Ya in Kahului, Maui

Wilson Wu photos courtesy of Sean Hower, Hower Photo

Ramen-Ya

275 West Kaahumanu Ave., Kahului, HI 96732

808-873-9688

MauiTime listing

Going to Ramen Ya in Kaahumanu Center is the closest you can come to being transported to Japan for a bowl of noodles. There is a little bar you can sit at that overlooks the action in the kitchen, where you will see Ramen-Ya’s Wilson Wu at the helm. Wu is a young veteran of the noodle shop. Yet he never looks ruffled by the the hundreds of bowls of soup coming out of out this small shop that often has a line out the door for a seat. I caught up with him to see how he keeps his cool.

JR: How does Ramen differ from Saimin?
Wilson Wu: A good Ramen chef will take pride in creation of their unique broth, fresh
noodles and ingredients. Saimin, on the other hand, has a pre-packed
powdered seasoning. Their noodles are deep fried, frozen or dried and is
pre-made and packaged. Good Ramen noodles and broth are fresh made and
have good nutritious value.

JR: What other kinds of food are on your menu? Do you serve Japanese food?
WW: Ramen-ya’s aim is to serve healthy, good quality “comfort food” with
excellent value in a nice clean modern atmosphere . Our menu covers a
broad range of traditional as well as local favorites with a Japanese
flair. Other than Ramen soup-style noodle, you will find seafood, katsu,
curry as well as rice dishes.

JR: I can’t eat here without making a loud mess. Is there a special noodle shop etiquette diners should follow?
WW:In a noodle shop in Japan you find that people make “loud noises” when
slurping the noodles and hold the bowl to drink the broth. This is normal
to show that the customer is enjoying the food…so, you can Slurp and
Make Loud Noises to your hearts content at Ramen-ya.

JR: How do you make your rich and tasty broth? What is in it?
WW: As mentioned, good ramen chefs take pride in a creation of their both. We
use a combination of pork bone, bone marrow, chicken, mixed vegetable and
our chef’s secret ingredients. Each pot of broth is cooked for over 12
hours.

JR: Oooh, I love secret ingredients apparently. Another favorite on the menu are are your gyoza. How do you make them? Can you reveal any gyoza secrets?
WW: We make our own filling from scratch and it is freshly cooked to order.
Our gyoza fryer from Japan is of authentic qualilty. It creates gyoza
with a crisp, golden brown bottom and a soft top and yet juicy filling.

Were you born into the life of a soup noodle king like kung fu panda, or did you work your way into it? What kind of training do you undergo to make noodles this good?
WW: I have always been in the restaurant business from the time I came to Hawaii. Cooking is my passion. When I had an opportunity to run a ramenshop for my relative about 10 years ago, I took this opportunity. I was able to fine tune my ramen concept while learning the business side of running a restaurant. Ramen-ya is has been a result of my “on the job training”.

JR: How do my steaming bowls of food arrive so quickly? What is your secret to handling the pressure in a fast paced kitchen?

WW: All it takes is a well planned structure for the day for things to work and
fall in place. You need to be properly staffed, have all the necessary
prep work done, ingredients ordered, ready and on hand. Even thought it
looks busy and hectic, with all the ingredients in place we can produce
good, fresh food at a rapid pace for our customers. We also have to have
good communication with our great team up front to meet our customer’s
demands.

JR: Right. A good plan equal a good bowl. If you were eating at a Ramen shop what would you be looking for in a great bowl of Ramen?
WW:A great bowl of Ramen has three elements a) noodles that are fresh and
cooked to the right consistency b) broth that is tasty: slow and long
cooked for full-flavor and nutrition and c) a well garnished appealing
presentation. Due to our Hawaii’s diversity of age and tastes, Ramen-ya
also provides a selection of table condiments to meet ones personal taste buds.

JR: Who is your Most Valuable Player at team Ramen Ya?
WW:We have a very good group of workers. The “Back” of the house (Kitchen
crew) all fully trained on our ramen menu. They have an understanding of
each department (wok area, gyoza, noodle) work, so when it comes to
production they can work together as a team. Our “Front” end (waiters and
servers) are fully aware of the pace: seating the customers, submitting
orders, production and bringing our product out to the customer in an
efficient manner. These two teams are in constant communication at all
times to give our customer a consistently satisfying and enjoyable
experience. Also, we always express our appreciation before customer’s
leave.

JR: Gratitude from the staff! that is an excellent bonus here. Is there a perfect time of day to have a bowl of ramen?

WW: Remember to take advantage of our DAILY HAPPY HOUR from 2 to 5
p.m. where we give away free Gyoza with a regular meal purchase. Hey by the way our Gift
Certificates can be used all year round – for an anniversary or birthday
or to award your employee, or show appreciation for that special person or
family, so its always a good time to eat ramen. The management team would also like to say BIG Mahalo! to our RAMEN-YA FANS for all your support!

JR: There you go with the gratitude thing again. I hear you guys throw an awesome party. What is that all about?
WW:Tecnically we don’t throw the party, but we can certainly provide the food. We can cater any item on our menu (except for soup style noodle). We can go with appetizers to entrees like the Gyoza, or entree dishes like Mochiko Chicken or Chicken Katsu. Other favorites are Fried rice and Noodle dishes. All of these can be special made to order, and put together in party pans to fit any size party or budget. Let us make the food for your next tail gate party , pot-luck or shower.

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