About four years ago, My Brother’s Wife introduced Me to what rapidly became one of My favorite places to eat. The Uni Deli, inside the United Noodles Grocery store. In the time since, They have had a small, but reasonably consistent menu. Tonkatsu/Tonkotsu Ramen being the gem of the line-up. The afore stated bowl of deliciousness has, without question, been the single best bowl of soup in the Twin Cities for years now. I have told dozens of people to head that way, with statements such as “It’s just amazing,” “You won’t be disapointed,” or “simply the best” ringing in their ears. Nearly everyone has agreed with My assessment. My sister-in-law has sent even more people that way, as she has been shopping at the grocery store aspect of the place her whole life. This past winter, a group of us made a weekly ritual of tonkatsufying ourselves, but no longer.
This year, particularly the last four months, things have changed DRAMATICALLY! The Uni Deli seems to have lost focus. In early May, I went there three days in a row, taste buds anticipating the wonderful thick tonkatsu stock flowing in to My belly. However, I was thwarted each time. Monday has become experimental day, okay, that’s fine, You’ve got to test new ground. Their label for this has been “4 unique ramen varieties every monday.” Which is a lie, since one and often two of the offerings aren’t even ramen. Soba, udon and other things are fine and dandy, but don’t lie about what You’re offering! Saturdays lately have been their “Asian Grill” experimental day. Again, I’ve no isue with testing different things and seeing how customers respond, but how many days a week are You going to stop offering that which got You where You are? Keep the experimental stuff to one day a week, or less. Try once every other week!!!
I have gone over all My receipts from January 1st of this year, up til now. I have gone there and ordered food 37 times this year, nearly every time with friends, often their first encounter with said deli. There is only one thing I want! TONKOTSU RAMEN!!! In the realm of ranking food, it has been a consistent 9/10. There is nothing else on the menu which ranks better than 6/10, that is an honest truth.. In those 37 visits I had tonkatsu 28 times. Sometimes trying other things to remind Myself why I don’t get them more often, other times because their experimental days mean they simply do not offer the regular menu. Sadly, I can also tell You that in the same time period, I have gone there EIGHT TIMES, only to find them closing early, thus getting NOTHING AT ALL. I know sometimes there are technical difficulties, such as the record rains this year made a hole in the roof, or electrical issues preventing people from swiping their debit/credit cards. By all means, close shop and fix the roof, I won’t complain, but when the electro payment is not working, don’t close like You did. We were there as a group of six people, perfectly happy to go find an atm and pay in cash. We watched 50% of the people entering the grocery store, turn around and leave without getting anything, because they came for the Uni Deli. Clearly, somebody cares nothing for their customers, even those who drum up more business for You…
Which brings Me to another failing that the Uni Deli has undergone recently. The prices went up by $1 per bowl of soup, PLUS if You want it spicy, it is now an extra 50 cents. They use to put plenty of chili oil on top, but now that You have to pay for it, they give You half as much. On top of that, the quality of the food has gone down. I’ve had different noodles, bland tasting broth and 45 minute waits in the last couple months. I AM OKAY PAYING MORE TO KEEP THE QUALITY LEVEL WHERE IT IS, BUT PAYING MORE FOR A LESSER BOWL OF SOUP IS NOT ACCEPTABLE ! ! ! If You are going to skimp on the supplies, don’t raise the price. If You want to keep the same supply, but it’s costing You more, then raise the Price. Pick one, not both! The waiting would make sense if they didn’t have 6, 8, or more orders sitting on the counter, ready for customers, but not getting to customers. So it isn’t like the kitchen was that far behind.. More than once I have walked up and taken My food, without them calling the number on My receipt, wondering why they can’t just grab the microphone and call it out. It isn’t that hard to look at the order tickets and see which ones are the oldest and thus should be filled first is it? The lowest number is the top priority, right?
I do not like leaving negative reviews, particularly when it involves a place that I am, or in this case HAVE BEEN, a fan of, but You deserve it Uni Deli! Get Your act together and stop this two, or three day a week experimental crap! It is hurting Your reputation. I know all these hipsters have finally discovered You, but that is not a liscense to turn Your back on those who have poured thousands of dollars into Your register over the years. Keep the menu small and simple, You do not need to cater to everyone. You have a niche that until recently, only You did well. Now that You are sleeping at the wheel, others are under-cutting Your position. Now if You’ll excuse Me, I am going to have some Tonkatsu Ramen, at Fuji Ya(Someone named Michael has stepped up the game). Which is where I shall tell other people to go, unless You can stop Your madness and stick to what You’re actually good at. What a shame. .. …
I went back to the Uni Deli this past weekend. Having gone there so many times, I couldn’t actually stay away.. Unlike the last couple of times, the tonkotsu was up to par with what I’ve been use to getting from them. My brother ordered the shoyu ramen, which was a little different than in the past, but still a pretty average bowl of soup in My opinion. His wife ordered the black tonkatsu, which is on the regular menu now. It was about the same as the first time I had it there, but the times inbetween were far less flavorful. There was a distinct garlicy flavor that wasn’t so pronounced the last two times, they also salted it more, which was a good thing. Hopefully they don’t toy around with the regular tonkotsu recipe anymore!
Last fall, I headed up to northern Wisconsin with My brother and some friends. During that trip, two of the bunch proposed a monthly cook-off. The original theme was simply ‘make Your s*** fancy.’ What can I say, it was a weekend of drinking, shooting and dirt bikes. The feast idea changed slightly after that and starting this past January, Fancy Feast had begun. Instead of making it a competition, it is a slightly less intense meal making endeavor. Four courses minimum, guests bring a bottle of decent booze as tribute, or declare themselves the next host/cook for the feast.
First up was My friend Keith, who made some beet and cheese appetizers that were quite good. Followed by a lobster and shrimp torta with lima beans, avacodo topped with seasoned cream cheese and an encrusted herby salmon bake. Then, He banged out a lovely candied bacon, puffed cream and brownie desert.
February went to My brother, Chris. Churning out seven dishes and various drinks. I did however neglect to catch a picture of the fresh pumpkin bread desert. Pictured are His mushroom soup, with leeks. Egg cooked in swirling water and hash, a topper variety plate, cold soba and soy sauce, what I think was a chorizo dish and meatballs cooked forever in a pho soup stock.
I called March’s meal. My theme was simply to do something different. So, no stir-fry. No grill, or smoker. No cajun spices, chili blends, sherry, or even soy sauce. I struggled a bit, making multi-course meals that come round after round doesn’t mesh particularly well with My laid back, ‘just throw some stuff together and hope it’s good’ cooking tendencies. I produced the minimum of four dishes. Bacon and baby lima bean soup, spicy sweet potato mash with roasted brocolli and pistachios on toast, fruit stuffed pork tenderloin roll and finished with citrus gratin. The desert was kind of odd honestly, but it had much potential to be delicious. Something to ponder on how to go about improving.
United Noodles is a bit of a back alley grocery store. Specializing in foods from nearly all corners of asia, they are one of the oldest asian grocers in the Twin Cities. Within this store is another store, a small deli. Called Uni Deli, this place has an extremely short menu, but that is okay, because one of the eight things listed for You to have served hot and delicious is Tonkatsu Ramen. Oh My, I had not been there in about a year and My taste buds have been blown away again. How do I forget to keep going back for more? If You go there and do not order tonkatsu, You are missing out. Order it spicy, simply the best.
I use to cook this a ton, but it’s been a while. Since Ryan moved to California I’ve had no requests for it! It’s not a traditional Pad Thai since I don’t use Tamarind and such. My cooking methods may or may not vary from traditional versions. Any Meat works, I tend to use Chicken, or Shrimp when I can afford it. I tried to list alternate items that I use as well. Serves 4 to 6.
A wok or high sided frying pan, a cereal bowl for mixing and a large bowl to soak the noodles. Knife and cutting board.
1 package or 1.5 to 2.5 lbs – of Meat finely chopped to 1/4th of an inch thick or less
1 – 14 or 16oz package of Rice Noodles
1 cup – Sprouts OR a large Onion(chopped to sprout size)
1/3rd lb. – Bacon(sliced into 1/3rd to 1/2 inch pieces)
3 – Eggs
1/4 cup – crushed Peanuts
1/4 cup – Fish Sauce
1/4 cup – Sugar
2 tblsp – Rice Vinegar
1 tblsp – Soy Sauce
Half a Lemon
4 – large cloves of Garlic, diced
1 tblsp – Chili Pepper Powder for flavor not heat(chili powder blends work ok too)
1 tblsp – crushed Cayenne or Spicy Pepper
Black Pepper to taste.
Prep and Cooking:
First, soak the noodles in warm water. I use HOT water from the kitchen sink. It should take 20-30 minutes of soaking to get the noodles to the right texture. You don’t want them fully cooked, just a bit under done, since they’ll get finished in the frying pan. If You’ve never prepared Rice Noodles before, I’d suggest You ask someone who has about the right texture, or You can be like Me and simply use trial and error! It’s EXTREMELY EASY to overdo these noodles. Then they get soggy and turn to a ricey paste…
While that’s soaking, Mix the Fish Sauce, Rice Vinegar and Sugar in a bowl. If You are NOT using fresh lemon/lime, add 2 tblsp of the bottled juice to the mixture and don’t add more when it’s mentioned later in the recipe. Let the mixture sit for now, You’ll have to stir it again before You use it…
Next, fry the Bacon over medium heat til it’s almost done. If You hate bacon grease, drain the extra out of the pan at this time, I tend to leave it. Turn the burner to medium high or high heat. Add Meat, Soy Sauce, 1 spoonful of the Fish Sauce mixture and 1/4th of the Garlic. If using regular Onions, add them once the Meat is half cooked. Cook til the Meat is done and remove it all from the pan. Throw the rest of the Garlic and the Under Cooked Rice Noodles in the pan with the Fish Sauce Mixture and everything else but the Eggs. Stir fry until the liquid is soaked into the noodles. Reduce heat to medium or medium high. Push off to one side of the pan, scramble the Eggs, add Sprouts, put Meat and Bacon back in, squeeze in the Lemon for all the juice it’ll give You. Mix it all up and You’re done!
Hope You Enjoy!
Notes: If You opt not to use bacon, You should use 2-3 tblsp of cooking oil instead. — If the noodles don’t get fully cooked and there’s no liquid left in the bottom of the pan, add water while it’s still frying. One spoonful at a time or You may turn it into mush! – Medium heat is for those who move slow or don’t keep the things in the pan moving. High heat is only for those who can keep whatever is in the pan in nearly constant motion! The heat will affect the taste a bit, since the Sugar will caramelize differently.
Things I’ve also used in this dish: Shredded or finely chopped Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, Snow Peas, and Green Onions. Obviously You should experiment with Your own favorite things! Please let Me know if something You try works wonderfully!!