HAMPTON – Like so many college students, Hampton’s Marquel Ocasio was first introduced to the wonders of ramen noodles in college, but it wasn’t the 50-cent (or less) packaged variety that serves as a salvation from perfect end to the evening for so many students.
âThere was a restaurant called Gaku Ramen on Prince Street in Burlington, Vermont, and the sign just called me,â recalls Ocasio, then a student at the New England Culinary Institute, with a smile of his first flirtation with the authentic. Japanese. comfort food.
âI had never had authentic ramen, I always ate just the packaged stuff. Well, I ended up having a punch card there and a shirt, and I ended up there once a week. “
âThere is no better meal. It’s like “home in a bowl”, it has everything you need. It is very heartwarming.
And now Ocasio is bringing that ‘home in a bowl’ delicacy to his hometown here in Hampton with his own restaurant, MomoYo Ramen, at 23 Ocean Boulevard.
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The restaurant is right next to his grandparents’ popular Coffee Break Cafe. At first, 24-year-old Ocasio operated MomoYo Ramen as a pop-up restaurant in the Taco Room at the same location, which is also owned by his grandparents, Lenny and Carolyn Paul. When the busy Mexican restaurant got too big and closed last year, Ocasio saw its opening.
“(My grandparents) were like” We’re going to have a useless kitchen sitting down and we said why don’t you rent it out and do it yourself? “” Ocasio noted of the space he shares with Sabo’s Subs, also owned by his grandparents.
“I’ve been in a kitchen for eight years and been a sous chef in other places, but never did anything I wanted to do – until now.”
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A labor of love
It is indeed a labor of love for high school graduate Winnacunnet who still finds that differentiating his tedious gourmet meals for the general public from those instant, sodium dehydrated noodles is one of his biggest challenges.
âI get a lot of old people asking, ‘Why am I paying $ 12 for something that I could get in the market basket for 50 cents? ” “, did he declare. “Well, you pay for me to put on the broth for 20 hours.” That’s a 20 hour boil. At the end of the day, it seems like it’s a bit easy to do, but it’s all about preparation. “
Indeed. For example, in each boil, Ocasio puts $ 70 of pork bones, along with other foreign ingredients like chicken feet, which help create the gelatin in the broth, into a 20-pound pot.
âThis broth is packed with collagen, fat and protein,â said Ocasio, who obtains most of his various ingredients from Lo’s Seafood and Oriental Market in Portsmouth.
After mashing all the meat, draining and filling the pot several times, and adding his own meticulously prepared soup base, he finds himself with the sumptuous base for most of his ramen dishes. Ocasio also offers a vegetarian ramen and several rice bowl options.
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‘Home in a bowl’ makes you smile
The chef says he watches that questioning look on a beginner’s face turn into a smile when presented – and tasted – a bowl of ramen that contains exotic ingredients like wooden ears or enoki mushrooms, blending harmoniously with a boiled egg in savory. the broth is very rewarding. What really makes her day, however, is watching a ramen lover leave their restaurant with a smile.
âWhen they come and give me an honest review and say this was the best ramen they’ve ever had,â he enthused. “The first time I heard I had to go to the bathroom and cry for almost a second because I was so happy.”
The Special Chili Ramen, which includes Ocasio-branded Spicy Salted Tonkotsu Broth and includes wood ear mushrooms, a hard-boiled egg, pork char siu and a pinch of white pepper is his best seller.
âThe beef and teriyaki bowls are terrific,â says Chris Madera of Hampton. “They do a phenomenal job with the ramen.”
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What’s next for MomoYo Ramen
With a constant stream of beach patrons, Ocasio has been busy this summer. It even had to close early last week when it first sold.
âI really like it here because people are fed up with hot dogs and fried seafood,â said Ocasio, who sits behind the counter on Ocean Boulevard Thursday through Sunday, with Wednesday being the day when he does most of his prep work.
During the slack periods of winter, Ocasio also works as a private chef where he further spreads his love for this unique style of cooking.
âMy last event was for a family of eight and they wanted a ramen bar,â he said. “They had to choose all their toppings and I just ladled the broth.”
Later, he would like to continue at his current location, but maybe add a food truck to the mix to help him spread his passion for this tasty but hard to find cuisine.
âThere are a lot of places that don’t have ramen,â Ocasio points out. âJust as I brought it here, I would like to bring it to other places as well. “