The Garlic Pork Broth Ramen @ Ramen Dojo, San Mateo

Better than the photo: The Garlic Pork Ramen @ Ramen Dojo, San Mateo.

Better than the photo: The Garlic Pork Ramen @ Ramen Dojo, San Mateo.

I must admit, the garlic pork broth at Ramen Dojo caught me a little bit off guard last week, as I had to stifle a small cough after the first jolt of pepper hit the back of my throat. Wow, I thought, this is the regular spicy? Okay, then. As my eyes began to water, I wondered, have I totally lost my edge? Maybe so. I chased the first spoonful of soup with a healthy swig of oolong iced tea, then readied my taste buds for a second dose of broth. Six, seven spoonfuls later, I finally experienced a break-through: The numbing heat slowly began to subside, and the broth soon became more than just bearable — it became positively addictive. Myriad flavors emerged as my palate acclimated to the spiciness. There were, of course, four tender slices of roasted pork belly, fanned out to conceal pitch-perfect noodles and, at the very bottom, one hard-boiled quail’s egg. Sliced wood ear mushrooms and deep-fried garlic cloves provided the garnish; these are the kind of bells and whistles that make a great soup transcendent.

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