As my workweek wound down leaving me with a wide-open and forcasted to be beautiful weekend, I knew that I'd have to remedy my cabin fever and escape for an hour or two.
Fitting the bill for my Saturday adventure was Belvedere Square Market, one of Baltimore's many markets that bring local purveyors together for a hodgepodge of shops, eateries, and fresh-from the farm goods that celebrate and showcase the local community. From the lengthy list of merchants, I quickly identified Ejji Ramen (pronounced "edgy") as my main attraction because they had an expansive menu with marked gluten-free, dairy-free, and vegan options. Excited and hungry, I set off for the noodle shop with the highest of hopes.
First off, a word for the wise: Belvedere Square is crazy busy on Saturdays. Hustle and bustle is the name of the game, and you definitely have to be on your toes to navigate around. Ejji Ramen was nestled at the back of the market and had a serene set-up that almost makes you forget the swirling crowds around them.
Ejji has table service covering their kitchen-overlooking bar, and a couple nearby tables. If no other spots are open, you can order and pay for your bowl and take it to any of the surrounding tables nearby. I was able to nab a spot at the bar, and began looking through the menu.
Let's be honest, when one goes to a ramen shop, one must order said ramen. Ejji's menu had a good mix of prepared entrees and appetizers as well as a make-your-own option. The foodie in me went for the latter option to craft a customized bowl to hit the spot. As I inquired about the gluten and dairy free nature of the menu's offerings I was informed that:
- The rice noodles and vegetable "noodles" are safe (for further explanation of these, see below)
- The tonkotsu and laska curry seafood broths are safe (see expanded description below)
- The miso corn broth is gluten-free but is only made dairy-free if specifically requested without butter mixed in
- The only ingredients off limits are the pork belly, tempura shrimp, and fried tofu because they are battered and fried
- The vegetables are all safe, as are the sauces
- When "soy sauce" is used, it is a gluten-free tamari base
Finally confronted with the realization that I'd actually have to make a decision about what to order, I asked if I could sample the broths to get a feel for all of them. My waitress happily obliged, and I soon was sipping the three very different broths. The miso corn was good, but a little too sweet for my taste while the tonkatsu was rich and velvety but a little too salty for my taste. The Goldilocks of the three happened to be the laksa curry seafood which was rich and creamy (from coconut milk), yet spicy and flavorful from the seafood and curry base. With my mind made up, I selected that broth, the rice noodle, spinach, bean sprouts, and the red sambal sauce.
My bowl arrived a short time later and had a quite beautiful presentation. After snapping a quick photo- and laughing with my fellow patrons who also did the same thing- I took my chopsticks and began to stir the ingredients together.
Once melded, the bowl was totally delicious and perfectly paired flavor-wise. The ample greens, once submerged in broth, had me convinced that I like raw spinach- something I don't normally go for. The accompanying bean sprouts were crisp, fresh, and delivered a satisfying crunch. The noodles, too, were great as they were angel hair thin and easily maneuverable with chopsticks. The real standout of the bowl however, was the pulled pork which was lean and slow-roasted to perfect tenderness where it literally pulled apart with the slightest tug of my chopsticks. It was seasoned perfectly, and just oh, so good. All buoyed by the spicy, rich laksa curry, the bowl was delicious and divine, but all to soon drained of its last drop.
As a side note, I did try both the red sambal and the green sambal and found their flavors delicious, but not really suited to my ramen creation. The red was super hot while the green was a bit sweeter with a subtle spice.
Without a doubt, I really enjoyed Ejji Ramen. They delivered a big bowl of flavor with style and made my stomach and tastebuds jump with joy. My one and only complaint is that the pricetag is a bit steep as my bowl totaled $12. Most other pho and noodle places I have been to tend to stay around the $8 mark. Nevertheless, Ejji makes for a good splurge, and is well worth it in my opinion. Definitely pay them a visit if you're seeking a refreshing twist on familiar Asian flavors.
Cuisine: Ramen bowls, coconut rice bowls, appetizers
Ideal For: Lunch, Dinner
Price: Base price for soup with one broth, one noodle variety, two toppings and one sauce is $9-$11. Additional meats, veggies, and sauces are extra.
Accessibility: Easily wheelchair accessible
Special Features: Ejji just recently started a carry-out service. Now you can get your ramen to go!