23 February 2024

Five minutes with Anj Sulit, Ikigai Ramen

| Claire Sams

From culinary school in Manila to working all across Canberra’s hospitality industry, Anj Sulit has made food her passion project. Photo: Mickey Sulit.

Who are you?

Anj Sulit, the head chef and part-owner at Ikigai Ramen. I’ve been a chef for 14 years, working at different places and restaurants.

What is the story behind your venue?

I travelled to Japan in 2017 and I went to this little hole-in-the-wall ramen shop – and I fell in love. It was the best experience that I’ve ever had. I had an itch to replicate not the flavour, but the emotion that I felt when I was there. When I got back to Canberra, I started experimenting until I got to a point where I thought ‘this is the feeling I’m looking for’. It took me about six years.

My dad said ‘okay, let’s do a little pop up’. We did them on Fridays and Saturday nights and we got a big following. When an opportunity came to open Ikigai, we chose to concentrate on the restaurant.

High top tables at Ikigai

In Ikigai Ramen, Anj and her family wanted to create an upmarket space in Gungahlin. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

How did you get involved in the hospitality industry?

My mum loves to cook and I think that’s how I got started as a chef – I was curious about the flavours in her cooking. I remember standing in our kitchen in the Philippines, just watching her for hours.

I went to culinary school in Manila. After graduation, we [the family] ventured into different fast food business and little food stalls. Then we moved here about 10 years ago and I started working for hotels, restaurants, the zoo, and different cafes.

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What are the top menu items that really show what your venue can do?

First is our signature dish, which is our Tonkotsu Ramen. Second, I would say, is the Tori Paitan, a white chicken broth ramen. I’d say the third is the Tori Katsu, panko-breaded chicken with rice and cabbage salad.

My favourite from our entrees, because it’s unique, is the miso crab. They’re potato and crab croquettes that I soak in bread, miso, butter, cream and mozzarella. It’s just like an umami bomb.

What ingredients do you always have in your pantry?

I usually have spaghetti in my cupboard all the time because it’s easy to cook, and it’s something you can just put with olive oil, cream or cheese.

I always have garlic as well.

As a chef, what are your cooking tips?

For me, a clean workspace is very helpful – a clean station means a clean mind.

Bowl of delicious looking tonkotsu ramen with egg, pork and spring onion.

It took years of trial-and-error for Anj to perfect her tonkotsu ramen, but she was looking to recreate a special dish in Japan. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

What is your food philosophy?

My passion is making people happy through food and that’s very important to me. A kitchen is not an easy place to work, but I’m still standing because of my passion.

What is your favourite meal to eat?

The tonkotsu ramen I had in Japan, and there’s a huge ramen chain in Manila called Mendokoro Ramenba. The lines are very long and you have to wait an hour to two sometimes, but I really love them.

What are Canberra’s best-kept food secrets?

I went to The Wine Room in Braddon recently, and the food was just amazing. It was a five-course meal and everything was beautifully prepared. I like going to Tak Kee Roast Inn in Dickson and I also like Jimmy’s Palace in Ford. I think Italian and Sons have the best pasta.

Northside Garden Cafe do wonderful Filipino food. They’re my good friends, but the flavour reminds me of home.

I like Meat and Wine Co, they do amazing steaks, and I love Local Press Cafe in Kingston. Their food is just very clean and I’m a big coffee person.

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What was your best dining experience in Canberra?

I love pasta, so I would say Italian and Sons. I had a crab spaghetti – it’s been years but I still remember the flavour. It was very simple but it was so satisfying.

An easy one to finish – what’s your go-to coffee order?

A long black. I like it without sugar or anything – just the coffee.

Ikigai Ramen is located at 139/43 Hibberson Street in Gungalin and is open for lunch from 11 am to 2 pm (Friday, Saturday and Sunday) or for dinner from 5:30 pm to 8:30 pm (Monday and Wednesday to Sunday). It is closed on Tuesdays.

Original Article published by Claire Sams on Riotact.

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