Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > San Francisco Bay Area >
Aug 29, 2008 09:43 PM

Halu Ramen - ammonia odor w/ noodles?

I visited Halu Ramen for the first time in a while. Had the special Halu ramen, and the broth was its typical meaty-intense self. Cha-su was delicious as well. But the noodles had that very distinct ammonia odor/taste that comes with some Chinese egg noodles. Has it always been like this and I just forgot? Or is it a temporary problem? Has anyone else experienced this? I must admit to finding it rather off-putting.

On a more general note: can anyone explain the presence of ammonia in some types noodles?

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Halu's noodles and certain kinds of Chinese noodles (usually non-egg) are made with alkali water to give them a firmer bite and texture. Cooked in enough water, the residual amount usually dilutes and dissipates. But sometimes the kitchen doesn't change the boiling water often enough and the alkali gets too concentrated such that you can smell an ammoniated odor.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Melanie Wong

      Thanks for the info, Melanie! It's the first time it's happened to me at Halu, and hopefully it's a rare event...

      1. re: bouncepass

        I hope so too, haven't run across it at Halu so far.

        I just checked the website and see that Halu's summer special is uzu-shio ryan-men
        Has anyone tried it?

        Sounds like the broth is similar to this cold ramen from a few summers ago,

        Ramen Halu
        375 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129

      2. re: Melanie Wong

        Ah, must be the taste when I get wonton noodles and think "detergent water" for some strange reason... it tells me it's authentic! :-)

        1. re: boltnut55

          Yes, alkali water tastes soapy and has a slippery feel. Authentic, but not prepared as carefully as it should be.

          1. re: Melanie Wong

            Ah, thanks for the explanation. Now I know why Hon's Wun Tun House noodles, although widely liked (for authenticity?), but tastes terrible, to me.

            Hon's Wun Tun House
            648 Kearny St, San Francisco, CA 94108

        2. re: Melanie Wong

          This has been an invaluable resource! thanks for all the great info on Okara, I just found out about the stuff. Thanks:)

        3. We ate lunch at Ramen Halu on Sat. and fortunately didn't detect any ammonia odor or taste. We got there around 11:40am (10 min. after they open) and the place was already filled w/ several pairs already on the wait list. So we put our name on the list and visited the small Indian grocery next door. Bought our usual Indian snacks and paneer. The eggplant looked pretty good, but I didn't need any.

          After waiting about 10-15 min., our name was called. I hate sitting at the table closest to the door since I can't avoid the sea of yearning, impatient eyes. There's definitely pressure to eat and run. I wish they would take down the dividers and get more tables in there already...

          Wanting to branch out from the Halu ramen we had our first time, I ordered a small syo-yu while husband got a regular shio. I also threw in an order of their okra and soybean salad since it was so cheap at $1.50. The uzu-shio special advertised on the website was not available. The food came out fast. After seeing my bowl of ramen which looked kind of sparse like it was missing something, I asked for a side of corn.

          Overall, the ramen was solid but didn't have the same "spark" as our first time a few years ago. Last time, I remember growing more enchanted w/ the soup w/ each sip of broth and slurp of noodle whereas this time, it was the opposite...I got a little bored w/ the redundancy and flatness of flavors. I preferred the shio broth over the syo-yu, and the shio stayed nice and hot much longer than the syo-yu. The toppings seemed less plentiful and special this time as well; the cha-shu was not as melting or flavorful as I remember. The little mound of okra and soybean salad was creamy and clumpy like a potato salad (not what I expected), and I liked it enough, particularly the crispy fried shallots on top. Total w/ tax before tip was around $16.

          Overall, Halu has lost its magic for me, but I'd like to try the Halu ramen again one day since I like its richness and thicker noodles. When compared to the shio ramen we had at Santouka at the Hokkaido fair last weekend, I think I'd have to give the edge to Santouka's version. More complex broth and much better toppings.

          I read on yelp that Halu may have had some change in management or ownership within the past year. Any more info on this?

          5 Replies
          1. re: Carb Lover

            If I'm not mistaken, the salad you had was actually an "okara" salad, not an "okra" salad. Okara is the fibrous bits of soybean hull left over from the tofu making process.

            1. re: Humbucker

              Hmmm...interesting...I've never heard of okara before, but I think you could be right. I thought it read "okra" on the menu, but I didn't really see or taste any. I thought it may have been chopped finely or something, but there was no okra flavor or slight slimey-ness that I like. The salad was unexpected and a little odd at first, but it definitely grew on me.

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  San Jose Tofu sells fresh okara

                  175 Jackson St
                  San Jose, CA 95112
                  (408) 292-7026

                  1. re: K K

                    Nijiya Market in Mountain View sometimes has the SJ tofu okara.

                    Also, the Korean equivalent, kong bi ji, can be found at Hankook Market in Santa Clara.

            2. I just had this experience making noodles at home, although they were wheat noodles and not egg noodles. I don't even live in San Fran, but I want to defend Halu a bit, because I used plenty of fresh water, the noodles are well before their expiry date, and I cook them all the time. The only thing I think I did differently is that I undercooked them slightly, because I wasn't in the mood for anything mushy... So it might not have to do with changing the water, but with the length of time the noodles are cooked. I threw out my lunch in fear that I was poisoning myself, but then I found this posting and I am grateful! I have made a new bowl from the same noodle package, and there is no smell...

              312 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

              1. i've noticed this issue at burmese kitchen too. thanks for the explanation though, i had no idea why

                1. They probably didn't have enough salt in noodle boiling water.