Downtown Santa Cruz isn’t exactly crawling with noodle joints. But Fridays will bring one more now that Assembly’s POPUP is featuring Lawman Ramen every week.
Chef Amy Aja, the brains behind the operation, is also a line cook at Assembly. Lawman Ramen (the name is simply a joke that sounded catchy) functions as a separate entity, but it’s got the stamp of approval from Assembly founders Zach Davis and Kendra Baker. Aja spoke with us about her bowls of ramen, and why it’s a good thing for downtown Santa Cruz.
How does Lawman Ramen work?
AMY AJA: It’s what I like to call a “house pop-up.” I have the same two bowls every week. Sometimes I do them a little differently. I use natural ingredients. So everything I use I get from the farmers market. I feel like doing it once a week gives people something to look forward to. I take a lot of pride in what I do. It’s a passion for me. It’s something that everyone enjoys, whether it’s a hot day or a cold day. It’s always fresh and it’s always filling, and it can bring a lot of flavor profiles in all at the same time. I wanted to provide this for the people of downtown Santa Cruz, so you don’t have to go over the hill to San Jose or Oakland to get good ramen.
What’s your approach to ramen?
Getting into culinary arts, my strong point was Japanese food. Cooking is kind of a way to stay in touch with not only my community, but also the world. As far as ramen, I have been cooking it at home for a long time. Ramen is the way I connect with the Japanese culture just as cooking other things is a way to connect with other parts of the world. Each week I do a vegetarian bowl, and I do a pork bowl. The pork bowl is very creamy and savory. The broth is pork-based. It gets emulsified to make it creamy. I use air and fat brought into the broth, which almost brings it to a frothy, creamy texture. The shiitake broth, the vegetarian one, I start with the kombu dashi that I make in house. Kombu is basically kelp. We also have a vegan option, a bowl of soba noodles, so that everyone can enjoy the ramen, even if it’s in a slightly different way. The noodles are egg-based.
What ingredients will people find in their ramen from week to week?
I buy items from the farmers market from local purveyors because we are very community-based, and we want to make sure that local, sustainable ingredients are something we use in every aspect of the restaurant. Some of the things I use are everything from fresh radishes, to daikons and watermelon radishes to carrots and greens such as rainbow chard or kale or beet greens.
POPUP, 1108 Pacific Ave., Santa Cruz, 316-0790.