Traditions are not very important in my family. Despite our Japanese heritage — a culture that very much emphasizes the power of traditions — we have few rituals we practice year after year. Not surprisingly, the few that we do practice revolve around food.
One such tradition of ours is to feast on Japanese food on New Year’s Day. What better way to start the year than with mountains of sushi, loads of chashu marinated pork, fried dumplings, teriyaki ribs and more, all made by my dad and his sisters. We gather with friends and family and together we feast. After all, isn’t that the point of life?
Unfortunately, I haven’t been to the celebration for years. I unintentionally started a new tradition of my own, spending New Years in a different city. The hardest part isn’t ringing in the new year away from my friends (the last two years I’ve traveled alone), it’s being away from my family on New Year’s Day.
It seemed necessary for me to continue the tradition of starting the year off with Japanese food so I combined it with my obsession for Japanese ramen. For three years now, I’ve had ramen on New Year’s Day; starting with Chicago, then Washington, D.C. and now in Vienna.
That’s right: I found Japanese ramen in Vienna.
I love hunting down a familiar favorite food when I travel. It truly reveals how a city takes a dish and puts a unique spin on it. Some cities are able to replicate the authenticity of ramen in Japan (like L.A. or New York) while others (like Paris) modify it for the local taste buds. Vienna gave ramen its own spin, too, substituting marinated pork for breaded duck.
Akakiko in Vienna is an Asian fusion restaurant that serves classic Chinese dishes like cashew chicken stir fry and sweet and sour duck, Korean favorites like Bulgogi Bibimbap, Japanese-style bento boxes with sushi and creative bowls of udon and ramen, like seafood ramen and ramen with duck.
Several locations of the chain restaurant are spread throughout Vienna; luckily one was within wandering distance of my hotel. When I finally woke up after partying at the Silvester Ball at the Hofburg Palace, I headed straight for Akakiko.
The ramen was familiar, but had a few creative spins to it. One was that it arrived in a metal bowl, causing it be extremely hot. (Oh, the torture of starving and being too impatient to wait until it cools down!) The brownish broth had a surprising spiciness and, although a bit oily, was flavored well with the duck. The breaded part of the duck got soggy but I liked the overall taste of it with the carrots, white onions (another unique point), sprouts and cabbage. It was also missing an egg — just like in Paris!
I paired it with vegetable gyoza, served with a fennel/cabbage slaw (pictured above).
As I slurped the noodles down, the comfort of a familiar taste swept over me. Even though I was alone in another country, surrounded by people speaking a language I couldn’t understand, that bowl of ramen in Vienna made it feel a little less foreign. I guess that’s why it’s called comfort food.
Go to Akakiko for :: ramen, stir fry, a bento box or other familiar Asian dishes. Notes :: The location I went to had an English menu and the servers spoke English.