PAGU Recipe Stories: Guchi's Midnight Ramen
PAGU regulars are well acquainted with this large bowl of slow-simmered broth, QQ noodles, thin-sliced pork belly, and perfectly runny, soy-marinated egg, but few know the story behind the mysterious name - Guchi's Midnight Ramen.
The story behind this dish actually plays a much larger role in PAGU's origin than one may think. In 2011, PAGU Chef-Owner Tracy Chang had just returned from working with Chef Martin Berasategui in Spain to help take care of her father who had fallen ill, and then her dog. After going from cooking with a Michelin Star Chef 15 hours a day to cooking for her dad and dog to nurse them back to health, Tracy was searching for more. Over drinks one night, Tracy and her friends from O Ya joked about cooking ramen (homemade ramen was virtually non-existent in Boston in 2011) and what started as a joke quickly turned into a mission with Tracy and her friends meeting after their shift to work long into the night (thus 'midnight') testing recipes and techniques for everything from broth, to homemade noodles, to making the perfect, runny yolk of a soy egg.
After sharing their cooking projects on social media (twitter was hot back then, and instagram had just launched), word of their ramen got around town and soon industry friends started inviting them to cook at their restaurants after-hours. Thus began Guchi's Midnight Ramen, the pop-up, unofficially at Bondir, with 23 other industry friends on MLK day 2011.
From Bondir, to No. 9 Park, to TEDXCambridge, The Gallows, and MIT, Tracy and her friends served up their ramen and later, mazemen, all over town and used their pop ups to test out new dishes, including Pork Belly Bao, Chicken Katsu, and Matcha Cookies, that would eventually come to be staples on the PAGU menu, and an easy favorite as a lunch set.
With GMR, Tracy met a lot of ramen lovers, but also a lot of PAGU supporters, from MIT professors, to tech entrepreneurs, artists, physicians, scientists, architects, restaurant investors, and lifelong friends. They provided not just menu feedback, architecture and engineering advice, but also helped Tracy find PAGU’s permanent home at 310 Mass. Ave. Most importantely, they helped hone the vision for PAGU, because they too lived and breathed a similar vision in their workplaces, studies, hobbies, and daily rituals. The heart and soul of PAGU is the people in the community; the reason for PAGU to exist here is more than the food, its the community and collaboration, meaning the endless possibilities of projects together that continue to arise. Where else in Boston do you find a restaurant with regular events scheduled that include food + science discussions, food operas, and fundraisers for female-owned nonprofits? Chef Tracy found a way to bring together her favorite people, over homey food, and sparkling conversation, and share her friends projects, and curiosities with the rest of the world. She outgrew her living room, as it extended beyond her own, beyond those of her friends, all the way to the hearth of the restaurant.
But wait, who is Guchi? Guchi was one of the chefs at O Ya whose talent, creativity, and humility were second to none. To pay homage to him and the gem of a chef that he is, Tracy decided to name the Ramen after him, one of the most precious mentors she has ever had the pleasure to work with.
Many thanks to the people and pugs who made possible, the PAGU dreams and continue to dream on with us.