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Delivery service brings ramen to your door

Delivery service brings ramen to your door

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After years of refining his made-from-scratch ramen recipes, Josh Trusler has opened Bootleg Ramen, a delivery service for Winston-Salem and the surrounding area.

A delivery-service business model just happens to fit the times and Trusler’s circumstances — his efforts to find investors and brick-and-mortar locations have taken him on a wild, yet not satisfying ride.

“In the last couple of years, we’ve been really close a couple of times, and then everything fell apart,” he said. “It feels good to be open, but I’m equally skeptical and optimistic.”

Trusler, 29, has held quite a few ramen pop-ups over the years, most recently under the Shokunin name at Mission Pizza in 2019 — and he may do more there. “Shokunin means ‘craftsman’ or ‘artisan’ in Japanese, but it also means somebody who keeps doing something over and over and who is constantly improving as they try to master it,” Trusler said.

As much as he likes that name, he said, it proved hard for customers to remember and pronounce, so he decided to make the switch to Bootleg Ramen.

This month, Trusler began cooking and delivering Bootleg Ramen kits with the help of just one person, Billy Thomason. The two met at East Bend Farmers Market this summer, where Thomason had a table for his tea company, Dunk Tank Tea.

Trusler is originally from Ohio but moved to North Carolina as a boy. He attended Johnson & Wales University’s culinary and business programs. He also has worked around town at such restaurants as Milner’s, The Katharine Brasserie & Bar, and Earl’s.

But it was while working years ago at Intermezzo in Charlotte that he fell in love with ramen.

A coworker used to make noodles from scratch, Trusler said.

“Ramen dough is really hard to work with. So he was in the back huffing and puffing while he was making this dough. I was like, ‘What is he doing back there?’”

Come lunchtime, Trusler found out. “He made the dough. He made everything. And I was like, ‘Oh my freaking Jesus! This is so good. Don’t that instant stuff fool you. This was nothing like that.'”

Trusler was hooked. He soon learned how to make the noodles, then went on to develop his own broths and toppings. He calls his approach respectful of Japanese tradition, but with his own take on the ramen concept.

He got interested in fermented foods, and he even began curing meats with koji mold, the fungus used in Japan to make sake and soy sauce, among other things.

Trusler became a connoisseur. He’s also a bit of a stickler for detail. He makes everything from scratch, from local ingredients when at all possible.

Working out of the kitchen at Sanders Ridge Vineyard & Winery in Boonville, Trusler makes his own noodles from a combination of Lindley Mills’ wheat flour and Anson Mills’ benne (sesame) flour. He makes a broth from pork bones, and a vegetarian one from onion, carrot, celery, ginger, garlic and mushrooms.

Bootleg Ramen currently offers two ramens, plus a combo. The vegetarian ramen features broth, noodles, soft-cooked egg, smoked and marinated mushrooms, daikon, and scallions. The pork ramen features broth, noodles, soft-cooked eggs, braised greens and scallions.

Bootleg Ramen also sells a “double,” which is essentially the ingredients of both the pork and vegetarian ramens put together.

He’s currently buying his eggs, pork and some vegetables from Harmony Ridge Farms in Tobaccoville.

The double sells for $18. The single pork or vegetarian ramen is $13. People can order extra noodles for $4 and extra toppings (egg, vegetables, etc.) for $3. A tea box is available for $1.50. A half order of either ramen with tea costs $7.50.

Trusler may gradually expand the menu to include such items as dessert and a chicken ramen.

Prices include free delivery in the designated delivery area. Trusler said that includes the Boonville/East Bend area, near his commercial kitchen, and about a 10-mile radius around central Winston-Salem. “So we’ll do Clemmons and Pfafftown but also Kernersville.”

He will deliver to other areas for a charge of $12.50 for each order.

Trusler is set up for online ordering. People can order anytime 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, but right now Trusler is delivering Monday through Friday. Delivery hours are 1 to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and he is still hashing out times for Friday. “I might end up doing late-night hours for Friday night,” he said.

When people order online, they can indicate desired delivery time, as well as leave a contact number for delivery updates. Bootleg Ramen is a two-person operation, and the owner is not only cooking your food but also delivering it to you, too — so customers should be prepared to be a bit flexible on delivery times.

The ramen is packed in “kits,” with separate containers for the broth, noodles and other ingredients. He said he does that to ensure the best quality. “If you put the noodles in the broth, they keep soaking up broth and then they’re not good.” But all of the ingredients are fully cooked and simply need to be heated together in a bowl.

Trusler said that ramen is comfort food. “There’s no real wrong way to make to ramen. It’s like tacos or chili that way. There’s so much you can do with it,” he said.

“And once you have the real thing, it knocks everything out of the park.”

mhastings@wsjournal.com

(336) 727-7394

@mhastingswsj

“And once you have the real thing, it knocks everything out of the park.”

Josh Trusler,

owner of Bootleg Ramen

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