Pure Maku

Post by on 15 Sep 2021

Uji and Chika, with their signature smile!

Ujiie is originally from Japan and worked as a Nokia executive until 2017. It was in this role he travelled extensively to Europe and made many trips specifically to Oulu. During these visits he made friends, built a network and came to appreciate the many cultural similarities between the Japanese and Finnish way of life. He increasingly came to realise that life in Finland would be a good fit for both him and his wife. He also recognised the lack of authentic Japanese food culture in Finland – because food in Japan is about a whole lot more than just sushi! Ramen, prepared authentically, was missing from the Finnish food scene specifically. Ujiie believed that Finns would love to experience this ubiquitous Japanese dish in its proper delicious form and the market research he conducted on his visits to Oulu supported this belief.

Ramen – fast food but not junk food 

Ramen is found with regional variations all over Japan. People make instant ramen in their homes but the real pleasure comes from eating piping hot ramen at one of the small family run restaurants found in nearly all urban and rural locations. It is seen as fast food but not junk food. Ramen is expected to be produced with skill and quality ingredients to make a delicious meal that everyone (whatever their social standing or income) can enjoy quickly on their way to the next meeting or activity. Rules apply to the eating of ramen and I have learnt that loud slurping of noodles is encouraged. In fact this improves the experience by mixing a burst of oxygen with the broth which activates all the wonderful flavours. Ujiie and Chika skillfully create the broth which provides the comforting backdrop to the dish, cook the noodles to perfection and dress the dish with all the toppings we love. They have brought this skill to Oulu so we can taste ramen the way Japanese do every day. 

Pure Maku Soy sauce Ramen

The other thing to understand about ramen is that it is very much a lunch dish. Something to fortify the body and mind for an afternoon at work. As it is served hot, it is also often seen as a winter dish, although I love it all year round. So I thoroughly recommend you try a lunchtime ramen experience now the weather is cooling down. It could be just the thing to see you through until you reach the warm comfort of your home.

Dreams of entrepreneurship and ramen shops – in Finland

One of the really inspiring things about Ujiie’s story is that he doesn’t have a long background in food. He was originally trained as an engineer and it was only when he started on this journey of discovery in Finland that he undertook formal culinary training. His dream was to set up a traditional family run ramen shop in Oulu, so he went to ramen school in Japan to learn the intricacies of this popular dish.  

This dream is now a reality and Pure Maku is run exactly as ramen shops in Japan operate. It is small and family run as are many Japanese establishments. In these places you will find perhaps one or two people working to create the ramen dishes their customers demand. This is exactly as Pure Maku is run – Ujiie and Chika are a husband and wife team producing small quantities of authentic ramen every day. This means they can retain the quality and superior taste that larger production quantities would sacrifice. Their product is an artisan offering that should be appreciated and enjoyed as such.

Shared venue collaborations are a model of success for small food business 

The success of this model has encouraged Ujiie to expand his vision to setting up more small scale ramen shops in Finland and eventually Europe. We at Zestii are so excited to see this happen and will support the expansion as much as we can. The main way we can do this (other than spread the word about how great their ramen is) is to carry on using the Pure Maku premises when the restaurant is closed to create another income stream for Ujiie. This shared venue model is a great way for small food enterprises to support each other in the difficult environment that Covid19 has created for the industry. Small food producers, such as Zestii home cooks, can use food specific premises to prepare and sell their product. Restaurant owners can earn valuable and needed income when their premises are not in use. This sort of collaborative working relationship benefits everyone and makes sure that the more interesting, independent food producers have an opportunity to compete and thrive in a competitive market.

We want to say a huge thank you to Ujiie for taking the time to talk to us and for allowing us to share his story. We also want to encourage you to try the ramen at Pure Maku if you haven’t already – it will take you to the streets of Japan for a short while and that is a special thing to experience here so far away in Oulu!