In March 2020, restaurateurs faced an unprecedented challenge: to shut their doors or try to adapt as the country went into lockdown.
Michelle Widjaja's newly opened ramen restaurant, Iiko Mazesoba in Sydney's Haymarket, was no exception. When lockdown was announced she quickly had to pivot her business model and move to home delivery. It was no small feat, especially for a venue that had just opened its doors.
"When we went into lockdown, we were reduced to a skeleton staff and I was doing everything myself. I was taking the orders, delivering, packing and cooking," says Widjaja. To help ease the workload she turned to technology, investing in a Chromebook laptop to help manage her restaurant's operations.
"At a time when our internal – and external – communication was so vital, Chromebook gave us the tools we needed to make it easier to collaborate and speak to other people."
Thanks to Chromebook's built in Google Docs, Slides and easy-to-use video calling (with Google Meet) the pivot was made a little easier. This meant that Widjaja could not only manage her business day-to-day with ease, but also her online business listing on Google Search and Maps - listings that enable her to connect with customers online.
Opening Iiko Mazesoba was the culmination of Widjaja's lifelong passion for food and cooking. Of Indonesian heritage, she fell in love with Japanese cuisine and its clean flavours, focus on quality ingredients and meticulous cooking techniques.
Iiko Mazesoba's specialty is a brothless ramen, popularly known as Taiwan mazesoba. The dish is thought to have originated in Nagoya by a chef inspired by Taiwanese flavours. Widjaja's version, "dan dan mazesoba", is based on a Japanese adaptation of Sichuan dan dan noodles, which Widjaja's created in collaboration with a ramen sensei in Tokyo.
The dan dan mazesoba is the signature dish at Iiko Mazesoba, and it's just as comforting and warming as traditional broth-based ramen. Order one, and you'll receive a bowl brimming with noodles, spiced minced pork, chilli bean sauce, fresh green garnishes and a gently poached egg.
The COVID-19 pandemic put an even greater pressure on restaurateurs like Widjaja to be inventive, not only in terms of operating her business but for her menu, too. She knew she needed to create a new dish, and in order to do that, she needed inspiration from abroad.
With access to Chromebook's technology, Widjaja used Google Meet video calls to stay in touch with her Sensei mentor in Tokyo, and stay on top of the latest food trends from Japan. "The intention was for me to go back to visit him to learn more recipes, techniques, and see what's on-trend in Japan. But we stayed in touch and created a recipe together virtually."
To try that particular dish, you'll have to visit Iiko Mazesoba in real life. However, you can create your own version of the restaurant's dan dan mazesoba at home with the below recipe. It's easy to make and will satisfy even the most particular of ramen tastes.
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