Flagstaff Food Boom: Chef Panda Clark of SoSoBa

Marilyn HawkesNovember 16, 2016
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SoSoBa noodle bowl with pork belly. By Raven Larson.

This week, Flagstaff’s SoSoBa Nonstop Noodle Shop celebrated its two-year anniversary in the pines, according to part-time chef and full-time manager “Panda” Clark. The popular Asian fusion noodle shop, owned by Tyler Christensen and Josh Riesner, dishes up hot, brothy bowls, salads, share plates and craft cocktails to grateful locals and tourists passing through town on their way to the Grand Canyon and beyond. Clark, who grew up in Flagstaff, splits his time between the high-country shop and SoSoBa’s new location in downtown Phoenix.

Bowl o' noodles at SoSoBa. Photo by Raven Larson.Your bowls have been called “unabashedly in-authentic.” Can you explain?
Fusion is completely non authentic. Everything we do, we put a little spin on it. We like to think of ourselves as punk rock noodles. We’re going against every traditional style and making our own. We don’t like to be called traditional.

Why are noodles so popular now?
I think it’s almost a throwback to when the college kids up here were poor and starving and weren’t able to get any really good, delicious food. They (said), ‘I’ve got some noodles to hold me over.’ Now they’re the people who are holding careers in this town. It’s the ramen they wish they could have had when they were in college instead of Top Ramen or Cup of Noodles. It’s a better, more high tech version of that.

What’s the most popular bowl on your menu?
The most popular is the Mic Drop! It has udon noodles, which are bigger, fatter and heartier noodles, and our house made pork broth, which (cooks) 18-hours – all night long and most of the next day. The bowl has house made pork belly; ham fries, which is Black Forest ham that we slice into a fry shape and then deep fry; house made pork butt carnitas; bacon; house made kimchee; a soft-boiled egg that we pickle in soy sauce; scallions; and then we put a chicharon (pork rind) on top and some bonito flakes – a dried fish that’s shaved really thin with a smoky flavor.

Do you have a lot of vegan and vegetarian offerings?
We do. The most popular vegetarian bowl is the Mothra. It’s a house made green curry – a coconut based curry. Then we mix in a ton of veggies to thicken it up and make it more like a sauce than a broth. We also have gluten free noodles.

June Rose Cocktail at SoSoBa. Photo by Raven Larson.What is Ramen Radio?
Ramen Radio is a special that’s a play on the traditional ramen bowl. We’ll go back and find a recipe for a ramen bowl that’s really good – usually traditional Japanese ramen – and adapt that to our own personal style. We’ll put a twist on it and use our own broths and whatever ingredients we come up with and twist it to make a traditional ramen that’s our own fusion style.

Do you source locally?
We try to when we can. We have a couple of farms that are difficult to source from in the winter, but in summer we source a lot of local greens, kale, turnips and turnip greens. A lot of the vegetables end up in the S.U.V. bowl (So… You’re Vegan), which is a Japanese curry with a bunch of really delicious vegetables that we top off with earth bacon, a fried sweet potato, like a sweet potato chip.

How does SoSoBa fit into the Flagstaff food scene?
I think we (opened) at the perfect time. A lot of the retail places started to shut their doors and move away from downtown and a lot of restaurants started popping up and we took our shot right then. We found a great location that used to be a restaurant before. Inside the SoSoBa nonstop noodle shop in Flagstaff. Photo by Trevar James.


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