For all of the ramen lovers out there, this guide serves to teach you all you need to know about ramen – from the noodles, to the broth, to my favourite ramen shops. I hope that you love my recommendations as much as I do.
Did you know that ramen means “pulled noodles”? In the olden days, a single lump of dough was manually pulled and folded many times until it formed a bunch of thin noodles. Today, the noodles can easily be made by a machine, but the dough is still made from the same basic ingredients: flour, salt, normal water and kansui (alkaline water).
There are two main types of noodles: low-alkaline noodles that are thin and straight and high-alkaline noodles that are wavy and springy. Some say that thin noodles go well with thinner broth, while wavy noodles go well with thicker broth, but surely restaurants will try to create the perfect bowl for you.
What are the different types of ramen?
Hakodate-style (shio) ramen
Shio ramen originates from Hokkaido, with its distinct feature of flavouring the chicken broth with just salt, resulting in a golden-coloured soup. A simple rule of thumb to use in order to gauge the quality of your shio (salt) broth is through its opacity: the clearer the broth, the more sophisticated the cooking technique used to create it.
Editor’s pick: Gogyo
Gogyo’s tanrei shio ($108) is a refreshing getaway from the usual thick flavour punch of pork broth that we’re so used to in the 852. It’s light, savoury, slightly sweet... and I can’t stop slurping. Topped with a melange of onion, spring onion, menma (fermented bamboo shoots) and melt-in-the-mouth BBQ pork, this bowl of shio ramen is beautifully executed and a definite recommend.
Shop 3020, 3/F, ifc mall, 8 Finance Street, Central, 2385 1366
Asahikawa-style (shoyu) ramen
Asahikawa-style ramen also originates from Hokkaido and is synonymous with shoyu (soy) broth. Shoyu-based broth is made by fermenting soybeans to create a sauce. It is usually sweeter than shio (salt) ramen.
Editor’s pick: Tsuta
I think Tsuta’s char siu ajitama shoyu soba ($149) is amazing, but don’t trust me – trust the Michelin Bib Gourmand award the restaurant has earned. Best known for its truffle-scented shoyu soba, a lot of thought and effort has been put into this delicate dish. The soy sauce is made from soybeans that have matured for two years, crafted in a shoyu brewery in Wakayama especially for the restaurant. The broth is made from a blend of Asari clams and chicken. The final touches are elegant: a drizzle of truffle oil and a dollop of truffle paste. Luxury all the way.
Causeway Bay: Shop 2, G/F, V Point, 18 Tang Lung Street, 3188 2639
TST: Shop G111, G/F, Gateway Arcade, Harbour City, 3–27 Canton Road, 3188 2748
Hakata-style (tonkotsu) ramen
Originating in Fukuoka, Hakata-style ramen is the most common type of ramen in Hong Kong. This style of ramen is distinctive because of its tonkotsu (pork-bone broth) and thin, hard noodles. Tonkotsu broth is a thick soup made from boiling ground pork bones for 12–15 hours until the collagen has dissolved into the stock as gelatin.
Editor’s pick: Ichiran
Who doesn’t know and love Ichiran? The dining experience at Ichiran is all about you, the customer. You can fully customise your ramen (from $89), from the flavour strength of the broth, to the hardness of the noodles, to the condiments, slurping away in your own private cubicle. Having the social aspect taken away from dining lets you focus on what’s in front of you: a hearty bowl of noodles. The Ichiran at Causeway Bay is by far the largest branch and the one tourists frequent the most. If you’re looking to reduce the two-hour queue to a mere 30 minutes, you can head to the TST branch. This location has both cubicles and communal tables (if you’re willing to skip the “eating alone” experience). Plus, the TST branch is open 24/7!
Causeway Bay: Shop F–I, G/F, Lockhart House, Block A, 440 Jaffe Road, 2152 4040 or 2116 4802
TST: Basement and G/F, 8 Minden Avenue, 2369 4218
With tsukemen, the noodles and soup are served separately. The soup is usually very thick and heavy with seasoning. In Japan, you can choose to have your noodles cold or hot, but the soup is usually served warm. The idea is to dip the cold noodles into the thick, flavorful sauce.
Editor’s pick: Shugetsu
Nowadays, a lot of tsukemen restaurants come up with gimmicky miscellanies on their menus – the newest fad is adding a bed of uni on top of your bowl of noodles. These fads undoubtedly add more people at the front door, but sometimes all I want is a classic dunk-and-eat bowl of tsukemen (from $89), which Shugetsu does really well. Awarded a Bib Gourmand in 2018, Shugetsu is known for its broth base, with a sauce fermented for 18 months in a 100-year-old wooden basket. However, the star of the show, in my opinion, is the noodles: thick, curly and chewy to soak up the rich flavour of the broth.
Causeway Bay: Shop 6, G/F, Hoi Deen Court, 30–34 Cannon Street, 2891 1600
Central: 5 Gough Street, 2850 6009
Quarry Bay: 30 Hoi Kwong Street, 2336 7888
Special mention: Zagin Soba
Various food blogs have dubbed Zagin Soba the best ramen in town, so with my curiosity piqued, I made the hour-long commute to Happy Valley to try out this ramen. The restaurant serves just three types of ramen: chicken soup ramen, chicken soup tsukemen and chicken and seafood ramen. My personal favourite is the chicken soup ramen ($138). The broth is thick and creamy like whipped cappuccino foam, but it’s still light enough that you can slurp it down with no guilt about the calories. Other ramen shops offer menma (fermented bamboo shoots) as a condiment, but here you get fried burdock, which is crunchy with a hint of chocolate. Instead of the regular BBQ pork, they use ham to counterbalance the thick broth. And let’s not forget about the succulent sous-vide chicken.
Central: 7 Gough Street, 2447 1398
Happy Valley: 13A King Kwong Street, 2818 0322
BRB to get me some ramen...
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