The Best Ramen In London And New York
Bowls of ramen and other Japanese dishes at Kanada-Ya. Photograph courtesy of Kanada-Ya
Restorative bowls of Japanese noodle soup have become a hot commodity. Here’s where to find the best broth in the Western world.
If you want some indication of the popularity of ramen, consider the fact that earlier this year, a report conducted by the University of Arizona’s School of Sociology revealed that the soup’s noodles had overtaken tobacco as the most popular commodity in US prisons, for its low cost, taste and energy-giving qualities. “[Ramen] is easy to get and it’s high in calories,” said Mr Michael Gibson-Light, who led the findings. Mr Gustavo “Goose” Alvarez – who spent more than a decade behind bars – wrote a book on the topic: Prison Ramen: Recipes And Stories From Behind Bars. Ramen a hotter commodity than cigarettes? It would appear we have never been more in love with the heavenly broth.
Originally a noodle soup from China, it came to Japan at the turn of the 20th century when migrants sold the dish to Japanese construction workers. It then became the go-to fuel for the country’s post-war recovery. In more recent years, sushi was Japan’s greatest gastronomical export, but restaurants such as Wagamama brought ramen to the Western masses in the mid-1990s. A decade later, pioneers like Mr David Chang and his restaurant Momofuku – the wildly popular noodle bar in New York’s East Village – made the dish desirable and hip.
But what makes a bowl of ramen? First there is tare – the umami base which defines the soup; and broth, which can be made from chicken, pork, fish or mushrooms. It is often cooked for up to eighteen hours with lots of bones. There is often chashu – a tender Chinese-style roasted pork belly or shoulder. You might find negi – thinkly sliced green onion – or pickled bamboo shoots, nori, bean sprouts, and soy-soaked eggs. Kansui is a must in great ramen – the alkaline salts that give noodles their yellow tint. What’s not to like? It’s a dish so universal that you don’t even need manners to eat it. It arrives hot, and is meant to be eaten so. Suck in some cool air as you slurp it down noisily, as is the norm in Japanese ramen shops. And if that isn’t appealing enough, if you’re eating tonkotsu, the milky white pork bone broth variety – which comes from Fukuoka, home to around 2,000 ramen shops – some people say that the collagen from the pork bones will keep you looking young.
If you’re not planning a trip to Japan any time soon, we’ve put together our favourite ramen places in New York and London for five of the best bowls outside of Asia. Get slurping.
Chicken Paitan. Photograph courtesy of Kanada-Ya
London’s most authentic tonkotsu
Founded in the small city of Yukuhashi on the southern island of Kyushu in 2009 by Mr Kazuhiro Kanada, Kanada-Ya’s London outpost has been known for serving up some of the most authentic ramen in the city since it opened in September 2014. Pork bones are simmered for 18 hours to make their unbeatable broth, and the wheat noodles are made on site with an authentic Japanese machine to your bespoke preference. Its site state’s that the team are “specialists in authentic tonkotsu ramen”. They’re not lying.
64 St Giles High St, London, WC2H 8LEkanada-ya.com
Chilli Chicken Ramen. Photograph by Mr Paul Winch-Funess, courtesy of Tonkotsu East
The best noodles in the east (London)
Having first opened on Dean Street, Tonkotsu East, their second branch (there are now six outposts across the capital), located in an industrial space under some railways arches, gets our vote. If not for its classic dish – made up of simply pork belly slices and bamboo shoots – then for the noodles which (for our money) are the best in London. If you don’t believe us, go down and witness them being made on site on a huge, industrial machine towards the back of the restaurant. Quite a spectacle.
1a Dunston St, London, E8 4EBtonkotsu.co.uk
Shoryu Ganso Tonkotsu. Photograph courtesy of Shoryu Ramen
When you’re serving up Japan’s Hakata tonkotsu ramen, and both your founder Mr Tak Tokumine and executive chef Mr Kanji Furukawa hail from there, you know you’re onto a good thing. And, since opening in November 2012 , their more traditional approach to ramen and quality ingredients (they use Burford Brown egg to make nitamago – soft-boiled eggs with rich yolks marinated overnight in soy, mirikin and ginger) has seen them open seven outposts. If tonkotsu isn’t your thing – then they also offer miso broths (which originates in Sapporo, north Japan), and an impressive selection of sake.
9 Regent Street, London, SW1Y 4LR shoryuramen.com
Shiromaru Hakata Classic. Photograph courtesy of Ippudo, New York
New York’s original and best
The title of New York’s best ramen is hotly contested as new eateries are opening up around the city constantly, but East Village mainstay Ippudo has been high on every aficionado’s list since it opened eight years ago, bringing Hakata tonkotsu pork soup to the Western world in the days before the ramen craze really took off. (New York magazine featured it in its definitive list of 101 Things to Eat, Drink and Do earlier this year.) Ippudo doesn’t take reservations and so there is always a long wait for its famously rich tonkotsu pork ramen – New Yorkers love a line – but it is definitiely worth it. Worshippers swear by the shiromaru classic and akamaru modern. Say ramen to that.
65 Fourth Ave, East Village, NY 10003ippudo.com/ny
Original Tonkotsu Ramen. Photograph by Ms Rebecca Fondren, courtesy of Ichiran, New York
It’s too early to say whether or not this is New York’s best ramen given this first US outpost of the Japanese restaurant phenomenon founded in Fukuoka has been open just over a week. But it is currently its most hyped – as the line out the door and around the block in Brooklyn’s hipster enclave of Bushwick bears testament. This is ramen for purists (or recluses): each bowl of its famous house-made pork-bone-broth tonkotsu is served through a bamboo hatch by a faceless server responding to a call button. It is eaten in silent isolation (apart from the obligatory slurps) in a “flavour concentration booth”. Talking and mobile phones are discouraged to minimise distraction. Sorry Instagrammers.