Tag Archives: tonkotsu

Ichiran

I finally got around to trying the Japanese import ramen shop Ichiran. This place allows you to completely customize your bowl, where you choose the strength of the broth, the firmness of the noodle, and all of the toppings. Here’s how I ordered:

The ramen was awesome.

Deliciously rich, velvety pork broth. Perfectly cooked, firm noodles. Fork tender slices of pork loin and chashu.

The matcha pudding is really nice too, and I usually don’t like matcha very much.

So glad that this shop opened up so close to home on 49th.

ICHIRAN
152 W 49th St
New York, NY 10019

Yama Ramen

I stopped into Yama for their big bowl, which is a tonkotsu pork broth with tons of super tender braised pork belly and pork jowls.

While pricey at $20, it’s very big. The egg was an extra $2.

There’s a sweetness in the broth from the corn, so extra spice is recommended. I really enjoyed this, and will definitely go back (probably for the normal sized bowl, since I couldn’t finish this bucket).

YAMA RAMEN
60 W 48th St
New York, NY 10036

Hide Chan

This joint recently opened near work, so I popped in for lunch one day. I ordered the deluxe ramen for $17. It’s a tonkotsu pork bone broth with sliced pork (three pieces), boiled egg (sliced in two), kikurage mushrooms, scallions, onions, bean sprouts and cod roe.

 

I really liked it. The broth had a thick, rich flavor without being too oily, fatty or salty. All of the toppings and components were well prepared, fresh and nicely cooked.

The noodles are customizable, meaning you can choose wavy or strait, and whether you want them firm or soft. I went with firm and strait, like a Viagra cock.

I’ll definitely be back here again soon. They have some really interesting broth flavors outside of just tonkotsu, and some great looking sides and apps as well.

UPDATE 8/1/17

I went back with my wife and tried two different ramen styles, as well as the fried chicken app. The fried chicken was good. The breading was super light, if even present, and the thigh meat was really tender. I think I liked Zundo-ya’s fried chicken better, though.

Next up, spicy black garlic ramen.

For the first half of the bowl, I liked this better than the deluxe style from my first visit. However, the flavor was aggressive and I preferred the deluxe style while I was slurping the second half. I guess it depends on your taste buds.

Second bowl: veggie ramen.

The soy milk broth is super flavorful, and it inspired me to create a hybrid broth consisting of pork bones cooked in soy milk in order to have an even more milky consistency to the broth. I’ll have to try it at home soon.

HIDE CHAN
314 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019

Mr. Taka

Mr. Taka is easily one of the best bowls of tonkotsu I’ve had in NYC. The thick, rich pork broth manages to be full of porky flavor without going overboard with the salt content or overpowering you with too much garlic. It’s velvety smooth – no off-putting textures, which can sometimes happen with thickened broths.

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The meat quality is awesome. Super soft with a good char on the outside of each slab. It falls apart between your chopsticks. So good. I recommend getting an additional slab, since your bowl will only come with one if you don’t.

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The noodles are the straight kind, not wavy, and if you order the spicy version you get a soft boiled egg and a normal sized blob of spicy paste that won’t overrun the entire eating experience with heat.

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I highly recommend this joint for all your slurping needs. It really is as close to perfect as you’re going to get.

MR. TAKA
170 Allen St
New York, NY 10002

Momosan Ramen & Sake

Momosan is Iron Chef Morimoto’s newest joint that specializes in ramen and sake. It’s a smallish-sized joint that seats 66 people and has lots of bar seating.

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Speaking of the bar, they have some really interesting beers and sakes. I tried two great beers: a hazelnut Morimoto bottle and a soba ale draft, both by Rogue.

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My wife went with a really good sake that the bartender recommended (Suehiro was the brand), It was just the right balance of sweetness, served in an overflowing shot within a wooden box.

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So not only does this place have great ramen, as you will see below, but they also have really good and unique apps and entrees. The executive chef is Korean, so there are some Korean-inspired items on the menu like various kimchis and bibimbap-like dishes. We started with the pork jowl and tofu kimchi.

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As you can see, it’s sitting on a nice pillow of silken tofu, which you will definitely need a spoon to pick up, as the chopsticks cut right through it.

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The next two dishes were the clear stand-outs of the three. Crispy pig ears and braised pig feet. They may sound disgusting to the average person, but let me assure you they were absolutely incredible. First the ears: these were like crispy pig fries. They had just the right amount of crunch on the outside and tenderness on the inside to make you not even know you were eating meat. But so packed with flavor. I could eat a bucket of these without blinking.

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These came with a spiced mayo for dipping, but I recommend dipping them in this hard to find chili garlic paste as well (it’s on the tables and the bar here). It had an almost mustard-like flavor profile to it, even though the ingredients are pretty simple – chilies, garlic, water and vinegar.

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Now the pig’s feet. Amazing. You get two parts here. One is the gelatinous hoof-like part – which is melt-in-your-mouth delicious, like pork jelly – and the other is braised and crisped meat.

Hoof part:

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Braised and crisped part:

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It’s nice to eat a little together at the same time to mix up the textures. I think this might have been my favorite of the three, but it was very difficult to make that call up against the ears. So when you go, just man-up and order them both.

Okay, so now for the ramen. I tried the tonkotsu with an added slab of miso-braised pork belly on top.

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The broth was very flavorful with a nice layer of fat on top, paying homage to the real-deal Japanese versions of this style. I was distinctly able to taste the use of kelp in the broth, which was nice and refreshing. The egg was perfect, but the $4 added slab of pork belly was a bit small (though incredibly delicious).

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My wife tried the tantan, which is a spicy coconut curry broth with pork and saffron. The deep red color is absolutely stunning.

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I liked it very much. The sweetness of the coconut cut the spice of the curry really well. When I come back, I will be getting a bowl of this for myself, for sure.

The ramen all come in two sizes, and if you are really torn between choosing, then get two small bowls.

The tsukemen, however, does not come in two sizes. Tsukemen is concentrated ramen broth with a bowl of dry noodles and meat that you dip into the concentrated broth before eating. My buddy ordered this. He’s pretty reserved and particular when it comes to judging noodle shops, but he really did like this one a lot, and Morimoto kept coming to our table to check on him and what he thought when he got wind that there was a true tsukemen aficionado in the house who had not been impressed by any other NYC ramen shops’ offerings to date.

Below is a shot of the tsukemen noodle bowl. You’ll notice a lime wedge in there. The chef recommends eating the first half without the lime, and then using the lime to punch up the second half. I think it’s a smart move because the citrus acts to cut through the fatty layer that forms over your mouth and tastebuds from eating the first half. The lime essentially cleanses the palette so you can taste all that goodness again on the second half of the bowl, only this time with some added citrus kick. Delicious.

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I think that about covers it. Great first few days for this new opening, and I am excited to go back in for their lunch specials, which will consist of a small ramen and an app or rice “don” item for just $16.

MOMOSAN RAMEN & SAKE
342 Lexington Ave
New York, NY 10016

Ramen Guide

With ramen season kicking into high gear, I suppose it’s high time that I put out a guide to ramen for all of you cold, hungry fucks out there looking to get your soup on. This should serve as your singular, all-encompassing resource for all things slurp. This is more of an informational page, clearly, so if you’ve landed here looking for my ramen reviews, you should go to the Ramen-Ate-R page, where you can read about the tremendous shitload of ramen that I’ve eaten.

There are a bunch of things you need to keep in mind when thinking about ramen. Namely, you need to think about the thickness of the broth, how the broth is made, how it is seasoned, what kind of noodles are used, the toppings, and, finally (if you’re into food knowledge), where the ramen style was developed and the history behind the dish. So let’s get into it:

BROTH THICKNESS

This is classified as either assari (light) or kotteri (rich). Assari broths are generally thin or clear, as they are typically flavored with vegetables, fish or seaweed. If animal bones are used at all, they are usually just simmered lightly for a short amount of time.

Kotteri, on the other hand, are thick and usually opaque, due to all the emulsified fats, proteins and minerals that are rendered from boiling animal bones for long periods of time. That makes them stocks, technically, not broths. Kotteri are also known as Paitan (from the Chinese). Paitan translates to white broth, which makes sense, given that they are usually cloudy in color and thick in texture.

SOUP BASE

Ramen soup bases are classified by the main ingredients that are boiled or simmered to make the soup stock (if bones are used) or broth  (if no bones are used). As expected, a stock can be made from animal bones (chicken, beef, pork, fish). But lighter broths can be made with dried seafood or kelp/seaweed (like dashi – a broth made from dried, smoked bonito flakes and kelp), and sometimes even just straight up roasted veggies and mushrooms + water.

An example I will use to illustrate here is tonkotsu. “Ton” means pork, and “kotsu” means bones. Thus, the tonkotsu ramen base is a kotteri style thick stock made from pork bones, which would then need to be seasoned with a salty or savory component, which is covered in the next section.

SEASONING

Tare or kaeshi is the seasoning – the main savory element or source of salt – that is used to flavor the ramen. Ramen seasoning comes in three major varieties: Shoyu, Shio and Miso.

Shoyu: This, simply, is soy sauce. If you didn’t know, soy sauce is made from a paste of fermented and boiled soybeans, roasted grains and seasoned water.

Shio: Sea salt. Pretty straightforward. As you can imagine, sea salt as a seasoning is nicely suited for thinner, assari style broths.

Miso: This is an earthy flavored, thick, fermented soybean paste. Seasoning with miso will almost always result in a thick, kotteri style broth, as you can see below:

NOODLES

Ramen noodles are made with wheat flour, water, salt and kansui, an alkaline water which gives the noodles their yellow color and characteristic bounce. In China, it’s more common to see ramen made with eggs instead of kansui.

Depending on the soup they’re added to, ramen noodles can range from wavy to straight, thick to thin, flat, round or square. The type of noodle selected for a bowl of ramen is based on its broth-clinging characteristics, its bounciness and its texture. For that reason, one noodle style may be better suited for a particular soup base or broth thickness than another.

Depending on the noodles used, cook times will vary as well. In addition, their ability to last for a while, soaking in the soup broth, will vary. After a few minutes certain noodles will lose their spring and bounce, and the texture will change.

Just an FYI here: if you need more noodles while you are eating, yell out kaedama!

TOPPINGS

We have a bunch of categories to discuss here. Let’s start with the most important one: meat.

Obviously if a ramen base is made with animal bones, it only makes sense to use the same animal meat as a topping for the soup. Tonkotsu should have copious amounts of kakuni (pork belly), or chashu (rolled pork loin or belly that is cooked slowly in a sweet soy and mirin sauce, stew-style, then sliced and sometimes charred or grilled afterward for texture). Clearly, chicken is a good topper for your chicken-based ramen. But some chefs get creative. For example I’ve had beef ramen that was topped with crispy beef intestines. I’ve even had chicken broth that was topped not only with chicken but with ground pork as well. Mixing is not a bad thing and it is quite common, as you’ll learn below.

In addition to meat, ramen broths also contain aromatics, such as garlic (fresh, charred, fried or fermented), onions (charred, pickled or raw), ginger (either pickled – beni shoga – or fresh), leeks (fresh or charred), scallions (usually fresh, typically sliced or shredded) and mushrooms (both dried and fresh, and a ton of different types). These can also be incorporated into the creation of the soup base at the start, not just as toppings that are added at the time of serving.

Other common toppings include seasoned soft boiled or hard boiled eggs, sliced fish cakes (naruto), bamboo shoots, corn, cabbage, seaweed, bean sprouts, spice pastes, butter and various oils, such as chili oil, onion oil, pepper oil, garlic oil or sesame oil (and certainly sesame seeds, too, for that matter).

On many occasions, the toppings you see will depend on the region in Japan from which the ramen hails.

REGIONAL STYLES

Japanese ramen varies greatly by region. Some areas focus on thinner fish- and seaweed-based broths, while others tend to be hearty and thick animal bone soups. I’ve highlighted some of the regional styles below, alphabetically:

Akayu: A sweet and mild ramen soup is topped with a spicy dollup of miso mixed with chili and garlic. Chewy, thick, wavy noodles grace this style, and it is usually served with powdered seaweed as well.

Asahikawa: Asahikawa is Hokkaido’s second-largest city, and is located at the base of the mountains in the middle of the island. Its ramen is a mix of chicken, pork and seafood broth, with a shoyu base. The soup is topped with a layer of melted pork fat to seal in the soup’s heat in the colder months, as well as pork meat, bamboo shoots and scallions.

Hakata: Also known as Nagahama ramen, this style comes from Fukuoka, a prefecture in Japan’s southern island of Kyushu, which is famous for its pork dishes. This is my favorite of ramen styles, because it is a thick, fatty, pork bone broth with thin, al-dente noodles. Toppings usually include sesame seeds, pink pickled ginger and fried garlic.

Hakodate: Ramen arrived in Hakodate from China. The soup is thin and light, and the shio-seasoned broth had a mild pork and chicken base. Noodles are usually soft, with toppings like roast pork, bamboo shoots, scallions, nori, fish cakes and spinach.

Kagoshima: Kagoshima is known for its Berkshire pork-like black pigs, yet the ramen is a mild mix of both veggies and chicken, combined with the black pork bone stock. The broth then gets finished off with burnt onions and seasoned with soy sauce. The noodles are soft, and toppings consist of pork meat (obviously), scallions, wood ear mushrooms (kikurage) and bean sprouts.

Kitakata: Kitakata is famous for a clean, light soy-based breakfast soup. In the bowl there’s usually a serving of chewy, wide, flat and curly hand-cut noodles with pork, scallions and bamboo shoots.

Kumamoto: When tonkotsu ramen arrived in Kumamoto prefecture from Kurume, the locals started cutting it with chicken broth. It’s also served with straight noodles, though they’re softer and thicker than the Kurume style. Most bowls have pickled mustard greens, sliced wood-ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, and cabbage on top, but the unique thing about Kumamoto ramen is the use of garlic. You’ll see fried garlic chips and mayu, the black liquid made from garlic that’s been burned in sesame oil. That shit is delicious.

Kurume: This town on the southern island of Kyushu is the birthplace of tonkotsu. Melted bone marrow, fried lard, sesame seeds, pickled ginger and garlic give Kurume ramen a unique and pungent style. Toppings include pork meat, scallions, nori, and spicy mustard greens, in addition to those just mentioned above.

Kyoto: Kyoto’s home to two distinct types of ramen: a thinner assari shoyu ramen, and a thick kotteri chicken soup. The thin version is a blend of pork and chicken broth, with a dark soy base. The thick version is a rich porridge-like chicken soup, topped with garlic, spicy bean paste, chives and odoriferous local onions called kujnoegi. Both are seasoned with shoyu, but the toppings vary for each.

Nagoya “Taiwan” Ramen: “Taiwan Ramen” is Nagoya’s reimagined version of Taiwanese danzimian, which has lots of ground pork, Chinese chives, hot peppers, green onions and garlic. This shit is for people who like spicy soup.

Onomichi: Take a bit of pork, a heap of chicken, some local seafood and a big mess of lard and you’ve got Onomichi ramen. The soup has a shoyu base and is served with chewy, homemade, wavy, flat noodles. It’s usually topped with roast pork, bamboo shoots, scallions and pork fat.

Sapporo: Sapporo-style ramen hails from Japan’s northernmost province, Hokkaido, which is the birthplace of miso ramen. Sapporo miso ramen generally has thick, strong noodles and is commonly topped with bean sprouts, sweet corn, cabbage and ground pork. Soft boiled eggs and thick slices of chashu pork are also common, as well as pats of butter.

Shirakawa: This town developed a refined ramen typified by light, simple soup and hand pulled noodles. It features a shoyu broth, but local mineral ­water makes for springy noodles with a good chew. Toppings include roast pork, bamboo shoots, fish cake, scallions, seaweed, spinach and even wontons.

Tokushima: Shikoku is the smallest of Japan’s four main islands, and udon is the preferred noodle. But Tokushima prefecture has an aged, extra strong shoyu soup that originated with tonkotsu stocks made from leftover pork bones from nearby ham factories. This is similar to Wakayama ramen. Ramen shops here will add a few strips of thinly sliced pork belly and break a raw egg on top. Tokushima ramen is sometimes divided into “yellow,” “black,” and “white” styles (how racist) of varying strengths. Other toppings for this ramen consist of scallions, bamboo shoots and bean sprouts.

Tokyo: This ramen is usually made with pork and chicken broth and typically features slightly curly, somewhat wide noodles. Very often in Toyko you’ll find broths that are flavored with dashi (broth made from aged bonito flakes and sea kelp). This style of ramen is generally seasoned with shoyu and has a medium-thickness. It’s similar to Yokohama ramen, though that tends to be heavier and meatier than the dashi broths of Tokyo ramen.

Tsubame-Sanjo: The cities of Tsubame and Sanjo are in a freezing cold area, and the ramen from this spot is bizarre and unhealthy. The hearty stock is made of chicken, sardines and pork bones, and the bowls are blasted with tons of pork fat (common in soups from the colder climates). There’s thick, flat noodles in this shoyu-based soup, and toppings include pork meat, bamboo shoots and lots of chopped white onions.

Wakayama: This is the median between thick, rich tonkotsu, and thin, clear broth. Wakayama ramen has a strong shoyu tare seasoning with a long-simmered tonkotsu base. The noodles resemble the thin, firm and long threads of Hakata style ramen, but you also get fish cakes like those in Tokyo style ramen. These soups are also topped with the seemingly ever-present and most common of toppings: roast pork, scallions and bamboo shoots.

Yokohama Ie-Kei: Yokohama is known for ie-kei ramen, a viscous, salty, and fatty tonkotsu shoyu style of ramen. When ordering, diners can designate how firm they want their noodles, the amount of fat they like on top, and the saltiness or strength of the soup. This is my kind of ramen – catering specifically to each unique diner. The toppings for this style of ramen usually include sheets of nori (seaweed paper), spinach, garlic, spicy bean paste and ginger.

RAMEN-LIKE DISHES

Although these dishes are not quite ramen, they’ll still be able to satisfy the most intense need for a ramen fix.

Abura Soba: The name of this soupless noodle dish translates to “oil noodles.” It consists of cooked ramen noodles dressed with flavored oil and tare (usually shoyu). It often comes topped with an egg, and diners are meant to stir everything together in the bowl to form a creamy, fatty, thickened sauce. One can also add vinegar, chili oil and other shit before slurping. Hot peppers, mayonnaise, fried noodles, chopped garlic and pork fat are also crowd favorites to add in.

Chanpon: This originated in Nagasaki and is made by boiling thick noodles directly in a thick pork and seafood soup. It’s viscous, and eats more like stew than ramen.

Hiyashi Chuka: This literally means “cold Chinese.” As such it’s a dish made with cold ramen noodles and various toppings like fried egg, ham, carrot, cucumber and chicken. It is usually dressed in a light soy-vinegar sauce. I’ve even seen fish sauce used in some versions around NYC.

Mazemen: This is a hearty “dry” ramen, characterized by thick noodles and weird toppings like cheese. Similar to Abura Soba, this is essentially cooked noodles with a small amount of strongly flavored sauce on the side for dipping. Toppings and sauces can vary a great deal, and are often experimental in nature.

Tantan-Men: This is an off-shoot of Chinese dandan noodles. Based on a pork broth, it comes with a scoop of heavily spiced ground pork and is generally served with bok choy and/or spinach.

Tsukemen: This, like Mazemen, is also a “dipping” ramen. Cold, undressed (nekkit) noodles are served alongside a hot, concentrated ramen broth. You dip the noodles into a bowl of broth as you eat, grabbing the toppings whenever you choose to.

Yakisoba: This is the Japanese version of Chinese fried noodles. It’s made with egg noodles that get stir-fried with veggies and occasionally meat or seafood. This shit then gets hit with a Worcestershire style anchovy and vegetable sauce. It’s often topped with shaved bonito flakes and pickled ginger (beni shoga).

FUSION RAMEN

All around NYC we are seeing various kinds of fusion ramen items being offered, which makes a lot of sense given that the history of ramen in Japan involves a lot of Japanese-Chinese fusion.

However some of the more wild examples I’ve seen in NYC include:

Korean-inspired kimchi ramen (Mokbar):

Thai green curry ramen (Bassanova):

Flavors common to Burmese cuisine that feature coconut milk in the broth base (Tabata):

Indian-inspired massaman curry ramen, even complete with potatoes and carrots and (Yasha):

Italian spaghetti ramen, with pepper oil, arugula and crispy porchetta (Maialino):

Thanksgiving turkey ramen, with gravy, mushrooms, stuffing and cranberries, of course (Talde):

And Jamaican jerk chicken ramen (Miss Lily’s 9A):

There are even ramen burgers (L&L Drive Inn, among others)…

…and now ramen cake (courtesy of my wife, The Cake Dealer).

So that about does it here. If ramen isn’t your thing, but soup most definitely IS your thing, as a general matter, then there’s always pho, bun bo hue and laksa out there to soothe your hot soup needs in the cold winter weather that’s about to strike.

Katsu-Hama

I strolled by this joint yesterday on my way to meet a friend for a drink. I took note of it, so I came back today for dinner with my wife.

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It’s a small but nicely set up joint on the second floor, with nice big windows overlooking the street (55th). We sat down right away at the bar even though it was crowded with people waiting for larger table settings.

I had the ma-yu tonkotsu ramen. It was pretty good, not too bitter from the black garlic, which often happens with ma-yu.

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The bamboo shoots were excellent, the pork was tender and flavorful, and the noodles were alkali straight and nicely cooked.

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The only down side to this bowl was the egg – it was hard boiled instead of soft boiled, so the yolk was a little powdery.

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My wife had a nice fried chicken dish set (nan ban), which came with miso soup, rice, and a small salad. The meat was great. I would slap it on a roll with some mayo and use the shredded cabbage it came with as a crunch element. Delicious!

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KATSU-HAMA
11 E. 47th St.
New York, NY 10017

Yasha Ramen

My wife and I grabbed a sweet group on deal for this place: $15 gets you $25 worth of food.

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Since it was up on 106th/107th, a good hike for us, we made a little trip out of it. There were a few spots around that corner of Central Park that I always wanted to see, as well as the home of Harry Houdini.

Anyway – back to the point… we were able to try three different bowls of ramen. I had the tonkotsu, pork broth with half a seasoned egg and some cha-shu pork. Very tasty:

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My wife had the signature ramen, but the spicy version. This is a chicken broth. I liked the kick of the spice, but the chicken based broth over at Totto edges this out a little.

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Last was the curry ramen. This bowl came with wavy noodles (the other two were al dente straight noodles, likely alkaline as opposed to egg noodles), as well as a stew-like broth that even had potato and carrot mixed in. Very flavorful and different.

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The establishment was spacious, which I liked. Lots of times at these ramen shops I feel like I am bumping elbows with nearby diners. Annoying. And it also gets way too hot in those cramped little shit boxes. This place had high ceilings, a nice big clean bathroom, and enough eating space to feel comfortable, even when fully packed out for lunch crowds, which it was…

Here’s a look at the dude slinging the goods:

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YASHA
940 Amsterdam Ave
New York, NY 10025

Bassanova Ramen

Tondaku Green Curry Ramen at Bassanova in Chinatown (Mott Street). Different, but really good. More greenery than you would normally expect but it really works. $15. Egg was extra.

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Tondaku Ramen, also at Bassanova. Traditional tonkotsu pork ramen made with Berkshire pork. $13. Extremely good, one of my top spots.

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It’s small inside, with hardly ever a wait that I have seen.
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Bar seating is pretty cool: you watch them make the yum:
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From the menu:
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A short film by the founder of this joint: “RAMEN DREAMS”

BASSANOVA
76 Mott St
New York, NY 10013

The Great Noodle Chase

Lately I’ve been on a Japanese ramen binge, but I should also mention my decade-long hankering for Vietnamese pho as well. My wife is Vietnamese, so real-deal, authentic pho is more common in my belly than good ramen. But after having it a few times lately, I felt the need to whip up a post about the two dishes, with pics of course.

First, pho (pronounced like you are saying the word FUN but without the N, and with a tone as if you are asking a question):

For those who may not know, I’ve give a quick rundown of what this awesome shit is. Pho is a very aromatic and highly flavorful beef soup (pho bo) made with LOTS of different parts of the animal: oxtail, marrow, tripe, brisket, eye-round, processed beef balls, etc. The meats are stewed to tender perfection and then served in an almost clear consomme broth that simmered for hours with all the meats and spices like star anise, cinnamon, clove, ginger, and other warm, comforting flavors. The rice noodles used are long and flat, almost like a linguini. It’s topped with cilantro, chilies (optional, of course), bean sprouts, scallions, thinly sliced onion, and a wedge of lime. It’s usually accompanied with plum sauce (hoisin) and chili paste (sri racha) on the side for you to add to taste. The result is something so delicious that you will crave it every day of your life. It’s light, yet hearty. You’ll never find a broth so clear and thin with so much flavor packed in it. Most Vietnamese joints will offer it with chicken too (pho ga), but come on… really? If you are getting it, get a big bowl of the mixed beef. Although, I must say, sometimes I like to order with just the thin-sliced eye-round meat, or that and beef meatballs.

By far the most delicious bowl we ever had was in Vietnam, up in the mountains of Sapa at a resort. It should be noted that pho in Vietnam is different than here in the states. First: there’s a more robust flavor. Second: the sri racha is non-existent as it is not needed. They just utilize their abundance of fresh chili peppers. They DO have a chili paste in Vietnam, but it’s creamier and sweeter than sri racha, and probably better for dipping with fried items than mixing into soup.

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Clearly not everyone can just up and leave to the mountains of Vietnam for a bowl of soup. So if you can’t, try this bowl, from Thai Son restaurant on Baxter Street in NYC. Yes: it’s a Vietnamese food restaurant, not Thai. Definitely not as good as the one above, but at around $6 a bowl you really can’t go wrong:

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Okay now for Japanese ramen:

First, check out this little film to get a sense of what real ramen is. I’m not talking about the little fucking soup packets for $0.33 each in the supermarket, which contain so much fucking sodium that they can be used to salt the highways of a major city in a snowstorm.

The few places I’ve been to in NYC have a variety of flavors and broth bases, ranging from the more traditional pork, to chicken, to miso, to veggie. They vary based on noodle type too – wavy or straight, etc., and also toppings. Some places will serve a basic bowl with a few things in it, and charge a nominal amount for extra toppings like extra pork belly or lean pork, a boiled egg, spicy paste, extra noodles, etc. I tend to lean more toward the pork broth (tonkotsu), although I’ve had some really good chicken based and even curry based broths.

Note: there are lots of people who make it their mission to hunt down the great ramen places all over town, especially in Japan. I can’t compete with those guys… yet… My experience is very limited, but I WILL share a few of my favorite bowls so far, along with location:

Mega Ramen at Totto II in Hell’s Kitchen (51st & 10th) – no need for ordering extras on this. It’s a chicken based broth (REALLY good, by the way – not your average bullshit chicken stock). So hearty and fatty, and topped with tons of different kinds of pork meat. I refer to this one as the pork pool party. $15.

totto ii mega ramen

Tondaku Green Curry Ramen at Bassanova in Chinatown (Mott Street). Different, but really good. More greenery than you would normally expect but it really works. $15. Egg was extra.

bassanova curry

Tondaku Ramen, also at Bassanova. Traditional tonkotsu pork ramen made with Berkshire pork. $13.

bassanova regular

That’s all I’ve got for you assholes right now, other than the fact that the guy from the video is the guy who opened Bassanova.

Do yourselves a favor and go for a swim in a pork pool party – your gullet will thank you. In the meantime, if anyone knows of a beef or rib eye ramen, I’d love to try it. Does it exist? If not, maybe it’s time…

UPDATE 3/15/14 – Real deal beef ramen DOES exist. I heard about some late night ramen joint in the west village called Takashi that serves up an all-beef broth ramen on Friday and Saturday nights only, from 12:00am to 2:00am. It was tough, but I ended up getting a seat for my wife and I to slurp up some of this delicious shit. We started with some beer and took in the surroundings:

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As I mentioned, it’s a beef broth, but it contains crispy beef intestines, FUCKING BRAISED KOBE BEEF BELLY!!!, a soft boiled egg, and alkaline ramen noodles. The little blob of red you see in the middle is the spicy paste that my wife got with her bowl. I prefer no spicy paste, as it masks the beef flavor too much for my liking (though I DO love very spicy foods):

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If you’re in town overnight on a weekend and are up for something bold and adventurous, give this bowl a try. The only problem is that you will need to try for a reservation on the Monday prior at 5pm. That’s when they start taking reservations. I emailed on Tuesday afternoon for my rez and they were already booked solid. They asked if I wanted to be on a waiting list in case someone cancels: I said yes. I found out on Friday at about 4:00pm that they had an opening for me and my wife at midnight. SWEET!