Sunday, 15 February 2015

The Best Ramen in NYC - New York City on Sunday

Ramen wasn't at the top of my mind when I was visiting New York City. I was making my rounds of pizzas, bagels, hotdogs, donuts, cheesecakes and pastrami until Johor Kaki blog follower Mogan brought me for a late night, after work ramen supper at Takashi.

That was the ramen awakening for me ;-D

New York City being New York City, does ramen things with it's own stamp and distinction. From then on, I embarked on my own discovery trail of NYC's ramen.

I've tried a quite a few ramen shops in NYC and from that experience have conjured up, what in my mind would be the ideal ramen for me.


There is a great deal of diversity in styles and types of ramen. This is just the ideal ramen of my imagination. I am sure everyone have their own ideas about what is the best ramen as taste is a very personal thing.

We start with the broth where the soul of ramen is.


My ideal ramen has chicken broth that is a good balance of savoury and sweet. It's texture is full bodied like fresh full cream milk, rich and silky smooth, yet it is neither greasy nor curdled.

Totto Ramen's chicken broth is cooked with chicken in large pots. The chef regularly stirs the pot with a large wooden paddle. He also skims and strains the broth before serving, so it is smooth and soothing to the throat.


Noodles are at the heart of ramen.

My favourite noodles are cooked al dente and have a hint of wheat flavour. The strands are bouncy tender outside while inside, there is a slightly stiff core that resist the bite feebly before surrendering and snapping, separating softly.

Minca Ramen Factory makes their own noodles and each serving is individually wrapped in small plastic bags which are opened only just before cooking. Minca's noodles which are cooked al dente are slightly thicker, giving us more to chew on.

Chashu and Japanese soft cooked flavoured egg are essential add ons for a complete ramen.


To me the best ramen comes with large, thick slices of belly pork chashu which are torched just before serving. The meat is about-to-fall-apart tender. The fat is like a balloon overfilled with water, giggly and about to burst. And, it does explode when you gently sink your teeth into it, releasing it's load of gorgeous, sweet porcine flavoured juices in a soft gush. In the mouth, we taste layers of gentle savouriness from the broth, meat and the slight char on it's surface.

The ramen at Ramen-ya in West Village comes with not one but two slices of this marvellous chashu.


As a egg lover, I like my Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese marinated soft boiled egg) to have a soft egg white "bowl" cupping a runny golden yolk. My ideal egg has an eggy flavour with subtle hints of savoury sweetness.

Ramen-ya's Ajitsuke Tamago is just the way I like my egg in ramen.


Born and bred in tropical Southeast Asia, I like my ramen to have a spicy option with chili paste served separately, so I can add chili paste to taste. My favourite chili paste is fresh and has several layers of spiciness from very sharp sting to mildly spicy. It also has additional dimensions of savouriness and sweetness.

Chef Takashi makes his chili paste using his grandmother's recipe which uses over 20 ingredients. On the taste buds, the spiciness alternates between sharp and gentle, and it lingers briefly, seductively on the tongue and throat. There is savouriness from dried shrimps, some sweetness and a refreshing zing.


The right ambiance is part of the complete ramen experience.

I like to eat my ramen in places that exults a rustic, convivial charm. It just needs to be comfortable enough, with no need to be opulent or ultra hip.

I like the intimacy at Totto Ramen. The bar shares a narrow barely passable passage with the open kitchen where the chefs boil, stir, torch, steam, blanch and assemble the ramen right in front of us. We sit elbow to elbow with strangers but feel completely at home, sharing a camaraderie with fellow ramen lovers.


I haven't eaten at that many ramen shops in New York City yet. When I am back in New York City, the first ramen shop I will return to is Ramen-ya, followed by Totto Ramen and Minca Ramen Factory. After that I will explore further and track down more good ramen shops in NYC.

Restaurant name: Takashi 
Address: 456 Hudson Street, NYC, New York 
Hours: Ramen only at 12:00 midnight to 2:00 am on Friday and Saturday. Broth (and so the ramen) usually sold out by 1:00am.

Restaurant name: Totto Ramen 
Address: 366 West 52nd Street, NYC New York 
Hours: 12:00 – 4:30 pm, 5:30 pm – 12:00 am 

Restaurant name: Minca Ramen Factory 
Address: 536 East 5th Street, NYC New York (between Ave A and Ave B in East Village) 
Hours: 12:00 pm (noon) – 12:00 am (midnight)  

Restaurant: Ramen-Ya (West Village) 
Address: 181 West 4th Street, NYC New York 
Hours: 12:00 noon to 12:00 midnight

Other ramen that I also enjoyed very much in New York City.

Dates visited New York City: Nov 2014 to Jan 2015

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I firmly believe that taste is subjective and so, warmly welcome differing viewpoints :-D But, I disapprove negative comments that are anonymous or hide behind fake identities. I feel that that is the same as speaking ill of others behind their backs. I look forward to all your comments :-D Thank you. (Date: 18 Dec 2015)

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