Brimming with diversity, India displays a buffet of cuisines in this melting pot of a nation, and today that pot is overflowing with hot noodles, sliced pork and green onions in a broth. A broth that people slave over for hours on end to ensure its ultimate perfection.
Traditionally a Japanese noodle dish, the gorgeous, soupy creation of ramen has made its way to this country, bringing with it an exotic range of wild flavours and sauces, meats and greens. One whiff of that steaming broth is enough to invoke serious hunger pangs as it bathes delicious ribbon-like strands of noodles, often topped with dried seaweed, in salty richness. From Shoyu to Tonkotsu and beyond, the various culinary concoctions of ramen all have one thing in common: an irresistibly delectable broth, luscious with deep flavours and nuanced ingredients.
But considering the popularity of the once underground dish is coming to a full boil in India, it’s important to remember that making ramen is a time-honoured art too. What some people try to knock out in a couple of hours, the right people will let simmer for a day, even more, to truly capture the intensity of flavour that’s required to knock our socks off, which is why narrowing down the best spots in the country to eat it wasn’t easy. Nor should it be. Still, as thoughts of that salty, rich, soupy bowl of goodness slushed around in our mind, we totally struck gōrudo (Japanese for gold). So scroll on for 11 of India’s best places to get a soulful bowlful of ramen, and bookmark this slurpy trail for future noodle-soup fantasies.
I. Aki-Bay, Chennai
Aki-Bay was started by mechanical engineer-turned-restaurateur Satoshi Akimoto who spent two years posted in Chennai. When he had finished, he returned to Japan only to realise that he missed Chennai terribly. Before long, he quit his job and enrolled in a cooking course that was taught by some of Japan’s most celebrated ramen chefs and once he was done, he moved back to Chennai and opened Aki-Bay - our go-to Ramen haunt in the southern city. The menu here is pretty extensive, but the dish you have to try is Tori Chin-Tan: Chicken white soup ramen. Akimoto gets his vegetables and chicken fresh every day from the local market and only uses Himalayan rock salt to season - ordinary salt won’t do as it doesn’t have the same flavour enhancing powers, according to him.
II. Fatty Bao, Mumbai
When Bengaluru’s famous Fatty Bao came to Mumbai, it caused a bit of a sensation because practically everything on their menu is exciting in terms of both flavour and accessibility. But the piece de resistance has to be their ramen. Their noodles are made in-house and the stock that forms the base of all ramen dishes is simmered for over eight hours, which means it’s bursting with flavour. Try the Exotic Mushroom Ramen: mushroom broth, broccoli, renkan chips, assorted mushrooms, grilled scallion, garlic, crispy onions and smoked sweet corn if you want a vegetarian option, but we’re all about the meat so our go-to is the Chasu Ramen: pork stock with bacon, braised pork belly, bean sprouts, marinated soft boiled eggs, scallions. It’s so good you’ll find yourself unwittingly slurping up every drop.
III. Fuji, New Delhi
Fuji is all about sleek interiors and delicious flavour. The menu has all your usual Japanese offerings—Yakitori, Ebi, Makimono, Donburi and more—but the Chasyu Tonkotsu Ramen and the Butakakuni Miso Ramen are the real game changers here. Go in a group, order both, plus some edamame to freshen your palate and you’re set. Fuji also has outlets in Kolkata and Chennai.
IV. GoGo Ramen, Chennai
GoGo Ramen is definitely another Chennai must-try. And don’t bother ordering anything else. Just go straight for the kill. What you want to get is the Pork Broth Ramen: a delicious pork broth that’s simmered for 18 hours and delicately flavoured with scallions, ginger and leek. And swimming inside merrily is slow braised pork, komba and a soft-boiled egg.
V. Guppy By Ai, New Delhi
Guppy by ai is widely rumoured to serve some of the best sushi in the capital. But that’s a story for another time. What you’re getting is the Chasu Ramen, served either in the Shōyu (a clear brown broth made from chicken or vegetable stock with a heavy helping of soy sauce) or Miso (copious amounts of miso and oily chicken or fish broth) style. Guppy by ai uses homemade egg noodles in their version, but traditional ramen noodles are made using kansui, alkaline mineral water that contains sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate. It gives the noodles a yellowish texture and certain firmness. Tip: take a friend along so you can order one of each kind. Besides, it’s no fun eating alone anyway.
VI. Harima, Bengaluru
Harima is one of Bengaluru’s truly authentic Japanese restaurants. And its star ramen dish is the Negi Ramen, comprising of house-made noodles and their chicken broth (believed to be a secret recipe) and it’s all topped off with leeks and fresh spring onions. It’s simple, hearty and delicious, especially perfect for this nippy winter weather.
VII. Kofuku, Mumbai
When Kofuku opened in Bandra, it quickly became the go-to place for anyone who wanted Japanese food. It’s food was great and the prices were reasonable—all this in a city where if you want Japanese food you usually have to fork out a lot of dish. While we’re guilty of visiting Kofuku multiple times to demolish a few sushi boats and tempura, we learned the hard way that you have to go beyond to truly sample the delicate flavours and balanced taste that is Japanese food. And the best way to do that is to get their Ten Zaru Soba Ramen: cold buckwheat noodles served in a traditional bamboo mate with tempura prawns. If you never thought you could like cold noodles, think again.
VIII. Kuraaku, Rajasthan
Kuraaku is located inside Neemrana’s Hotel Hirohama and is known for it’s ultra-thick Tonkotsu Pork Broth Ramen that’s boiled for 24 hours, which really gives it a depth of flavour that’s unparalleled as far as we’re concerned.
IX. Izumi, Mumbai
A recent addition to the authentic Japanese experience offered by the Kablys, Izumi is Nooresha Kably’s newest venture with a focus on delicious sushi and ramen dishes. A quaint little restaurant, with a long queue that just doesn’t seem to get shorter, located in Pali Hill – Izumi is for anyone waiting to gorge on a perfectly-flavoured, or even customised, bowl of hot ramen. Their sushi and sashimi plates are served up right in front of you from the live sushi counter. With interiors inspired by Nooresha’s personal visits to Japan, the entire place isn’t much bigger than a typical Shinjuku bar. But the food more than makes up for the lack of space. For dessert, we’d recommend the Japanese milk pudding, black sesame ice cream, and green tea malabi topped with seasonal fruits.
X. IZU, Delhi
Unlike most Japanese restaurants, IZU’s delicious ramen menu is available throughout the day. Whether it’s a late breakfast you’re looking for or an early dinner right after a long day of work, IZU’s shoyu (ramen) is always just a quick call away (even if you can’t physically make it to the restaurant). A cute little eatery, which you would otherwise miss, this place is sure to transport you to the beautiful streets of Japan with just a bite of their steaming ramen. Famous for their home style Japanese cuisine, we’d recommend trying out the Ramen Miso. Don’t forget to ask for your preferred add-ons, like prawns or pork cubes, to ensure a satisfying meal.
XI. Mamaramma, Goa
Situated in Fontainhas, Goa’s old Latin quarter known for its heritage structures, Mamaramma is a cute little eatery serving delicious ramen and other Japanese dishes. Although, the place is open only in the evenings so keep that in mind when you go looking for this place. The showstopper on their menu is the Beef ramen. However, we’ve heard some good reviews about the Chicken ramen as well. With its minimalist ambience, limited seating, and constant smiles plastered on the faces of the employees, Mamaramma fits perfectly with the Goan vibe.
XII. One Street Over, Mumbai
Chef Kelvin Cheung (of Ellipsis fame) has everyone excited with One Street Over, his recent offering on Linking Road. Big on minimalism both in its décor and its menu, Cheung himself is a huge fan of ramen and it’s one of his personal favourites—his understanding of it is probably one of the most refined in the country, given his ramen-geek status. One Street Over is the place to go to in Mumbai for the dish. Look out for the pork miso ramen or, if you’re game, dive into the spicy ramen and we promise, you won’t regret it.
Research by Sanyukta Shetty.
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