If you’re a fan of Japanese soul food, namely the heaven-sent goodness that is ramen, and you happen to live in the New York City area, boy do we have some good news for you!
There is no shortage of truly gourmet ramen in Tokyo, though few bowls can compete with Ippudo (?????), which is widely regarded as one of the country’s best noodles shops. Originating in the city of Hakata (????) on the island of Kyushu, Ippudo pays homage to its roots by serving up some of the best damn Hakata-style ramen on the planet.
Hakata ramen is distinguished by its rich and milky pork-bone broth, thin noodles and unique toppings such as pickled ginger, crushed sesame and pickled greens. However, Ippudo expands on this traditional recipe by adding fiery Tokyo-style red miso, savory black sesame oil and a wide range of toppings such as soft-boiled eggs and thick sheets of nori.
And now, if you happen to be a New Yorker in need of some serious ramen, all you need to do is head to the brand-new Ippudo NY, located at 65 4th Avenue in downtown Manhattan.
Although ramen has always been regarded as something of a blue-collar staple in Japan, Ippudo was one of first major commercial enterprises to vault this hearty dish to truly gourmet levels. The story of Ippudo is really the story of Shigemi Kawahara, who is widely regarded in Japan as the ‘King of Ramen.’ After launching his first ramen restaurant in 1985, Kawahara went on to open up a total of 34 shops throughout the country, and is currently aiming to bring his epicurean noodles to the international stage.
According to Kawahara: “The restaurant is the stage and the business is the art. We are not just making ramen, but creating and instilling a feeling of gratitude. My ambition is to have Japanese ramen take root around the world.”
Kawahara is credited with several ramen innovations, most notably the incredibly refined texture of his handmade noodles, which are made from several different types of blended flour. The ramen master also builds his soup stock from no less than three individually blended mixes, and is extremely proud of his roast pork, which is slow-cooked in a closely-guarded secret sauce. And finally, Kawahara is regarded as the first chef to use color designation (red and white) as a way of defining his signature miso-based ramen soups.
With a history dating back over 300 years, ramen noodles have undergone an incredible transformation from their humble origins as Chinese-inspired fast food. And, needless to say, true ramen is nothing like the Styrofoam-packaged Cup o’Noodles that are something of a staple amongst American college students. With that said, if you’re still unconvinced that ramen noodles can be as gourmet as a finely aged cheese or a hand-plucked wild mushroom, head to Ippudo NY and see what you’ve been missing.
Ippudo NY is located on 4th Ave between East 9th and 10th Streets, and is open daily for lunch and dinner. For more information, check out www.ippudo.com/ny.