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20 essential ramen dishes

TONY breaks down the specs of some of the city's best steaming bowls.

1/20
Photograph: Jolie Ruben

Ma-yu ramen at Hide-Chan

Broth: Tonkotsu (pork-back bone, garlic, soy sauce and pork-back oil)
Noodles: House-made straight noodles (ask for them firm if you like your noodles al dente)
Toppings: Mayu (charred garlic oil), pork char siu, scallion and jelly-ear mushrooms
Conversation piece: Owner Bobby Munekata's mini empire also includes Totto Ramen, Soba Totto and Yakitori Totto. 366 W 52nd St between Eighth and Ninth Aves (212-582-0052). $9.75.

2/20
Photograph: Krista Schlueter

Extreme Spicy Ramen at Totto Ramen

Broth: Paitan (chicken bones and vegetables)
Noodles: House-made straight, thin noodles
Toppings: Original rayu (house-made spicy chili sauce), pork or chicken char siu, scallion, bean sprout and nori seaweed
Conversation piece: Totto's special spicy sauce—made with charred-sesame oil, red chili pepper, black pepper and garlic—is not lip-singeing, but the steaming broth coats your mouth and throat in chili, creating a slow burn that builds up as you work your way through the bowl. (Read more: the city's spiciest dishes.) 248 E 52nd St between Second and Third Aves, second floor (212-813-1800). $10.50.

3/20
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

Shiro ramen at Ramen Misoya

Broth: Shiro miso, chicken and pork bones, ginger, seaweed kelp, vegetables and garlic
Noodles: Thick, wavy noodles
Toppings: Fried tofu, bean sprouts, cabbage, bamboo shoots and miso-simmered ground pork
Conversation piece: The Misoya chain, which was founded just outside Tokyo in Chiba, focuses on different regional styles of miso ramen—the shiro variety is typical of Kyoto. 129 Second Ave between St. Marks Pl and E 7th St (212-677-4825). $10.50.

4/20
Photograph: Lizz Kuehl

Pork-bone ramen at Chuko

Broth: Tonkotsu (pig's feet, pork belly, ham bones, pork scraps and bacon)
Noodles: Straight, thin noodles
Toppings: Mustard greens, poached egg, duroc pork or Giannone chicken, and scallions
Conversation piece: The two chefs in the kitchen—Jamison Blankenship and David Koon—are both Morimoto vets, and they spent months testing different broths, noodles and toppings to create the three bowls on their opening menu. 552 Vanderbilt Ave between Bergen and Dean Sts, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn (718-576-6701). $12.

5/20

Momofuku ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar

Broth: Kelp, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, scallion, mirin, soy, sake and Benton's bacon
Noodles: Straight alkaline noodles
Toppings: Roasted pork belly, roasted pork shoulder, nori, napa cabbage, a poached egg, sliced scallions and a fish cake
Conversation piece: The first issue of Lucky Peach—David Chang's quarterly magazine, published by McSweeney's—includes a travelogue of the chef's ramen-eating adventures in Tokyo. 171 First Ave between 10th and 11th Sts (212-777-7773). $16.

6/20
Photograph: Lindsay Maclean Taylor

Wild black cod ramen at Souen Organic Ramen

Broth: Vegetable, kale, shiitake mushroom stock and wild black-cod stock
Noodles: Your choice of wheat noodles, rice noodles, brown-rice or zucchini noodles
Toppings: Wild black cod, nappa cabbage, carrots, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and leeks
Conversation piece: Souen specializes in macrobiotic, vegan and vegetarian Japanese food; there is a gluten-free option for almost every dish on the menu. 326 E 6th St between First and Second Aves (212-388-1155). $14.50.

7/20
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Terakawa Ramen at Terakawa Ramen

Broth: Tonkotsu (three kinds of pork bones—head, backbone and knees—are cooked for a minimum of 14 hours, and then left to sit for at least 12 more hours)
Noodles: Straight, thin noodles
Toppings: Roasted pork belly, kikurage mushrooms, pickled ginger, scallions and bamboo shoots
Conversation piece: While tonkotsu is most commonly associated with Japan's Hakata region, Terakawa has its roots in Kumamoto, a nearby prefecture known for its slightly milder variation on the style. 885 Ninth Ave between 57th and 58th Sts (212-777-2939). $9.

8/20
Photograph: Chiara Marinai

Tonkotsu ramen at Minca

Broth: An 80/20 blend of pork and chicken stocks, made in house with bones and flavored with Mongolian salt
Noodles: Choice of five varieties—owner Shigeto Kamada suggests very thick, plain noodles
Toppings: Mountain vegetables, Chinese-style mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallions, slow-cooked pork belly, egg and nori
Conversation piece: Kamada fell in love with tonkotsu ramen while living in Tokyo in his twenties, and always wanted to create his own version of the famous pork broth. 536 E 5th St between Aves A and B (212-505-8001). $10.50.

9/20
Photograph: Chiara Marinai

Tsukemen at Kambi

Broth: Tonkotsu (an 80/20 blend of house-made pork and chicken stocks, thickened with fish powder and other secret ingredients)
Noodles: Extremely thick, similar to udon
Toppings: Mountain vegetables, Chinese-style mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallions, slow-cooked pork belly, egg and nori
Conversation piece: Tsukemen is also referred to by the name dipping noodles; rather than being combined in one bowl, the noodles and toppings are served on the side, then dipped with chopsticks into the broth. 351 E 14th St between First and Second Aves (212-228-1366). $12–$14.

10/20
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Salt-and-butter ramen at Tokyo Restaurant

Broth: Chicken-based broth, with butter and salt added
Noodles: Slightly wavy
Toppings: Pork char siu, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, spinach, scallions and boiled egg
Conversation piece: Restaurant Tokyo is one of the stalwarts of Japanese dining in NYC; it's been in business for more than 40 years and serves a wide range of dishes. 342 Lexington Ave between 39th and 40th Sts (212-697-8330). $13.75.

11/20
Photograph: Caroline Voagen Nelson

Akamaru Modern at Ippudo NY

Broth: Tonkotsu cooked for 12–15 hours with pork bones from Berkshire pigs  
Noodles: Thin, straight noodles made in-house
Toppings: Pork-belly char siu, cabbage, kikurage mushrooms, scallions, garlic oil and umami dama (umami ball)
Conversation: Ippudo was brought to NYC by Shigemi Kawahara, who is known as "the Ramen King" in Japan; his rich, cloudy tonkotsu broths draw the longest lines of any of the city's ramen-ya, and they're well worth the wait. 65 Fourth Ave between 9th and 10th Sts (212-388-0088). $15.

12/20
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Green curry miso ramen at Zuzu Ramen

Broth: Chicken-based stock mixed with white and red miso, green curry paste, Thai chili peppers, garlic, soy and dashi
Noodles: Straight egg noodles
Toppings: Thai basil, cilantro, soft-cooked egg, scallions and pork-belly char siu
Conversation piece: This Brooklyn joint is known for its creative, nontraditional ramen styles, including a hot-and-sour variety with shrimp and lemongrass. 173 Fourth Ave at DeGraw St, Park Slope, Brooklyn (718-398-9898). $10.

13/20
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Kanton men at Menkui Tei

Broth: Soy- and seaweed-based broth
Noodles: Curly egg noodles
Toppings: Roasted pork, scallions, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots and egg
Conversation piece: This no-frills ramen spot—with plenty of seats to spare for a procession of NYU students and Japanese regulars—is a solid backup plan for anyone who doesn't want to wait for a table at nearby Ippudo. 63 Cooper Sq between Astor Pl and E 7th St (212-228-4152). From $10.

14/20
Photograph: Lindsay M Taylor

Curry ramen at Rai Rai Ken

Broth: Kelp broth with curry mixed in
Noodles: Slightly wavy noodles
Toppings: Roasted pork, egg, scallions and seaweed
Conversation piece: With just 14 stools overlooking an open kitchen, Rai Rai Ken is a good approximation of the small, humble ramen-ya found throughout Japan. 214 E 10th St between First and Second Aves (212-447-7030). $8.50.

15/20
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Shio ramen at Ramen Takumi

Broth: Chicken-based shio (salt) broth
Noodles: Straight, thin noodles
Toppings: Bamboo shoots, boiled egg, seaweed, grilled pork and anchovies
Conversation piece: Shio ramen is popular on Hokkaido, a northern Japanese island where lots of expensive salt is mined, and in Tokyo. 90 University Pl between 11th and 12th Sts (212-229-2752). Lunch $9.45, dinner $10.45.

16/20
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Sapporo Special Ramen at Sapporo

Broth: Miso and chicken broth mixed and cooked together for eight hours
Noodles: Egg and wheat noodles—medium-thick and slightly wavy
Toppings: Braised pork, diced pork, corn, spinach, scallions and bamboo shoots
Conversation piece: Sapporo is known as the birthplace of miso ramen. According to lore, the variant was invented in 1955, when a customer asked a chef to add some noodles to his miso-and-pork soup. 152 W 49th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-869-8972). $10.

17/20
Photograph: Paul Wagtouicz

Tsukemen at Sanshiro (at SEO)

Broth: Soy-sauce–based dipping broth
Noodles: Wavy and thick
Toppings: Pork, egg, spinach and bamboo shoots
Conversation piece: This pop-up ramen joint takes over the kitchen at midtown sushi restaurant SEO from 11pm to around 2am each night. 249 E 49th St between Second and Third Aves (212-355-7722). $12.50.

18/20
Photograph: Talia Shim

Shio ramen at Ramen Setagaya

Broth: Original shio broth made with chicken and pork bones, dried scallops, mushrooms, anchovies, garlic, ginger and cabbage
Noodles: Thin wheat noodles
Toppings: Barbecued pork, salted eggs, seaweed, bamboo shoots, scallions and scallop powder
Conversation piece: This Japanese export started in Tokyo before making the jump to the East Village; the shio broth here is unique for its nontraditional use of chicken and pork bones. 34 St. Marks Pl between Second and Third Aves (212-387-7959). $10.

19/20
Photograph: Courtesy of Kubo Hiroshi

Kubo-chan shio at Kuboya

Broth: A light-bodied blend of seafood, chicken and pork broths; seasoning includes dried shrimp and dried scallop
Noodles: Slightly thin and wavy, custom-made with Japanese wheat
Toppings: Pork char siu, bamboo shoots, cooked egg and scallions
Conversation piece: Owner Hiroshi Kubo grew up eating ramen in Tokyo, but he spent six years of his youth in Fukuoka, where he fell in love with the tonkotsu broth popular there. With his mash-up recipes, he seeks to combine his favorite types of ramen into an original New York style. 536 E 5th St between Aves A and B (212-777-7010). $10.50; half size $7.

20/20
Photograph: Hannah Mattix

Hakata ramen at Menchanko Tei

Broth: Rich, cloudy Hakata-style pork-bone broth
Noodles: Very thin and straight
Toppings: Pork char siu, black mushrooms, red ginger and scallions
Conversation piece: In addition to several varieties of ramen, this midtown spot also offers "Menchanko" soups, inspired by traditional, hearty stews eaten by sumo wrestlers. They are served in large cast-iron pots packed with noodles, meat, seafood, vegetables and a light soy-sauce-based broth. 131 E 45th St between Lexington and Third Aves (212-986-6805). $8.50.

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