Japanese noodle soup – what’s the big deal? Judging by all the specialty ramen joints around town – a lot. Time Out staff slurp their way through the streets of Hong Kong to find the star versions of this classic comfort food.
Famous for its extra-strong pork bone broth, the chain of Butao restaurants sport some of the longest lines we’ve ever seen at lunchtime. Once in, though, you can get Hakata-style ramen with thin, straight noodles. In true Japanese fashion, your noodle bowl is customisable. You can choose the richness of the taste and thickness of the noodles. Even the best coffees don’t get this treatment. Try the East-meets-West green king ramen ($90) if you haven’t been overcome with hunger in the queue. Various outlets inc 40 Tang Lung St, Causeway Bay, 2893 3190; butaoramen.com.
Hakodate Japanese Restaurant
The city of Hakodate sits prettily in Hokkaido, Japan, and is famous for its delish shio ramen, a distinctive, salt-based broth variety of the dish. The Hakodate restaurant takes all the flavours from the city and serves it up for us Hongkongers. The shio ramen is $65 here and it’s fab – but for an extra decadent meal, get a slab of butter on top. You can watch it melt into the broth as you eat, adding to the rich flavours. Shop B, 11 Hoi Kwung St, Quarry Bay, 2562 8706; facebook.com/ramen.hakodate.
Long lines are the norm at Kamitora, so time your visit wisely. Once inside, though, the original Kamitora ramen ($83) is to die for, with Kyushu-style straight noodles and a perfectly done hanjuku (half-cooked) egg on top. For something more adventurous, try the black tora ($78), which is flavoured with black garlic. 23 Amoy St, Wan Chai, 2808 0635; facebook.com/kamitora.ramen.at.wanchai.
The one to try here is the vegetable mountain ramen ($95), which is topped off with so many greens that you have to dig your way down to the noodle portions. Lettuce, bean sprouts and peanut shavings all make an appearance on the way, so there’s always something healthy to enjoy. The chashu pork comes in fat, juicy slices but you barely notice the grease within that epic tower of veggies. 3 Caroline Hill Rd, Causeway Bay, 2885 0638; ramen-jo.com.
The specialty here – the noodles, of course – are of the Kyushu variety, but they have extra protein added to them, making for slippery, almost chewy strings that fans swear by. Get a good ol’ miso ramen ($78) so you can appreciate the texture of these babies. Once you’ve been converted, there’s plenty of time to come back and try the rest. Shop C2, Lun Fat St, 118 Queen’s Rd E, Wan Chai, 2529 6655; facebook.com/yukiteiramenhk.
Probably the most famous ramen place in China, Ajisen makes a tasty and healthy "white soup base" with pork and fish bones. First-timer? Give the Yummy Yamagata corn ramen a go. The steamy bowl of eggy ramen comes with crispy cuttlefish tempura in a sweetcorn broth. Various outlets inc Shops 107-108, 1/F, City One Plaza, 1 Ngan Shin St, Sha Tin, 2146 0266.
Named after its Japanese boss, Domon inherits the purest flavours of Sapporo through its decor and food. Its ramen in miso butter is highly recommended. Also try the noodles with seafood, in a soup made from three kinds of miso. Various outlets inc Shop UG15, The Westwood, 8 Belchers St, Kennedy Town, 2542 7068.
Noodle House Ippei-An
Founder Itsuko Shimada opened her first outlet in Tsim Sha Tsui East in 1984. Her restaurant has since become a citywide chain, thanks to its ability to deliver an authentic dining experience to local Japanese. The shops are famous for their tonkostu (pork-bone) soup and hearty bowls of noodles with condiments. Shop 2007, 2/F, Miramar Shopping Centre, 132 Nathan Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, 2375 5330.
With its miso and ramen imported from Japan, Santouka is as authentic as they come. The broth comes hidden under a thick layer of red chilli oil, sesame seeds and black fungus, with the noodles coated in a spicy miso base. Chewy slices of red-chilli skin top off the fiery flavour. Shop 315, 3/F., Tsuen Wan Plaza, 4-30 Tai Pa St, Tseun Wan, 2557 6788.
Sapporo Japanese Restaurant
Authentic Hokkaido ramen and fried dumplings are served at this busy lunchtime spot. The slurpy ramen in milky, bone-based broth is a bowl of goodness.us, with the noodles coated in a spicy miso base. Chewy slices of red-chilli skin top off the fiery flavour. G/F, Fortune House, 61 Connaught Rd C, Central, 2140 6883.
Named after one of Japan’s most respected sumo wrestlers, this noodle institution has been bowling out the ramen since 1987. Try their non-traditional Yokohama curry ramen, with tomato, bacon and parmesan cheese. Not your typical bowl of Japanese noodles, but it sure is tasty. G/F, Yun Kai Bldg, 466-472 Nathan Rd, Yau Ma Tei, 2783 0784.