They say in Hong Kong that you’re never more than a few streets away from a steaming bowl of freshly made noodle soup. Well, actually no one says it, but it’s true. Once you’ve sampled the best laksa, slurped up the finest bowls of boat noodles and visited the best pho restaurants in the city, it’s time for arguably the mother of all Asian noodle soups: ramen.
In Japan, ramen is categorised by tare, the stock’s base flavour. You can try every version imaginable in Hong Kong. For the traditionalists, there’s salt-based shio, soy-based shoyu, soybean paste-flavoured miso and the much-loved tonkotsu, made from a rich pork bone broth. And for the more adventurous, the city’s innovators offer black garlic or truffle-laden ramens and even a Mediterranean fusion take on the classic soup. So whether it’s a quick lunchtime stop or a late-night feed to soba you up, here are the best bowls in town. By Sam Sinha
RECOMMENDED: Over noodles? Try sushi, tempura and more at Hong Kong’s best Japanese restaurants instead.
The best ramen in Hong Kong
Born in Hong Kong, Butao Ramen has grown to 10 outlets in its first nine years. It offers a mix of well-executed classics and fusion-inspired alternatives. A savoury pork bone broth is the base for all the variations: the signature tonkotsu ramen, the Black Bomb, with black garlic, squid ink and minced pork, and the fiery chilli-infused Red King. All are served with Hakata-style thin noodles. For the willful betrayers of all things sacred, The Green King is a fusion of the Western flavours of olive oil, fresh basil and Parmesan with a traditional tonkotsu broth.
At Ebisoba Ichigen, they don’t skimp on the shrimp. The Sapporo export now has a second store in Wan Chai after opening its flagship Hong Kong venue at Harbour City, the first location in the world to serve ebi mazesoba – an incredibly rich broth flavoured with shrimp essence, shrimp oil and shrimp soy sauce. The bowls come with your choice of thick or thin noodles and are topped with diced BBQ pork, a hot egg, sweet shrimp tempura bits, green onions and seaweed.
Entering Ichiran is like walking into a ramen temple where devoted worshippers queue patiently before being ushered into individual booths – as is common in Japan. Orders are taken and delivered by faceless individuals behind a screen making ordering that naughty extra piece of pork belly like delivering confession. The heavenly tonkotsu broth complete with Hakata-style noodles, cooked to your preference, is unctuous, unashamedly fatty and deeply satisfying. Amen.
Simple, authentic to tradition and delicious, Ichitora serves up warming bowls of pork fat-infused broth from its shops in Amoi Street, Wan Chai and Central. Play it safe with the traditional Ichitora Ramen, or if you’re feeling more adventurous, try the black garlic-infused Kurotora Ramen. All the bowls are made with a dashi of pork bones, seafood, vegetables and bonito simmered for at least 12 hours and come with the obligatory bamboo shoots, black fungus, a wobbly egg and, of course, soft, smoky slices of rolled and roasted pork belly.
Mong Kok’s Isaba Taifu offers a choice of styles, serving tsukumen for lunch and regular ramen of an evening. The pork bone broth used in both concoctions is rich and satisfying and toppings include all the usual suspects plus crunchy dried shrimp. The walls are covered in Japanese posters but that’s not the only a quirky touch. They offer free hair ties so you get stuck into a steaming bowl without worrying about messing up your do.
Prepare to be greeted by a neon pair of monkey mascots as you enter this 12-seater eatery. As it’s he sister restaurant to Wagyumafia next door, you know you’re getting quality beef at Mashi No Mashi. The ramen is served tsukumen-style, separate from the broth, to be dipped in at your leisure. Along with the slab of top-notch beef are noodles, bamboo shoots, cabbage, nori and half a soft-boiled egg. The broth itself is masterfully produced and delivers all the rich, savoury deliciousness you would expect. It comes with a price tag to match – at $160, the tokusei tsukumen is one of the most expensive bowls in town.
Ramen Cubism specialises in handcrafted noodles served in broths prepared with meticulously sourced ingredients. The bare wood-bedecked space looks the part, as do the carefully constructed bowls, but on occasion it can feel a little like style over substance. There are several soup bases on offer, all with quirky names such as the chicken broth-based Sky Bird, the clear ‘Earth Bird and the Sea – Soy Soup’, a soy-based ramen. Also be sure to try the matsu hayashi dumplings, which are fried to a crisp golden brown and served with house chilli sauce. Despite some issues with consistency, Ramen Cubism remains a popular choice with a solid range of ramens which when at their best, rival any in the city.
After opening the world’s first Michelin-starred ramen shop in Tokyo, and then arriving in Causeway to great fanfare, Tsuta expanded to a second location in TST and still commands long queues daily. Only 400 bowls are served each day from the open kitchens, a clever ploy to maintain a sense of scarcity. But the broth lives up to the hype. Whole chickens are simmered for nine hours with fresh clams and dried fish daily, for a deeply savoury broth, finished with homemade porcini mushroom, chilli oil and the signature truffle sauce.