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Photograph: Jolie RubenMa-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 mushroomsConversation 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.
Photograph: Krista SchlueterExtreme Spicy Ramen at Totto Ramen
Broth: Paitan (chicken bones and vegetables)Noodles: House-made straight, thin noodlesToppings: Original rayu (house-made spicy chili sauce), pork or chicken char siu, scallion, bean sprout and nori seaweedConversation 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.
Photograph: Lizz KuehlShiro ramen at Ramen Misoya
Broth: Shiro miso, chicken and pork bones, ginger, seaweed kelp, vegetables and garlicNoodles: Thick, wavy noodlesToppings: Fried tofu, bean sprouts, cabbage, bamboo shoots and miso-simmered ground porkConversation 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.
Photograph: Lizz KuehlPork-bone ramen at Chuko
Broth: Tonkotsu (pig's feet, pork belly, ham bones, pork scraps and bacon)Noodles: Straight, thin noodlesToppings: Mustard greens, poached egg, duroc pork or Giannone chicken, and scallionsConversation 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.
Momofuku ramen at Momofuku Noodle Bar
Broth: Kelp, shiitake mushrooms, chicken, scallion, mirin, soy, sake and Benton's baconNoodles: Straight alkaline noodlesToppings: Roasted pork belly, roasted pork shoulder, nori, napa cabbage, a poached egg, sliced scallions and a fish cakeConversation 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.
Photograph: Lindsay Maclean TaylorWild black cod ramen at Souen Organic Ramen
Broth: Vegetable, kale, shiitake mushroom stock and wild black-cod stockNoodles: Your choice of wheat noodles, rice noodles, brown-rice or zucchini noodles Toppings: Wild black cod, nappa cabbage, carrots, onion, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and leeksConversation 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.
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczTerakawa 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 noodlesToppings: Roasted pork belly, kikurage mushrooms, pickled ginger, scallions and bamboo shootsConversation 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.
Photograph: Chiara MarinaiTonkotsu ramen at Minca
Broth: An 80/20 blend of pork and chicken stocks, made in house with bones and flavored with Mongolian saltNoodles: Choice of five varieties—owner Shigeto Kamada suggests very thick, plain noodlesToppings: Mountain vegetables, Chinese-style mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallions, slow-cooked pork belly, egg and noriConversation 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.
Photograph: Chiara MarinaiTsukemen 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 udonToppings: Mountain vegetables, Chinese-style mushrooms, bamboo shoots, scallions, slow-cooked pork belly, egg and noriConversation 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.
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczSalt-and-butter ramen at Tokyo Restaurant
Broth: Chicken-based broth, with butter and salt addedNoodles: Slightly wavyToppings: Pork char siu, bamboo shoots, bean sprouts, spinach, scallions and boiled eggConversation 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.
Photograph: Caroline Voagen NelsonAkamaru Modern at Ippudo NY
Broth: Tonkotsu cooked for 12–15 hours with pork bones from Berkshire pigs Noodles: Thin, straight noodles made in-houseToppings: 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.
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczGreen 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 dashiNoodles: Straight egg noodlesToppings: Thai basil, cilantro, soft-cooked egg, scallions and pork-belly char siuConversation 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.
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczKanton men at Menkui Tei
Broth: Soy- and seaweed-based brothNoodles: Curly egg noodlesToppings: Roasted pork, scallions, bean sprouts, bamboo shoots and eggConversation 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.
Photograph: Lindsay M TaylorCurry ramen at Rai Rai Ken
Broth: Kelp broth with curry mixed inNoodles: Slightly wavy noodlesToppings: Roasted pork, egg, scallions and seaweedConversation 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.
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczShio ramen at Ramen Takumi
Broth: Chicken-based shio (salt) brothNoodles: Straight, thin noodlesToppings: Bamboo shoots, boiled egg, seaweed, grilled pork and anchoviesConversation 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.
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczSapporo Special Ramen at Sapporo
Broth: Miso and chicken broth mixed and cooked together for eight hoursNoodles: Egg and wheat noodles—medium-thick and slightly wavyToppings: Braised pork, diced pork, corn, spinach, scallions and bamboo shootsConversation 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.
Photograph: Paul WagtouiczTsukemen at Sanshiro (at SEO)
Broth: Soy-sauce–based dipping brothNoodles: Wavy and thickToppings: Pork, egg, spinach and bamboo shootsConversation 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.
Photograph: Talia ShimShio ramen at Ramen Setagaya
Broth: Original shio broth made with chicken and pork bones, dried scallops, mushrooms, anchovies, garlic, ginger and cabbageNoodles: Thin wheat noodlesToppings: Barbecued pork, salted eggs, seaweed, bamboo shoots, scallions and scallop powderConversation 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.
Photograph: Courtesy of Kubo HiroshiKubo-chan shio at Kuboya
Broth: A light-bodied blend of seafood, chicken and pork broths; seasoning includes dried shrimp and dried scallopNoodles: 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.
Photograph: Hannah MattixHakata ramen at Menchanko Tei
Broth: Rich, cloudy Hakata-style pork-bone brothNoodles: Very thin and straightToppings: 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.
20 essential ramen dishes
TONY breaks down the specs of some of the city's best steaming bowls.