What makes good ramen? For the uninitiated, a bowl of noodles is a bowl of noodles. To the connoisseur, however, truly good ramen noodles are made with love, made daily (even hourly), with simple ingredients – wheat flour, salt, water, and ‘kansui’ (alkaline water). They are then immersed in a rich and tasty broth, carefully prepared and simmered for at least a day, and topped with a soft-boiled egg, pork slices (chasyu), bamboo shoots, and freshly chopped leeks.
Here at Liv, ramen is a passion so we think we’d be amiss if we didn’t share our favourite Vancouver ramen spots with the world:
Though part of a chain, Jinya Ramen succeeds in delivering an authentic Japanese comfort food experience. The Robson Street location is apparently the busiest franchise in North America but thankfully, Jinya uses the Nowait app which relieves some of the waiting pain (which begs the question, why aren’t all other Vancouver “no reservation” places using this?). Once in, options are endless. There are hundreds of possible combinations of broths, additions and toppings. To help you out, we recommend trying the Tonkotsu Black Ramen. Served with a soft-boiled egg, browned perfectly thanks to a soy marinade, fried onion, garlic chips and green onion combine to deliver pleasantly potent smells and textures. For more subtle flavors, try Spicy Chicken Ramen served in a lighter chicken broth, with chicken chasyu (really good), spinach, bean sprouts, green onions and a choice of mild, spicy or hot chili.
Where: 541 Robson Street, 2129 West 41st Avenue, 4575 Central Boulevard, Burnaby
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
Hokkaido Ramen draws from the company’s roots in the cuisine and culture of Japan’s northern island of Hokkaido. The white Tonkotsu or pork bone broth is the stuff of legend. With 2 locations serving the Vancouver area, this Japanese chain delivers consistently delicious ramen. Their signature Tonkotsu is a must washed down by a weird and wonderful green cream soda.
Where: 558 West Broadway, 1690 Robson St, Vancouver
Marutama Ramen’s signature noodles are served in their succulent, creamy chicken broth made fresh every morning. Their noodles, too, are made on site daily ensuring both quality and authenticity in every slurp. Should you want a little something extra, try their celebrated fried chicken, or karaage. Their newer location is by the Vancouver Public Library where Jinya used to be so Marutama can nourish crowds at both ends of Robson Street with their delicious Japanese comfort food.
Where: 780 Bidwell St., 270 Robson Street, Vancouver
For some, Tsukemen is the only way to eat their ramen; Tsukemen separates the noodles from the broth. Taishoken is allegedly the place that introduced Tsukemen to the Vancouver market so we recommend slurping this here vs. opting for other ramen options from the menu. The noodles are served near room temperature while the broth delivers a headier intensity than normal as it is intentionally reduced to concentrate the flavor. For the inexperienced, you will notice that the noodles have a different texture – slightly more ‘al dente’, chewier than normal. However, give Tsukemen a go as many devotees believe this is the best way to enjoy ramen.
Where: 515 Abbott St, Vancouver
There’s no shortage of noodles in Chinatown but this is where you’ll find the authentic Japanese variety! Try their heady Black Garlic Ramen – rich and packing a punch. For a lighter broth, consider Red Spicy Ramen – complex and delicious. To avoid soggy noodles, a ramen no-no, Ramen Butcher changes the bowl regularly (kae-dama); you start with a small handful of their thin, home-made noodles so they are consumed before sucking up too much broth. A second, fresh set of noodles is free and after that you start paying.
Where: 223 E Georgia St, Vancouver
For a better appreciation of the art of ramen, consider checking out the 2017 Documentary, Ramen Heads. Then once you’ve come to fully appreciate a steamy bowl of ramen, consider testing your new noodle chops by participating in the Giga Ramen Challenge where competitors attempt to consume a gluttonous amount of ramen in 30 minutes.