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Battle of the Ramen Pt. 1

The one thing I miss about NYC is the ramen scene. Sadly, it does not exist in Houston, and trust me, I’ve tried. Now when I say “ramen” the first thing that may pop into your head are college flash backs of eating dried instant noodles in your dorm room/apartment. That’s not the kind of ramen I’m referring to. What I’m talking about is fresh homemade Japanese ramen.

So whats the secret to delicious mind blowing foodgasm ramen? The broth.  Of course having perfectly cooked noodles would help too, but if you don’t have the an amazing broth, then your noodles don’t stand a chance. Noodles for ramen should be springy and smooth for slurping– but not starchy or slimy.

My favorite broth is the Tonkotsu broth — also known as the Holy Grail of noodle soup broths. Tonkotsu is made from pork bone and fat that is boiled for many many hours resulting in a silky, creamy and nearly white in color broth. I have not tried making it at home before, but if you have the time and  patience, below are a few recipes:

http://www.seriouseats.com/2012/02/how-to-make-tonkotsu-ramen-broth-at-home-recipe.html

http://norecipes.com/blog/tonkotsu-ramen-recipe/

When I first moved to Washington, DC I had a strange craving for ramen and that’s when my journey for the best ramen began. I lived in Bethesda, MD and noticed a cozy Japanese ramen and sushi restaurant. I had cooked fresh ramen before at home, but I wanted to see if the restaurant would provide an inspiring experience.

Ramen shop #1: Satsuma, 8003 Norfolk Ave, Bethesda, MD 20814

I ordered a bowl of ramen here and I was not impressed. The broth was not rich and flavorful and the noodles were lifeless. It was just okay but nothing memorable or worth going back for. I was a bit disappointed because I could make a better bowl of ramen at home.

If this was any indication of how the ramen scene was in the DMV area, I  set for disappointment. I decided to give the ramen scene one more try and I’m glad I did. After doing some research online, I continued my journey to…

Ramen shop #2: Toki Underground, 1234 H St N E, 2nd Fl, Washington, DC 20002

In Japan, a typical ramen shop would seat maybe 25 people, maximum. You eat your noodles at the noodle bar and then you continue on your merry way. This is how Toki Underground is set up, like a typical ramen bar. With that being said, if you do not come here right when the shop opens, be prepared for a 2 hour wait.

Toki is hidden upstairs (yes, it is not underground)above a pub. At first glance I could have easily missed it because the only sign of its existence is their door. When you walk up the stairs it feels like you’ve just stepped into a hipster underground scene. The walls are lined with Asian action figures and skate decks; the ambiance is really cozy since it’s a small space. The staff is really friendly and they have a special menu that changes daily–they like to experiment with different drinks. That particular day they were experimenting with black berries, which turned out to be delicious.

On to the ramen! I ordered the Hakata Classic and it took me back to memories of eating ramen in NYC. I like the fact they use wavy noodles instead of straight. The tonkotsu broth was smooth and rich in flavor–you could tell hours of preparation have been put into it. The one item that stood out was the soft poached egg–it was cooked to perfection and the yolk slowly oozed out into the broth adding a whole new level to it. I can easily say that Toki Underground has the best ramen in D.C.

 

Battle of the Ramen to be continued…