What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘ramen’? It’s most probably a travel show in Japan, where the host is deftly slurping down noodles with the help of chopsticks from a big bowl of soup—Chef David Chang in The Mind of A Chef. Over the past decade, however, there’s been a steady increase in popular interest in Japanese cuisine, and the OG ramen, a bowl full of umami-rich broth with freshly made noodles, vegetables, meat and a boiled egg, has finally found a following in India.
There are several origin stories related to ramen but hardly any historical records. Of them, the most popular one, which made it to American historian George Solt’s book The Untold History of Ramen, says that ramen has Chinese origins. It is believed that this soupy noodle dish first made its appearance in Japan around the 1850s, when the country, followed by a treaty with the United States, opened its ports for trade. Many Chinese traders migrated to these ports at that time and their daily meal was a simple chicken soup with wheat noodles and scallions called Nankin soba, named after China’s then-capital. It was inexpensive and could be made with minimal ingredients. The name ‘ramen’ was derived from the Chinese word for handmade noodles: lamian. With time, countless regional variations of the ramen came up across Japan.
With an unclear history but intense flavours, ramen hasn’t just become an iconic dish in its home country Japan, but all across the globe. Lucky for Mumbaikars, the city is home to a host of restaurants serving the best of ramen varieties. Here’s a list of our favourites. Happy slurping!
Their must-haves include a Pork Tonkotsu Ramen, featuring a thick and creamy pork bone broth, and Curry Ramen, featuring a creamy, curry flavoured miso (fermented bean paste) and soy milk broth.
Where: Shop 4, Ground Floor, Sunbeam Apartments, Perry Cross Road, Off Carter Road, Bandra West, Mumbai
2. Fatty Bao
Ramen lovers are a particular bunch, when you promise them authentic flavours, you must deliver! That’s exactly what Fatty Bao does. The standout here is the spin on the broth, which is tempered with a handful of humble ingredients such as soy, garlic and truffle oil. You must try their soul-warming Tantanmen Ramen that’s made of a combination of chicken and pork broth, crisp fried pork belly, a classic half egg and springy noodles. This hearty dish is spicy and comes laced with a distinct nuttiness, which is courtesy a generous drizzle of sesame oil.
In addition to the Tantanmen, you must also give
a chance to their signature dish The Fatty Pho, a Vietnamese variation that is
a flavour bomb prepared with smoked chicken, fried onions, scallions, black
noodles and chicken broth.
Where: G1, 108, Ground Floor, Morya Classic, Andheri - West, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400102
3. Tokyo Treat Located in south Mumbai, Tokyo Treat is the place you turn
to when you want to relish authentic Japanese food on a budget. Tokyo Treat only
offers two ramen bowls: chicken and veg miso mazeman. It may seem limited at
first, but when you savour it, you’ll realise that that’s the only varieties
you need. Perfect for people who aren’t fans of the broth, Mazeman is a type of
ramen that omits most or all of the broth from the dish. Instead, it has
toppings such as sashimi or cucumbers, which may not work in the traditional
version of the dish.
Where: Imperial Heights, Store No.15, Om Building, B 2 B Near, M. P. Mills Compound Rd, Tulsiwadi, Tardeo, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400034
4. Origami Japanese and Korean Restaurant
Origami in the suburb of Powai in Mumbai, combines local, seasonal ingredients with ones sourced from Japan and Korea to whip up dishes that transport you to their places of origin. Perpetually packed with Japanese and Korean food lovers, this restaurant has three varieties of hearty ramen bowls – tonkotsu, miso and shoyu. They also serve its Korean counterpart called ramyeon or ramyun which, unlike the Japanese ramen, is spicy and has stronger flavours. Pick between the shoyu (a soy sauce-based broth) and miso when planning to order from Origami.
Where: B Wing, Ground Floor, Supreme Business Park, Hiranandani Gardens, Powai.
Broth Noodle and Bao
Where: Shop no 12, Piroja Mansion, Alibhai Premji Rd, Pannalal Terrace, Bharat Nagar, Grant Road East, Mumbai
Chef Prateek Sadhu and entreprenuer Aditi Dugar's fine-dine restaurant that's known for its farm-to-table concept opened in April, amid the lockdown, to cook meals for takeaway and delivery. Their offerings include Thai bhel, rogan josh, dum aloo, s'mores cakes, granola and Kashmiri katlam bread and, of course, wholesome and hearty ramen bowls with noodles made from scratch. We recommend their chashu ramen that features slices of rolled chicken thighs and shoyu eggs.
Where: Masque, Unit G3, Shree Laxmi Woollen Mills, Shakti Mills Lane, Off, Dr E Moses Rd, Mahalakshmi, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400011
7. The Clearing House
Where: 13-15, Calicut Rd, Ballard Estate, Fort, Mumbai, Maharashtra 400001
Banner image: Shutterstock
Inside images: All restaurants' Instagram and Shutterstock