Ramen Noodles: From Budget to Boutique

Anyone who has ever gone away to college is probably familiar with ramen noodles. Many of my friends and family tell stories of eating ramen noodles seven days a week because that’s all they were able to afford. But things have changed for this meek and unassuming sqiuggly wheat pasta. Today you can find ramen shops dotting the streets of many larger cities, patronized by upscale foodies and budget-minded diners alike. Ramen noodles have officially gone from budget to boutique!

ramen noodles

Ramen noodles aren’t just used in soups. Check out this delicious spicy shrimp ramen noodle entree. Image credit: jeffreyw

What are Ramen Noodles?

Ramen noodles are thin Japanese wheat noodles. Traditionally they are served in a broth made with a fish or miso base, but can also be found as a noodle dish without the broth. Ramen noodles are one of America’s most ubiquitous ethnic foods, likely to be found even in the smallest of grocery stores.

Pre-packaged lunch portions seasoned with the protein of your choice will usually cost less than 50 cents each. One major retailer sells a package of 12 for just $2.22! But don’t grimace just yet – the boutique ramen noodles I’m speaking of are a far cry from these dehydrated campus icons.

ramen noodles

Ramen noodles are thin Japanese wheat noodles traditionally served in a broth made with a fish or miso base. Image credit: Kropsoq

How Are Boutique Ramen Noodles Different?

When ordering up ramen noodles at an authentic Japanese noodle bar you will have a choice of many different varieties. The ingredients are fresh and wholesome, exploding with flavor that you won’t find in the cellophane-wrapped store shelf variety. When I first tasted the fresh bamboo shoots in my dish, I had to take a second look. Their texture and taste was nothing like the processed and canned variety I’m used to getting at the grocery store.

Rockin’ Ramen Noodles

On a recent trip to New York City I had the pleasure of sampling ramen noodles from two fantastic restaurants.

Momofuku Noodle Bar – 171 First Avenue – Manhattan

This place is amazing. Owned by renowned chef, David Chang, the menu offers more than just ramen noodles. I started with the traditional pork buns which were by far the best I have ever sampled. The pork was juicy and delicious and was accompanied by shiitake mushrooms, scallions, cucumber and hoisin sauce.

As my entrée I got the spicy miso ramen noodles with smoked chicken, Swiss chard and sesame. It was outrageously delicious and incredibly spicy. You won’t find this on the shelves of your local market.

ramen noodles

A popular ingredient in ramen noodle soup is a soft boiled egg. It adds a rich, luxurious flavor to compliment the other, lighter ingredients.

Ramen Yebisu – 126 N. 6th Street – Brooklyn

This unassuming little noodle bar is tucked away in an inconspicuous spot on 6th street in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. But don’t let its small size fool you. The menu is authentic and delightful.

My favorite dish here is the miso ramen noodles with pork, beansprouts, ginger, bamboo shoots, sesame seeds and crispy onion. I also order the addition of a perfectly-cooked soft boiled egg on top.

If you’ve never had the experience of eating ramen noodles in one of these boutique ramen noodle bars, do yourself a favor and give them a try. You’ll never think of ramen noodles the same way again!

Cherri Megasko did not receive any compensation or consideration of any type for the writing of this article.