Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Best Tonkotsu Ramen in London


It'll never get as cold in England as it did when I was studying in Massachusetts (four feet of snow and we still had to trudge to class - ugh), but lately, it's definitely been cold enough to make my lips chapped, my hands stiff, and my nose prick as if I'm about to sneeze. That kind of cold.

When it's this kind of cold, there are three things I crave: Vietnamese pho, Korean jjigae, and Japanese ramen. Pho for when I've got a cold, jjigae when I'm particularly ravenous, and ramen when I'm chilly. Tonkotsu ramen, in particular, is my favorite of them all, because the broth is thick, milky, and hearty - having been stewed for hours and hours upon end. I recently wrote an article for About Time Magazine about the top 5 tonkotsu ramen bars in London - focusing on a couple of relatively new bars, as well as chains (such as Shoryu), but avoiding the overly-hyped Bone Daddies (and don't even talk to me about their sister restaurant, Flesh & Buns - seriously not a fan of that place).

My finds were interesting: from the garlic-infused (and aptly named) "Dracula ramen" at Shoryu to the simple, no-fuss version at Taro, ramen bars have been hanging around for a while in London, but foodies have recently turned their beady (and greedy) eyes to the once-simple dish. The result? Ramen bars popping up everywhere, competing against each other by putting "twists" on their house specials and by making their ramen "experience" as unique as possible.

My favorite? Probably Kanada-Ya in St. Giles, as introduced to me by my friend Laura. It's hard to get in (mostly because it's so tiny), so expect to stand in line, if you're visting during "peak" hours. But once you're in, it's so efficient. You're given a piece of paper with a checklist of all the ingredients you'd like, plus how you'd like your noodles to be cooked (soft, firm, extra-firm, etc.) and the rich broth is lip-smackingly good. I usually order an extra Hanjuku egg (£1.80) when I go.

Tonkotsu East comes in at a close second. Their slightly thicker, homemade noodles (which are made on the premises) have a slightly elastic consistency that I love. The tsukemen noodles, which are meant to be dipped, strand by strand, into the accompanying broth, is what I crave on a cold day like today.

What about you? Are you a ramen fan? What's your favorite variation?
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8 comments

  1. Thanks for all the excellent recommendations! Ramen is one of my indisputable favourites.

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    1. Thanks for reading! So glad to hear it!

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  2. I am one of those horrible and uneducated people who, upon moving to London, still associated ramen with those little packets you used to eat at 3am in college after a night out. I loved a recent trip to Japanese Udon restaurant Koya in Soho recently... will have to try out your recommendations (especially with the eggs)!

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    1. Totally not horrible or uneducated, Jess! I still associate ramen with those little packets - in fact, we still eat those at home. My dad sticks one into the soup at the very end of our Chinese hot pot, and it makes a delicious little "finish" to our hot pot meal. I hadn't eaten at any of these places until last year, really.

      And I love udon! I haven't been to Koya, so I'll have to try it.

      ANYWAY, since I am missing your fabulous Thanksgiving party, perhaps we can meet up for a bowl of ramen in the New Year? It is an awkward first friend-date food, as I mentioned in the article I wrote for About Time, but nevertheless ... yes?

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  3. I JUST BLOGGED ABOUT THIS PLACE TODAY! I went there last night! So. Amazing. My stomach hates me for being in my room when I could be at Shoryu.

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    1. I just read your post, Gianni! Glad you were braver than me and went for the Dracula ramen. My friend had that when I went there and I was very jealous! Laughed so hard at your post.

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  4. So glad you wrote this - I've been wondering about ramen in London for a while now! I've been to Shoryu before (appreciate their gluten free options!) but wanted to try some more. Thank youuu!

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    1. Keep me updated if you go to any of the other ones I mentioned, Charlotte!

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