Ramen originated in China, then traveled to Japan in the early 1900s, where shotgun shops sprang up to serve businessmen and women on their lunch breaks. Whether in summer or winter, the Japanese stood at counters with their mouths hovering over bowls of piping hot soup. North Texas, then, is about 100 years behind the trend, but we’ve fully embraced it now. Thing is, in a city of steaks and hamburgers, a proper bowl of ramen can still prove elusive. In its simplest form, three components make or break a bowl of ramen: the broth (made from chicken, fish, pork, or a combination of all three), the noodles (from thick and straight to curly and thin), and the toppings (seaweed, pork, soft-boiled egg, scallions, corn, ground meat, bamboo shoots, and fish cakes). Ramen differs from region to region in Japan. It’s essentially a culinary tabula rasa that gives the noodle maker room to experiment. Here are the five best results in North Texas, the finest looking bowls we’ve seen. None is a classic Japanese presentation. But, then, there is no such thing as a classic Japanese presentation.
1722 Routh St. 214-220-2828.
The tonkotsu ramen at Tei-An is one of those meals that you could have seven days a week. “The noodle itself is Tokyo style, but the broth is Kyushu,” says chef and owner Teiichi Sakurai. The day and a half it takes to create a soup from pork bones is well worth the extra effort. Sakurai’s handmade noodles float in the most delicate and milky of broths. Bamboo shoots, black fungus, red ginger, and scallions form a small peninsula of garnish above, while Gaban white pepper and a bottle of rayu arrive on the side. Two shakes of white pepper and three to four drops of the red chili oil should do the trick. And as for the slurping, Sakurai wants to get this message out there: “Eat as quick and as much as you can. Taste much better.”
Spoon Bar & Kitchen
8220 Westchester Dr.
When John Tesar put seafood ramen on his lunch menu, folks were aghast at the $29 price tag. Sure, it’s steep for a midday meal, but once you lock eyes with the Arctic-char-grouper-scallop-lobster-salmon-prawn-swordfish mountain that goes on top of it, you’ll shut up and eat. Small cubes of monkfish liver, tofu, and seaweed float in a bed of clear dashi soup that barely covers the tippy top of Tesar’s exquisitely handmade noodles. It’s a breathtaking, edible microcosm of sea life.
Henan Lu-Rou Lamian
6025 Royal Ln. 214-361-1771.
Because it’s widely believed that ramen comes from the Chinese word for pulled noodles, lamian, it only makes sense for us to include it in this list. Lamian is prepared differently than ramen, but its noodle-soup philosophy is still the same. Royal China’s Henan lu-rou lamian (stewed pork belly noodles) is probably one of the best-kept culinary secrets in Dallas. Chinese mushrooms, curlicue-shaved carrots, and green onions add pops of color to a bed of wide and paper-thin noodles. A delicious pork belly broth pools under the noodles, which extend as long as the Silk Road.
20 Feet Seafood Joint
Pork Ramen Noodles
1160 Peavy Rd. 972-707-7442.
That Marc Cassel hasn’t eaten much ramen works in his favor. After experimenting with recipes by noodle kings, such as David Chang, he came up with a bowl that’s made from a simple pork stock. He roasts the bones, lets it simmer for eight to 10 hours, and adds roasted chicken, bacon, leeks, soy, and mirin on the second day. The result is a bigger-than-your-head bowl of sweet broth with squiggly noodles, soft-boiled egg, two slices of dense pork belly, julienned leeks, spinach, and yasai fumi furikake (seaweed flakes typically used as rice seasoning). This is definitely not your traditional bowl of ramen.
Little Lilly Sushi
6100 Camp Bowie Blvd., Fort Worth.
The key to eating tsukemen, a dipping ramen, is good chopstick skills. Chef Jesus Garcia’s one-week noodle special arrives in two bowls. One has curly, dry noodles decorated with thin seaweed slices and a medium-boiled egg; the other has a sauce with dried bonito fish flakes dancing on thick pork belly slices and narutomaki (Japanese fish cakes). Garcia mixes chicken feet and pig feet in a pot for 10 hours to make a rich, murky sauce for the noodles. Ramen isn’t always on the menu, but every so often, the personable chef will churn his creative juices and come up with a noodle special like his shoyu ramen with roasted brisket. Call ahead and ask what Garcia