For much of my life, I knew ramen only as the instant noodles you mixed with boiling water. For less than 50 cents a pack, you could have a filling, flavourful meal – the perfect late-night snack for, say, a university student on a budget.
Turns out, however, that ramen is a whole lot more than instant noodles. Real ramen, of course, comes from Japan, where it has been a staple of the diet from time immemorial. It usually consists of handmade wheat noodles served in a rich, fish- or meat-based broth, flavoured with soy or miso. Fresh toppings are critical – ranging from the standard sliced pork to seaweed, green onions, corn, bamboo shoots and pretty much anything you can think of.
I know all of this now because Vancouver happens to be one of North America’s top cities for authentic ramen. Do a Google Map search for ramen and literally dozens of restaurants turn up, all specializing in the addictive noodle soup. The majority are clustered near the intersection of Denman and Robson Streets, in an area favoured by visiting English-language students from Korea and Japan.
In fact, there are so many options that it can be hard to decide where to sit down for a steaming bowl. Maybe you can help:
Do you have a favourite ramen restaurant in Vancouver? Let us know by leaving a comment below.
I’ll start things off with a ramen noodle joint I visited over the weekend. Now, I have to confess that this is the only ramen restaurant in Vancouver I’ve been to – so I’m hardly an expert. On Saturday night, I stopped by Motomachi Shokudo on Denman Street. Motomachi is just a block down from the famous Kintaro Ramen – which is perhaps Vancouver’s oldest and best-known ramen house and has a line down the block and an hour-long lineup most nights of the week. I was a little too hungry to wait, so I poked my head into Motomachi.
The restaurant itself is tiny. Diners cluster elbow to elbow at a few small tables and one counter in the centre of the room. The menu is pretty much 100-percent ramen. A variety of different styles are available, including shio (yellow broth), shoyu (brown broth) and miso. I opted for the miso ramen, with the standard toppings, including sliced barbecued pork, green onions and corn.
Needless to say, Motomachi’s ramen blew away the packaged variety I was used to eating. The broth is much more complex, the noodles have a rich, nutty flavour and the fresh toppings are a critical addition. I don’t think that Motomachi’s noodles are homemade, however. Nonetheless, I don’t think I can ever go back to instant ramen now.
Do you have a favourite ramen restaurant in Vancouver? Share your favourite below.
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