Topline Trends Tuesday: Ramen

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For most North Americans the word ramen is synonymous with super salty, MSG-laced cups of noodles eaten in funky smelling dorm rooms, but that perception is changing.

In cities such as Toronto and Vancouver, ramen restaurants that treat these convenient noodles with care and respect are becoming popular; meanwhile, in Japan, ramen joints are so popular that ramen-making robots are tirelessly employed producing bowls of noodles all day long (that’s a ramen robot pictured above in fact.)

According to National Post restaurant reviewer Gina Mallet (who wrote about Toronto’s Liberty Noodle in her column last week), ramen is a big part of Japanese culture today with “5000 ramen shops in Tokyo alone, small places mostly, where you buy a ticket and stand to eat.” She elaborates that “when the Japanese are not scoffing instant ramen in a Styrofoam cup, they are watching ramen shows on TV, ramen award shows, or they’re scouring the neighbourhood for the newest rave. Japanese are ruthless gourmands.”

I admit to having eaten my fair share of low rent ramen when I was younger. What’s your experience? Have you had ramen in a restaurant? And, if you eat the instant ramen, is it a guilty pleasure or a proud pop-culture statement?

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17 Responses to Topline Trends Tuesday: Ramen

  1. Hmm, I can’t get past the cheap eats notion of ramen – in the dorm room as you say. Every now and then I want some, but I buy the big fat Shanghai noodles in stead. Where does one buy good ramen for the home cook?

  2. heyguy says:

    saw your article good piece. your recipes would read great on a kindle or nook. i just got a kindle, love it

  3. I’m not into salty things so never indulged in the cheap dorm-room ramen noodles.

    I’m also not into Japanese cuisine so haven’t sought out the genuine article.

    And please, don’t tell me this is because I’ve never had good Japanese food. I have. And it’s perfectly fine. It just doesn’t inspire me. Man, I get defensive over this admission. Say you don’t like Indian cuisine and people shrug. Say you don’t like Japanese and people try to convert you. Why is this, Dana?

    Sorry, I think I just hijacked your thread.

  4. gloriadelia says:

    Goodness! I ate a lot of Ramen and Ichiban noodles in college, but can’t imagine why they’re so popular in Japan. Noodle making robots?! Amazing!

  5. gina mallet says:

    I too am left pretty cold by Ramen Noodles but I am now planning to go to Chef Riki at Ichi Riki, 120 Bloor St. E, on a Tuesday night when he explains the noodle mystique. Riki is one of the top sushi chefs here as well.

  6. I had “real” ramen for the first time about 2 years ago, and it was a revelation, with all the different sauces on the table, the big egg in the middle, and all the accoutrements. There was even a guy making the noodles in a little corner by the front window, so passers-by could watch him in action. It was dinner, AND a show. Delicious.

  7. Heather says:

    I love my noodles, but I don’t eat them nearly as much now as I did earlier in life.

    My love affair with ramen noodles began on the playground…raw noodles crushed and tossed in the seasoning was “the” thing to have for lunch. For many years I rarely cooked the noodles. Then when I went to college they were a staple in my dorm room, often cooked in a mug. Now that I’m a mom and try to feed my family healthy meals, we stir fry up some veggies, then add water noodles and seasoning for a yummy, filling soup.

    shhh, I still sneak them raw once in a while:)

    • Heather says:

      powdered drink mixes went right along with the noodles back in elementary school…boy did we eat healthy

      • danamccauley says:

        Egads! You brought back memories! I remember a friend who used to invite me to dinner and her mom used crushed instant ramen noodles in her salad like croutons!

        We also liked to dip our fingers in Freshie or Kool Aid crystals. So bad for our teeth.

  8. Anna says:

    I have never eaten it..
    can someone recommend me a restaurant here in ORANGE COUNTY, CA?

  9. Anna, you live in a great area for Japanese food. I would recommend having ramen at Santouka, which is in the food court of the Mitsuwa Marketplace in Costa Mesa. Don’t be put off by a food court — this is some of the best ramen you can get in California. Other good places would be Shinsengumi and Ebisu in Fountain Valley. I’ve never had ramen at Ebisu but they have a wide variety of Japanese cuisine.

  10. You’re welcome, Dana. I would love to visit Toronto someday!

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