New York: New Yorker’s New Favorite Comfort Food- Ramen
The weather has been a little unusually warm this winter. We had a couple of cold days, but most of the time the temperature was still lingering around the mid-50’s, not that I’m complaining, but it is a little warmer than the winter weather we know. The temperature finally dropped this weekend, and it is cilli outside. The moment I started to feel the cold crisp air on my face as I walk around the city, I can’t help but crave for some warm and hearty comfort food to warm my belly and kick the chills.
I would like to think it’s because of my Asian background, when it comes to toasty comfort food, besides hot cocoa or a aromatic Hot Toddy, I always crave for a big bowl of steamy ramen noodle soup. I remember when ramen noodle was just an East Village thing; in the past few years, more and more ramen noodle shops are popping up in various New York Neighborhoods, from Midtown to Upper Eastside, and even thought I haven’t had the chance to venture outside of Manhattan yet, but I heard there are many good ones in Brooklyn too. These noodle shops are usually small in sizes and has a rather traditional but under-stated store front, but the supporting customers lining up outside for the humble Japanese dish always gives away these almost-hidden yumminess. Here are some of the personal favorites that I can NOT get enough of during the cold season:
1. Totto Ramen
Totto Ramen is one of those places that if you don’t try it, you’ll never understand the addiction. Totto is a tiny restaurant with only 14 seats, every time I walk by this place (no matter what time of the day it is), there’s always a crowd standing outside waiting for tables– as clearly the wait is totally worth it. They are known for their special spicy sauce, (look for the multiple chili sign on the menu, it’s very dramatic, you can’t miss it). Totto’s special spicy sauce is made with charred-sesame oil, red chili pepper, black pepper and garlic. It i is not lip-singeing, but the steaming broth coats your mouth and throat in chili, creating a slow burn that builds up as you work your way through the bowl. If you’re not a spicy fan, their char shu pork and the broth base with deep flavors is never disappointing, either!! They are so popular in the neighborhood that they are now opening a second one just a block a way on the same street… makes me so excited.
Totto Ramen: 366 West 52nd St between Eight and Ninth Avenue (212-813-1800)
2. Ippudo Ramen
Ippudo is probably one the best known ramen shop in the whole city. Ippudo was brought to NYC by Shigemi Kawahara, who is known as “the Ramen King” in Japan; thier rich, cloudy tonkotsu broths is the best known ramen in town, the last time I topped it with some Kakuni (thinck sliced pork belly)…. It is something I’ll eat for my last supper. Their Hirata Buns (aka pork buns) also have insane reviews online, I haven’t tried them yet…. But I sure will the next time I’m there.
65 Fourth Ave between 9th and 10th Sts (212-388-0088).
Located in the heart of Time Square, a lot of people though this is just one of the tourist traps and didn’t expect much from their food. But Sapporo’s is actually one of the best places to go when I crave for some authentic hearty Japanese noodle. Sapporo is known as the birthplace of miso ramen. According to lore, the variant was invented in 1955, when a customer asked a chef to add some noodles to his miso-and-pork soup… and now people from all over the world come here for their famous miso and pork ramen.
152 W 49th St between Sixth and Seventh Aves (212-869-8972, sapporonyc.com).
These are just three out of my long list of favorite ramen noodle places. I can’t get enough of ramen soups, they gave me this satisfaction without feeling guilty or weight down. I will keep exploring to the other ramen shops that I haven’t tried yet and keep adding more to this list…. to be continued!!