What’s the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word ‘ramen’? It’s most probably a travel show in Japan, where the host is deftly slurping down noodles with the help of chopsticks from a big bowl of soup—Chef David Chang in The Mind of A Chef.
Over the past decade, however, there’s been a steady increase in popular interest in Japanese cuisine, and the OG ramen — a bowl full of umami-rich broth with freshly made noodles, vegetables, meat and a boiled egg, has finally found a following in India.
Japanese or Chinese?
There are several origin stories related to ramen but hardly any historical records. Of them, the most popular one, which made it to American historian George Solt’s book The Untold History of Ramen, says that ramen has Chinese origins. It is believed that this soupy noodle dish first made its appearance in Japan around the 1850s, when the country, followed by a treaty with the United States, opened its ports for trade.
Many Chinese traders migrated to these ports at that time and their daily meal was a simple chicken soup with wheat noodles and scallions called Nankin soba, named after China’s then-capital. It was inexpensive and could be made with minimal ingredients. The name ‘ramen’ was derived from the Chinese word for handmade noodles: lamian. With time, countless regional variations of the ramen came up across Japan.
With an unclear history but intense flavours, ramen hasn’t just become an iconic dish in its home country Japan, but all across the globe. Lucky for Mumbaikars, the city is home to a host of restaurants serving the best ramen varieties.
Here’s a list of our favourites. Happy slurping!
Mira and Shahid Kapoor’s go-to place for Japanese food in Mumbai, Izumi is a quaint 17-seater diner in Bandra that focuses on comforting ramen variations. The kitchen is helmed by Nooresha Kably, who has trained at the International Ramen School in Yokohama.
Izumi serves a carefully composed bowl, which features slow-cooked intense broth, al dente noodles and a selection of toppings like egg, meat, vegetable, black fungus, bamboo shoot and tofu. Their must-haves include a Pork Tonkotsu Ramen, featuring a thick and creamy pork bone broth, and Curry Ramen, featuring creamy, curry-flavoured miso (fermented bean paste) and soy milk broth.
Where: Off Carter Road, Bandra West
2. Fatty Bao
Ramen lovers are a particular bunch. When you promise them authentic flavours, you must deliver! That’s exactly what Fatty Bao does. The standout here is the spin on the broth, which is tempered with a handful of humble ingredients such as soy, garlic and truffle oil.
You must try their soul-warming Tantanmen Ramen that’s made of a combination of chicken and pork broth, crisp fried pork belly, a classic half egg and springy noodles. This hearty dish is spicy and comes laced with a distinct nuttiness, which is courtesy of a generous drizzle of sesame oil.
In addition to the Tantanmen, you must also give a chance to their signature dish The Fatty Pho, a Vietnamese variation that is a flavour bomb prepared with smoked chicken, fried onions, scallions, black noodles and chicken broth.
Where: Morya Classic, Andheri West
3. Tokyo Treat
Located in south Mumbai, Tokyo Treat is the place you turn to when you want to relish authentic Japanese food on a budget. Tokyo Treat only offers two ramen bowls: chicken and veg miso mazeman. It may seem limited at first, but when you savour it, you’ll realise that that’s the only varieties you need.
Perfect for people who aren’t fans of the broth, Mazeman is a type of ramen that omits most or all of the broth from the dish. Instead, it has toppings such as sashimi or cucumbers, which may not work in the traditional version of the dish.
Where: Tulsiwadi, Tardeo
4. Origami Japanese and Korean Restaurant
Origami in the suburb of Powai in Mumbai combines local, seasonal ingredients with ones sourced from Japan and Korea to whip up dishes that transport you to their places of origin. Perpetually packed with Japanese and Korean food lovers, this restaurant has three varieties of hearty ramen bowls – tonkotsu, miso and shoyu. They also serve its Korean counterpart called ramyeon or ramyun which, unlike the Japanese ramen, is spicy and has stronger flavours. Pick between the shoyu (a soy sauce-based broth) and miso when planning to order from Origami.
Where: Hiranandani Gardens, Powai
5. Milliways Broth Noodle and Bao
Another budget-friendly gem from south Mumbai, Milliways is helmed by chefs Ashwin Ramachandran and Yash Rajpal. Named after the restaurant in author Douglas Adam’s 1980 sci-fi hit The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, this delivery kitchen is known for its soulful multi-Asian dishes such as baos, Vietnamese pho and, of course, ramen. Their menu includes vegetarian and non-vegetarian varieties of shoyu and miso ramen. One of their bestsellers is the miso ramen with braised chicken.
Where: Bharat Nagar, Grant Road East
Chef Prateek Sadhu and entrepreneur Aditi Dugar's fine-dine restaurant that's known for its farm-to-table concept opened in April 2020, amid the lockdown, to cook meals for takeaway and delivery. Their offerings include Thai bhel, rogan josh, dum aloo, s'mores cakes, granola and Kashmiri katlam bread and, of course, wholesome and hearty ramen bowls with noodles made from scratch. We recommend their chashu ramen that features slices of rolled chicken thighs and shoyu eggs.
Where: Off Dr E Moses Rd, Mahalakshmi
7. The Clearing House
At chef Nitin Kulkarni's The Clearing House, the spotlight shines on four types of Korean-style ramen: tofu, mushroom, chicken and pork ramen. What deserves your attention is the delicious broth, which’s amped up with piquant and pungent kimchi, and the house-made noodles. If you're a vegan or just not in the mood for meat, we'd suggest you try one of their vegan ramen bowls that boasts of pan-seared melt-in-mouth tofu, charred corn, scallions, bell peppers and noodles in a mouthwatering kimchi broth.
Where: Ballard Estate, Fort
Note: Due to the changing COVID-19 restrictions in Mumbai, restaurant menus and dine-in services may get affected. Please call the restaurant before planning a visit.