Oodles of Noodles

January 24, 2012 | By Lacy Matsumoto

Japan’s favorite dish has found a home in the Islands.

We all did the instant ramen “diet” in college to save money and time—but the art of real, exquisite ramen, which hails from Japan, is proliferating here in Waikiki. These broths have simmered for hours upon hours; the chefs guard their recipes with such secrecy that most employees don’t even know all the ingredients. Some hand-select savory toppings while others tout fresh, on-the-spot hand-cut noodles. These dishes are a far cry from the days of “just add water” ramen.

Tokyo Style

2255 Kuhio Ave. Suite #118
(808) 924-8366

Located at the Waikiki Trade Center, this restaurant is known for its traditional Japanese hakata (simmered pork broth) and kikuzo (chicken broth with soy sauce) ramen broths. The Kikuzo ramen is known as the “Tokyo” or city-style of ramen served with thin, curly noodles versus the Hakata (traditional) ramen, which is served with thin, straight noodles.

Each soup is served with a hefty portion of chopped green onions, a boiled egg and thick pieces of pork. Customers who frequent this eatery suggest ordering it with namatamago (raw organic egg), which you mix into the broth.

Long, Long Simmer

Kiwami Ramen
2250 Kalakaua Ave. Suite #LL102
(808) 924-6744

Located on the bottom floor of Waikiki Shopping Plaza, Kiwami Ramen is known for its consistency in Chef Yasuyoshi Sato’s unique ramen broth. His emphasis is on the quality control of each bowl of ramen served. The chicken broth is simmered for more than five hours, and is rich in collagen—which many devotees claim keeps their skin looking young and healthy. The noodles are made from whole grain wheat called BakDan from Japan.

Off the Strip

617 Kapahulu Ave.
(808) 732-1211

This popular chain ramen shop in Japan is located on Kapahulu Avenue, a short walk from the center of Waikiki. Known for its kotteri (thick chicken stock broth) ramen, and spicy tantan (chili peppers and simmered sesame seeds), this ramen shop even produces its own specialized bowls. Other highlights on this menu are the set option, which include gyoza (pork dump-lings), fried rice and fried chicken options.

You can find the local favorite television show “Ultimate Japan” replaying daily, which is hosted by this shop’s owners.

Oxtail to Die For

Ramen Nakamura
2141 Kalakaua Ave.
(808) 922-7960

Located on Kalakaua Avenue, this ramen shop is famous for its oxtail ramen. Considered a delicacy, the oxtail ramen broth is simmered with soy sauce for an entire day. It’s served with fresh bamboo shoots, bok choy, spinach, crispy garlic and thick pieces of tender oxtail. Grated ginger and soy sauce also accompany the dish.

Ramen’s Big Brother

Marukame Udon
2310 Kuhio Ave.
(808) 931-6000

For some, long lines are a deterrent, while for others, the vision of a queue acts as a siren call. No matter which group you fall into, stand in the line at Marukame Udon (the line moves quickly!). No, it’s not ramen per se, but you’ll be rewarded with a bowl of freshly made noodles (thicker than ramen) swimming in a tasty broth. This bustling eatery is set up cafeteria-style, so grab a tray, and select from varying sizes of udon served up hot or cold. A variety of musubi and tempura are on-hand for diners to complement their dishes.

Photos: Lacy Matsumoto & Jeff Sanner