I know this sounds absurd, but flying to New York to eat ramen in the East Village seems almost more convenient than braving L.A. traffic to slurp noodles in the South Bay. My logic is admittedly flawed, but there’s no denying my intense disdain for driving and congestion. Plus, my brother’s apartment on Houston and 2nd is the gateway to Manhattan’s finest ramenyas (ramen shops). A short walk to gratification will always beat a long drive, even with a flight penciled into the equation.
Before boarding the Chinatown bus to Philadelphia for a weekend of Swarthmore XC alumni fun, The Astronomer and I carbo-loaded at Minca Ramen Factory, which is a favorite of both my brother and Iron Chef Morimoto.
Unable to find a suitable bowl of authentic Japanese ramen in New York City, Shigeto Kamada, a Japanese expat and musician, opened Minca in 2004. The musician turned ramen master learned the art of noodling by eating in Japan’s greatest ramenyas while on tour with his band and by training at a friend’s restaurant. “I only started making ramen here because I needed some to eat,” Mr. Kamada told the New York Times in the article “Here Comes Ramen, the Slurp Heard Round the World” by Julia Moskin. “I can’t live without it.”
According to Ms. Moskin, “The classic ramenya meal starts with a plate of gyoza and a beer, followed by a big bowl of soup and noodles, eaten with as much slurping as possible.” It was too early in the day for a beer, but a plate of homemade pork gyoza ($4.85) was definitely in order. The piping hot, thinly wrapped pork and vegetable dumplings were seared to a golden char and served with soy sauce on the side. The gyoza didn’t pack as much juicy, meaty oomph as their Chinese counterparts, but still provided a satisfying start to our meal.
The Astronomer and I shared a super-sized bowl of Kambi Sio ramen ($9.50, plus $1.50 for extra noodles). Atop the heap of noodles was a colorful array of toppings including half a hard boiled egg, scallions, mushrooms, a square of nori (seaweed), and charshu, fatty roast pork. The best part of the Kambi Sio ramen was the intensely garlicky broth. A bit thick and a little cloudy, the broth latched onto each noodle strand and topping, flavoring the bowl pleasantly and pungently.
Minca offers a choice of three noodles—thick, thin, and wavy wheat. We went with the thin noodles based on the menu’s recommendation. The noodles were springy, light, and fit for slurping.
Minca Ramen Factory
536 East 5th Street
New York, NY 10009