On chilly winter days, the perfect pick-me-up is a bowl of ramen. Al dente noodles, soothing broth and a comforting accompaniment of savoury toppings, there are an increasing number of locations to find laudable bowls of the stuff.
But as much as the growing crop of ramen shops and their critics are quick to claim that they’re the best ramen in the city, why not take a different approach? There’s a multitude of different preparation across Japan and dozens of different styles being showcased across Toronto – though, there are four primary types of broth that tend to form a base (tonkotsu, shio, shoyu and miso). Here are some of the ramen shops you should check out depending on your particular craving…
Best Tonkotsu Ramen
The prototypic pork bone broth originating from the Hakata region of Japan – almost milky-white in colour, it leaves a satisfying stickiness to ones lips due to the extracted collagen from the simmered bones. Side up under the giant fisherman’s rope at Sansotei Ramen on Dundas Street for the most rich and delicious tonkotsu broth in the city. With simple toppings of bamboo shoots, black fungus (woodear mushrooms) and the ooziest soft boiled egg in the game, it’s too bad there’s always a lineup out the door or I’d just bring a pillow and drift off to blissful slumber after my mow.
Best Shio Ramen
There are many ways to make a shio (salt) ramen, however its salty clear or pale yellowish broth is often created using a combination of chicken, fish, vegetables and seaweed for the broth. That said, my favourite shio broth uses a trifecta of chicken, pork and vegetables to achieve a broth that’s so light and supple that I’ve been raving about it ever since first taste. Ryus Noodle Bar on Baldwin Street is where it can be found, but one may be left wondering what happened to their soup after so quickly slurping it up.
Best Shoyu Ramen
Though I was a big fan of A-OK Foods’ shoyu ramen, and their fantastic housemade noodles until they closed last month, I’m going to have to go with Bladwin Village original, Kinton Ramen on this one. Another three tiered chicken, pork and vegetable broth, one may want to go straight for their “extra pork ramen” where char shu fiends can get just that – an extra hit of the really good stuff atop their steamy bowl. Served with bean sprouts, scallion, nori and a seasoned egg, simply delicious is really just the only way to describe it.
Best Miso Ramen
I’m generally going to go straight back to Sansotei for my bowl of miso ramen, but in the interest of variety I’ll present another ramen shop that does a bang up job. Ramen Raijin doesn’t have quite the same complexity or richness as some other tonkotsu slingers, but the salty umami hit of miso in their soup makes for a welcoming bite. With green onion, bean sprouts, cabbage and corn it’s a hearty soup that will heat you to the core on a chilly winters eve.
Best Spicy Ramen
Sansotei just added a spicy tonkotsu to their menu, Raijin’s spicy miso is pretty bomb, and Ryus’ spicy miso ramen with mabo tofu might be one of the most interesting of these edibles in Toronto, but Hokkaido Ramen Santouka does something seriously special for spice lovers. Their volcanic kara miso ramen is topped with green onion, woodear mushrooms, cabbage and tofu and bamboo shoots and can also be ordered with char shu – despite the significant increase in price, however, it’s always worth one extra element. Known around the world (Santouka have over 55 international locations) their toroniku (pork jowl) is one of the best bits of pork you’ll ever indulge in.