Ramen: A Hug for Your Soul

Sometimes when the weather is chilly or I’m feeling a bit down–I find myself in the need for a little hug. And for me, that hug sometimes comes in the form of a piping hot bowl of Ramen.

No Dear Friends, not the “Top Ramen” that Americans have associated with poor college students since its mass distribution in the 1970’s. Although let’s be honest, many of us have come to love the highly salty-MSG packed instant noodles that can be literally whipped up into a 1,ooo ways. 🙂

Top Ramen

Instant ramen is also more than just a quick meal. It’s a scientific phenomenon! Check out the following video:

Though, I digress….

What I’m talking about is good old, Japanese Ramen. For all intense purposes, Japanese Ramen consists of stock based broth, noodles, and various accouterments that can include meat, veggies, and eggs. It’s flavor from the rich broth coupled with the slightly chewy noodles adds to the distinction from my much beloved Vietnamese Pho or other Asian noodle soups. Four of the more popular based ramen broths include:

  • Shio – derived from a salt base
  • Tonkotsu – derived from pork bones
  • Shōyu -derived from soy sauce
  • Miso – derived from miso paste

Since my graduate school days in LA, I fell in love with quality ramen. The type from small Japanese restaurants where all they sell is ramen and the lines are outrageously long. After moving to San Jose, it took me some time to rekindle this ramen love. Luckily, the bf and I discovered Maru Ichi in Milpitas after a friend had referrred him. Instantly, we were hooked. With our addiction to watching ABC’s show, Wipeout, our weekly bowl of ramen from Maru Ichi was added to our Nihon Ritual. To be fair, we tried other ramen houses but none seemed to fit our liking.

That is, until we met Santouka Ramen in San Jose. It changed out lives.

Situated in the lobby of the Mitsuwa Marketplace, Santouka became a new addition to ramen lovers in the Bay Area in Fall 2009. The modest “counter style ordering” system allows for quick transactions. But don’t take that for granted. The crowds have flooded Santouka and folks have been known to wait over an hour for a bowl of ramen (this gal included).

We have pretty much ordered their entire menu (short their of the Nato Rice Bowl and Salmon Roe Rice Bowl). Of the list, we are quite partial to the Shoyu and Miso–although their Spicy Miso and Salt are great too! Noodles are perfectly al dente, miso broth is so wonderfully rich, and the pork is just darn luscious with a little bit of fat that makes it so unctuous! The Miso Ramen comes with fresh bamboo shoots, wood ear mushrooms, slice of fish cake, and scallions. As for the hard-boiled eggs, it’s  prepared on the sweeter side and reminds me a lot of the Vietnamese Braised Pork and Egg dish that I grew up eating. Their rice bowls are also enjoyable and are easy to manage if you order a small bowl of ramen to accompany it. Too carbo-licious? Perhaps. But after all, I did say my soul needed a hug! 🙂

Spicy Miso Ramen, Salt Ramen, Toroniku Pork, Pork over Rice, Boiled Egg
Toroniku Pork
Shoyu Ramen, Miso Ramen, Leeks over Rice, Boiled Eggs

Lucky for you folks, Santouka can be found at the 6 other Mitsuwa Marketplace locations. This is a chain eatery that you’ll definitely want to check out 🙂

Santouka-San Jose
Mitsuwa Marketplace
675 Saratoga Ave
San Jose, CA 95129
(408) 255-6699
Mon-Sun: 11:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Average Price: $10


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