What is good Ramen? • Santouka @ Mitsuwa Market & Halu Ramen in San Jose

When you start working for a living, after the poor college years of saving money by eating Instant Ramen Noodles so that you can make an important purchase such as a guitar amp, used camera, or snowboard, you can start eating the real Ramen (at least you should – $8-$14).  A discussion with a friend over a lunch of good Ramen at Santouka Ramen at the Mitsuwa Marketplace in San Jose helped me figure out what makes Ramen good.  My friend said it has to do with the flavor of the broth and more accurately, how they achieve the flavor of the broth.  There are two ways to flavor the broth.  You’ve had Cup of Ramen right?  Two major brands found in the USA are Nissin and Maruchan however, according to a.rainy.day “Guide to Eating Good Ramen,” Korean Ramen (ramyeon as it’s called) is the very best store-bought Ramen.  There are flavor packets that you add to the hot water.  This is the first way to flavor the broth.  The second way is to boil such ingredients as pork bones in chicken, pork, or fish stock broth and then Miso or Soy Sauce is added or mixed with the broth right at serving.  Shoyu is a soy-based flavor and Miso is the other flavor of the broth.  I personally like the Miso because it has much more depth making it like drinking a fatty, slow cooked drink of bacon. My other favorite part of Ramen is the tender, melt in your mouth, don’t need a knife, thinly sliced barbecue pork (you have to order extra piece of pork at Santouka if you want it, and you will).  Another reason to love Ramen, this is coming from an artist, is because of its beautiful color combination of floating food accessories on top that add various textures and variety to your bites.  Whenever I take my first bite of Ramen I am always surprised at the depth of  flavor in merely a broth because it is practically like chewing a thick piece of meat that has already melted in your mouth … so you don’t have to chew.

The Four Parts of Ramen:

  • Noodles (Slick & Smooth Chinese Style Noodles)
  • Broth (Pork Bones boiled in Chicken, Pork, or Fish Stock/Broth) *Top often glistens with droplets of pork fat
  • Base (Miso or Soy or flavored-oil such as Sesame)
  • Toppings (Thinly sliced Chinese barbecued pork, pickled bamboo shoots, mushrooms, scallions, sometimes hot pickled red ginger)

One the side: Onsen Tamago (boiled egg simmered in a soy-based broth)

Santouka Ramen vs. Halu Ramen (read our past BITF Review of Halu Ramen)


Halu Ramen, a spot also on Saratoga Avenue has a line out the door at lunch time, and is run by a Japanese surfer chef.  Check out Halu’s seasonal Ramen special, Pumpkin RamenSantouka Ramen, down the street on Saratoga, is located inside of the immaculate Japanese Mitsuwa Market.  You can choose from 3 different types of broth and 3 different sizes.  Mitsuwa Market is well worth a visit in and of itself for its impressive selection of foods and desserts (love the packaging).

* Next spot to try is Orenchi Ramen in Santa Clara

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