These slurp-worthy bowls offer something close to comfort-food nirvana.
The popularity of Japanese ramen chain Bankara knows no bounds. The oil which floats on the tsukemen’s surface might put off health-conscious diners, but for the rest of us, springy, well-chilled noodles bathing in a warm and fatty soup are deeply satisfying. It takes four pages of the menu before you get past ramen, but there’s a lot to be said for the tori karaage, too—crunchy on the outside, moist in the middle. Cut through all the fat with the aromatic, cherry-flavored annin tofu soy bean pudding.
Three-time "TV Champion Ramen Chef" Shigemi Kawahara, from Fukuoka, came to Bangkok in splendid style when he launched Ippudo at Central Embassy in 2013, and has since expanded around the city. The original venue places chef Shigemi’s three Hakata-derived tonkotsu ramen styles in a grand setting of kanji calligraphy screens and black-on-red decor—more high-end clothing store than ramen joint.
Back in Japan, this ramen spot boasts wildly popular branches where near-permanent queues snake outside. You won’t find quite the same hordes of people here in Bangkok, but you will find deliciously bold flavors in the signature “zenburi” ramen, which comes loaded with great big chunks of braised pork, a boiled egg and a dollop of salty, marinated cod roe.
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Thanks to a smooth, oil-free seafood and chicken broth that bursts with umami, this Tokyo blow-in has almost singlehandedly broken the stranglehold tonkotsu ramen held over Bangkokians for so long. Everything here is made with precision (including freshly made noodles in two sizes and tender sous-vide toppings) befitting the chic, light-wood surrounds.
Tucked away in Isetan department store’s 88 Shokudo Nippon food court, this counter from the Tokyo cult favorite serves a simple line of steaming tonkotsu ramen. Featuring a soup base that’s creamier than most, Menya Musashi’s bowls come in white, red and black versions. The tsukemen (dipping ramen) is spectacular, featuring chunks of melt-in-your-mouth pork, perfectly chewy noodles and a dense, slurp-worthy soup.
It takes 10 hours of simmering and a bunch of whole chickens to make Menya Takeichi’s thick soup. You won't find the usual tonkotsu pork ramen here—this chain is regularly lauded as one of Tokyo's top names for chicken ramen and spread to Singapore before arriving in Bangkok. Choose from shoyu (soy sauce), shio (salt) or spicy sauce to go with the soup and tuck into the tender slow-cooked chicken breast chashu. Also try the deboned chicken wing karaage and rice ball with fried chicken.
This ramen chain is now an empire that stretches from Los Angeles to Sao Paulo—and throughout Japan, of course. They have the usual thick pork bone broths and slices of fatty char siu but Misoya also serves healthy, vegetarian alternatives that tap into the therapeutic qualities of miso. You should also look out for their specials, which can range from tom yam with miso to Hokkaido snow cheese toppings.
For years, the restaurant hid behind a rickety wooden door without so much as a menu outside, barely noticeable amid the Thaniya lunch chaos. Today, it bears the marks of a typical attention-grabbing Thaniya dive—bright red signage, menus out front and waitresses beckoning you inside. First-timers should start with the restaurant’s best, a steaming bowl of savory chashumen (shoyu ramen with pork belly. With five-to-six slices of tender, thick-cut pork inside each bowl, it’s an all-you-need-to-order portion that blows plenty of competitors out of the water. The piping hot, flavorful broth deserves a nod as a hangover destroyer, too.
Doesn’t matter which of the five branches you stumble into, you’re guaranteed to be greeted like an old, drunken friend at this old-school Japanese diner. Whether your preference is shoyu, miso or tonkotsu, the bowls here are big on flavor and portion. Special mention goes to the katsu curry, which is a buttery delight. The sets are big enough to feed a small family—or just one very hungry Japanese salaryman.
Piman 49 Complex, 46/14 Sukhumvit Soi 49, 02-260-7786-7. Open daily 11am-11pm.
11/1 Surawongse Rd., 02-235-4326. Open daily 11am-midnight.
593/23-24 Sukhumvit Soi 33/1, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, 02-662-0050. Open daily 11am-midnight.
77 Sukhumvit Soi 39, Khlong Tan Nuea, Watthana, 02-662-1273. Open daily 11am-10:30pm.
23/8-9 Soi Thaniya, Silom Rd., 02-234-8082. Open daily 11am-2am.
In an age of prefab imported ramen chains that slot nicely into shopping malls, this dingy shophouse stands apart. Rarely will you visit and not encounter the owner—his face blazoned on menus and promo flyers—personally manning the stoves, bellowing out an “irasshaimase!” to everyone who walks in. The karamiso also scores serious kudos—a spicy broth made from miso which the Japanese will tell you is the hardest ramen style to master. The taste is rich and stewy, while the dollop of slightly sweet, salty chili paste gives the bowl a genuine kick
8/3 Thonglor Soi 2, 02-392-0811. Open daily 11am-2am.
43/1 Naradhiwat Soi 1, Surawongse Rd,. Bang Rak, 02-634-2319. Open Sun-Fri 11am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-midnight.
Though born in the southern Japanese prefecture of Ehime, Shugetsu Ramen is arguably just as well known for its pioneering role in introducing tsukemen (cold ramen noodles) to Hong Kong—where it's been listed in the island's Michelin Guide (Bib Gourmand) for the last six years. The Sukhumvit Soi 49 branch serves the same house-made noodles and flavorful broth featuring 18-month fermented soy sauce as found in the brand's 13 branches across Japan, China and Hong Kong. Amid a clean, minimalist space, customers get to choose both noodle portion size (from 100-400 grams) and firmness for dishes like their signature tsukemen.
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This 60-year-old Fukuoka name is best known for its rich, Hakata-style ramen broth and chashu that’s the appealing type of fatty. The ramen’s complemented by a large selection of kushiyaki (grilled skewers) and insanely good gyoza. A mid-week visit will find the dining room filled wall-to-wall with Japanese expats.
39/1 Sukhumvit Soi 23, 02-664-1130. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-13:30pm, 5:30pm-midnight; Sat 11:30am-9pm; Sun 11:30am-9pm.
The Commons, Thonglor Soi 17, Sukhumvit Rd., Khlong Toei Nuea, Watthana, 083-816-6777. Open Mon-Thu, Sun 11:30am-11pm; Fri-Sat 11:30am-midnight.
39/25-26 Naradhiwat Soi 1, Surawongse Rd,. Bang Rak, 02-023-7254. Open Mon-Fri 11:30am-2:30pm, 5:30pm-midnight; Sat-Sun 11:30am-3:30pm, 5:30-10pm.
This Japanese chain serves Kyushu-style ramen, the secret of which is a deliciously thick broth that rivals even the fattiest kha muu (with ten times more salt). In the signature Yamagoya Ramen, added to that soup are toothsome noodles, slices of fatty pork, hard-boiled eggs, chopped green onion, tender bamboo, seaweed and pickled ginger.
98-102 Surawongse Rd., 02-637-0588. MRT Sam Yan. Open daily 10:30am-10pm.
141 Soi Pai Dee Ma Dee, Sukhumvit Soi 53, Watthana, 02-185-3796. Open daily 12am-10pm.
430/41-44 Siam Square Soi 7, Rama I Rd., Pathum Wan, 02-052-5505. Open daily 11am-8pm.
2/F, All Seasons Place, Wireless Rd., Lumphini, Pathum Wan, 02-253-1432. Open daily 10:30am-midnight.
Put on your stretchy pants, forget about the macros and tuck in to BK Best Eats 2019. This is the Bangkok dining that ignores fancy restaurants and 10-course tasting menus and goes straight for the comfort food—steaming bowls of fat-rich ramen, triple-decker burgers, all-you-can-eat dim sum buffets with an extra helping of pork buns. In other words, the stuff most of us eat out, most of the time.
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