Staff Writer Tani Martinez Explores The Hampton Roads Ramen Scene

The microwavable pasta that college students identify as ramen is vastly different from the real thing.  College ramen is instantly made in the microwave from a dried brick of pasta and a flavor packet. Step outside that dorm room into the Hampton Roads area and you will discover a totally different experience of ramen.

Ramen is a Japanese adaptation of Chinese wheat noodles that usually comes with some type of meat- or fish-based broth mixed with either miso or soy sauce, and topped with menma (sun dried bamboo), nori (seaweed) and scallions. There are 13 ramen shops in the Hampton Roads area, one of which is Ramen Boba Bola, right off of Lynnhaven Pkwy. Ramen Boba Bola serves ramen and boba teas. Ranging from House Milk Tea to Mango Funtime boba tea, there are eight different flavors to choose from.  The ramen comes with fish cakes (also called Naruto), hard boiled eggs, beanstocks, corn, nori, and green scallions. An order of boba tea and Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen with pork comes out to $14.

Ichran Ramen is another ramen shop close to VWU campus, near the Arby’s on Military Hwy. Their ramen bowls range from Milk-Based Ramen, which comes with spicy oil and butter coupled with the traditional toppings, to Katsu Chicken Ramen, which is topped with fried boneless chicken. Ichran Ramen offers the option to pay an additional $1 for extra noodles, eggs, katsu chicken, chashu pork, or even squid. For a ramen bowl, the starting price is $12.

Misako is right on Shore Dr. The walls of this shop are adorned with anime posters with the likes of “Attack on Titan,” “Your Name,” “Dragonball Z,” and “Naruto” (not to be confused with the fish cake topping). The ramen choices are unique due to their weekly specials.  One weekly special was kimchi ramen, served with shrimp, cheese, fish cakes, kimchi, and the obligatory Chinese wheat noodles. They not only specialize in ramen, but also other East Asian cuisine staples like sushi, as well as traditional Japanese dishes like gyoza and tempura.

Don’t just continue to think of ramen as dried noodles you stick in the microwave when there’s nothing to eat at the caf. Go out and try the real thing. You won’t regret it.

Tani Martinez