9 April 2024

The Great Ramen Debate: Who makes Canberra's most delicious noodle soup?

| Lucy Ridge
Ikigai interior with lit up statue of noodles on chopsticks

Ikigai is a newcomer to Canberra’s thriving ramen scene. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

When I set out to find Canberra’s best laksa last year, I was blown away by the response: Canberrans genuinely love their laksa and have very strong feelings about their favourites. So it is with some trepidation that I lay out some of Canberra’s finest options when it comes to another favourite noodle soup: ramen.

A Japanese delicacy with some Chinese influence, ramen is a popular dish that seems to have taken Canberra by storm. Top-quality ramen is being served all over town, from Fyshwick to McKellar, Woden to Belconnen, and plenty in between.

A good ramen should have an umami-rich broth that is moreish and keeps you coming back for more. Traditional options we see most regularly in Canberra include tonkotsu (pork broth), shoyu (soy-based broth), or miso broth. Ramen noodles are usually wheat flour and super elastic and bouncy due to the inclusion of lye water, known as kansui.

The toppings for Ramen vary, but char siu/chashu BBQ pork, nori seaweed sheets, and wood ear mushrooms are standard. Not to mention my personal favourite, soy marinated ajitsuke eggs.

I have tasted a wide variety of ramen dishes from restaurants around Canberra and humbly offer a selection of my favourites below. While some people are fixated on the ‘authenticity’ of ramen, I prefer to follow my tastebuds. Sometimes, innovators are winners!

Bowl of Ramen

The Spicy Ramen Oh! at Ramen O! Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Ramen O, Belconnen, Woden and CBD

Ramen O burst onto the scene in 2020 and quickly became a cult favourite in Belconnen with lines out the door. A Woden shop followed in 2022, and now there’s one in the city, too. Their signature Ramen Oh! is served with a pork and soy broth, making it a lighter option than the rich tonkotsu. You can also order a yuzu tonkotsu, which uses citrus to cut through the rich broth. I love their Spicy Ramen and appreciate the choice of three heat levels. They’re pretty solid on toppings, too: the char sui pork is good, although I’m not sold on adding corn kernels. I have yet to make it to their city restaurant, but if it’s as consistently good as their other two, ramen lovers are in good hands.

Bowl of ramen with half egg and wooden spoon

White Chaco chicken and porcini mushroom ramen. How did they make those mushrooms so delicious? Photo: Lucy Ridge.

White Chaco, Braddon

With its entrance slightly tucked away on Lonsdale Street, White Chaco is something of a hidden gem. The industrial chic interior of the cosy space makes it feel private and secluded. The offerings here stray from the traditional just enough to be exciting while maintaining authenticity. I’ve previously enjoyed the garlic pork ramen, which has a thick tonkotsu broth and a delicious smokiness. Most recently, I had their special chicken and porcini mushroom ramen with handmade noodles, which was an absolute revelation: I have no idea what they did to the mushrooms to make them taste so damn good.

Bowl of Ramen with condiments on wooden bench at Canteen

The Classic Daddy ramen features a cloudy chicken broth, perfectly charred pork and delicious noodles. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Canteen, Fyshwick

Located in the increasingly hip Dairy Road district, Canteen is a ramen bar from the team behind Ramen Daddy. Canteen makes everything on-site, with an open kitchen and glass-walled noodle room. They specialise in tori (chicken) broth, in both paitan (cloudy) and shoyu styles. The Classic Daddy and Hot Daddy are both excellent: I particularly enjoy the addition of pickled mushrooms, and their ramen eggs are top-notch (you can even have them as a dan dan scotch egg in the evenings). Do yourself a favour and get yourself to Fyshwick.

Bowl of delicious looking tonkotsu ramen with egg, pork and spring onion.

Anj worked for years to perfect her tonkotsu ramen to emulate the same emotion she had during her travels in Tokyo. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

Ikigai, Gungahlin

A newcomer to the scene, Ikigai is run by dedicated chef Anj Sulit. She spent six years perfecting her 12-hour tonkotsu ramen recipe. She wanted to evoke a specific feeling she had when travelling in Tokyo, and she’s done a remarkable job. The Tonkotsu is divine, with super-flavourful pork and a rich broth. I particularly like the mayu garlic oil on top. Ikigai also serves a less common Ebi Curry Ramen with a chicken broth base and crispy fried prawns, which is absolutely worth a try.

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A few notable mentions:

Sadly, my editor imposes word limits, so I can’t write about all my favourites here. I’d also like to offer a few honourable mentions, starting with Dada in Woden, run by the original owners of Ramentic in Braddon. They do Ramen lunch specials and, true to their inclusive menu, also offer gluten-free and vegan options.

Speaking of vegan, Muku Ramen Bar in Scullin is another excellent newcomer. Chef Rina draws from the shojin ryori traditions of plant-based temple food to create everything on her menu from scratch. I absolutely did not miss the meat when I had their miso ramen; it was so rich and flavourful. They also have seasonal specials like cold ramen or tsukemoni, where chilled noodles are served separately from the broth.

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Raijin in McKellar is another suburban gem. This tiny restaurant is run by a lovely family serving traditional Japanese meals, including great ramen. They also have a winter special of Devil Ramen, a dish so spicy they ask you to sign a waiver! Ohsama Ramen in Manuka has eight versions of ramen and a dizzying array of side dishes. They make everything from scratch, and the attention to detail shows. One last shout-out goes to Tenkomori in the city. Their enormous bowls of ramen are piled high with toppings and offer some of the best value for money you’ll find anywhere.

Two bowls of ramen on a bench

Dishes at Muku in Scullin are inspired by the ‘shojin ryori’ tradition of Japanese cooking. Photo: Lucy Ridge.

So, who does it best?

Ultimately, it’s tough to pick a winner, but I reckon it’s a photo finish between White Chaco and Canteen.

Did we mention your favourite ramen joint? Let us know in the comments!

Original Article published by Lucy Ridge on Riotact.

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