Ramen has been growing quickly in popularity over the years and especially in Toronto a slew of ramen restaurants has taken over the food industry bringing this Japanese noodle soup dish to western cultures. Years ago it was the instant noodles craze that took the world by storm. It was a big hit for anyone that needed to eat something quickly as it could be prepared in minutes. You would just pour hot water on the noodles, let it simmer for a few minutes and the meal would be ready. Ramen to me is an evolution of that. It’s a more refined, more elegant, and to me a much more tastier version of instant noodles. It also hasn’t lost the feature of it being a quick eat. As seen on CBS’s hit TV show, Shark Tank, the “Rapid Ramen Cooker” is trying to capitalize on ramen’s easy and quick preparation time of its advertised 4 minutes.
As I was around the neighbourhood of Dundas Square in Toronto, I decided to go try the restaurant Santouka Ramen as it has already been rated as one of the top ramen places to go eat in the city. It’s also very popular with university students as this restaurant is just steps away from Ryerson University. When trying to find it I almost missed it as I walked straight by it on the street since from first glance it does not look like what you would think a successful restaurant would be. It’s a run down, red-bricked building with its logo graffitied on the outside walls. Big giant windows allow pedestrians to peer inside the small restaurant where a bunch of fake ramen bowls are also displayed to try to entice hungry onlookers to come inside and grab a quick bite to eat.
Don’t be surprised if this place is packed. I arrived at around 12:30PM to try to find a table and the hostess had to take down my name as there were about 5 other parties already ahead of us waiting to be seated. Being already a very small building, the waiting area was even smaller and I felt a bit crammed in this tiny corner where around 10 people including myself were all standing. Thankfully it only took maybe about 10 to 15 minutes for me to get seated as the turnover was very quick. Ramen dishes are relatively fast to make and typically the customers who come to these places don’t linger in their tables for too long.
Their menu is quite small in terms of selection of Ramen which is great for me as I can be very indecisive when trying to pick a dish off of an overwhelmingly large menu. I opted to get their Miso Ramen while my friend went with their Kara Miso Ramen. They are both exactly the same dish except that the Kara version adds hot spices to the soup base which will appeal to someone who enjoys spicy foods. Every bowl of ramen is served in their regular size which costs $10.95. However you are able to upgrade to a large size if you add a dollar to the base price, or get a smaller version that will cost a dollar less.
Often times in ramen, the soup base becomes the star and is what differentiates a great ramen dish from a bad one. I loved my soup base as it had a miso flavour to it and it wasn’t too salty to drink alone. The flavours meshed beautifully together from the pork to the narutomaki (formed fish paste), to the diced onions and the mushrooms. The wheat noodles were also cooked to a nice firm and chewy texture which is how it was meant to be eaten. With all the ingredients being marinated together inside the soup base, this ramen dish really sings in terms of flavour, flavour, flavour!
Pork broth seasoned with miso (fermented soy bean paste) - Cost $10.95
I went here with a friend who had ramen for the very first time in his life. How did he like it? A week later he went out to buy the ramen ingredients at his local grocery store to try to re-create the dish he had at Santouka Ramen at home. That is the impression this restaurant and the food left on him. A ramen convert? Check!