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“Noodles are not only amusing but delicious.” —Julia Child
It’s officially ramen weather! Yes, we’ve all experienced the ramen in the styrofoam cups—the stuff that was invented by inventor and businessman Momofuku Ando in 1971. Authentic ramen, however, has been popular in Japan since the 19th century, and is a completely different, and delicious, bowl of soup.
My first experience with ramen was on a rainy day in Portland, Oregon. I stumbled into Boxer Ramen with a head cold and ordered the spicy red miso pork ramen. It was life changing. Not only did it clear my sinuses (so spicy), it cleared all my college memories of microwavable noodle bricks. Once you have real ramen, it becomes something to crave. Luckily for me, Fresno has a hand to play in the ramen game.
Ramen Ichiban Kan is a great local spot if you’re looking to get a warm bowl of authentic ramen noodles. Located at First and Bullard, it’s nestled in a shopping center, but you can find it easily by the bright red “Ramen” sign. The restaurant is small and cozy; you can also order take out if you need your noodles to go.
Owned by Masa Ito, a sushi chef who decided to open a ramen restaurant in retirement, Ramen Ichiban Kan has a wide variety of ramen to choose from. Did you know there are different kinds of ramen broth? Not only is there rich miso broth, there’s the soy sauce-based shoyu broth. The restaurant also prides itself on a great tonkotsu ramen. Tonkotsu means “pork bone” in Japanese, and it has a milky white texture. You can also try shio, which is a salty broth seasoned with salt, or a curry ramen. If you’re not a broth expert, don’t worry: there are little notes on the menu to remind you which ramen has the soy sauce flavor and which are more milk-, salt-, or miso-based.
As for toppings, forget about dehydrated peas and carrots. You can get anything from wontons to clams for your protein, and plan on bean sprouts and bamboo shoots. No matter what you order, you can add spice with chili oil or chili flakes, or texture with crushed sesame seeds. I personally always add chili because I like a kick to my noodles.
True ramen noodles are a little bit chewy. They’re also long and curly, which can make eating them a little bit messy. Just don’t wear your nicest shirt to eat ramen, and remember slurping noodles is considered a compliment.
Recently, I ordered the shoyu ramen, which comes with pork, a hardboiled egg, green onions, bamboo shoots, and bean sprouts. The little pink and white disk scene in the photo below is kamaboko, aka fish cake. Don’t fear the fish cake! I promise, all of it combines with the chewy noodles to create a comforting bowl of soup, perfect for a cold winter’s day.
Do you have a favorite ramen spot? What’s your favorite type of ramen? Are you pro-fish cake? Drop your ramen tips in the comments!
Ramen Ichiban Kan
Location: 5730 N. First Street (in the corner next to Save Mart)
Hours: Mon-Sun 11 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4:30 p.m.-9 p.m. Closed Tuesdays.
Phone: (559) 999-3580 or (559) 440-1010