As one of the most famous Japanese ramen chains in the world, Ichiran Ramen is renowned for its delicious tonkotsu-style ramen. Originally from Hakata city (also called Fukuoka) in the southern Japanese island of Kyushu, Ichiran ramen is intensely flavorful, combining creamy, pork-rich broth with thin noodles and spicy seasoning. Ichiran’s world-famous ramen is also available in America, with three locations in New York City (two in Manhattan and one in Brooklyn).
But you don’t have to visit an Ichiran restaurant to get a taste of its patented ramen. The ramen chain also offers a shelf-stable Take-Home Kit so you can make your own ramen at home. It contains three servings of noodles, soup base, and its signature spicy seasoning. Ichiran has spent years test tasting and crafting its take-home kits. Is it possible to replicate restaurant-quality ramen from a package? At The Manual, we decided to compare the two versions.
What separates Ichiran from other ramen shops is its unique dining setup. Step into an Ichiran location and you’ll notice that instead of counter seating or tables, seating at the restaurant is separated into booths. In front of each diner is a bamboo curtain — this is where all your interactions with the server and food service will take place. Ichiran calls this unique setup “Ramen Focus Booths.” Ichiran believes that eliminating unnecessary distractions gives diners the ability “to focus all of your attention into fully enjoying the flavors of our ramen.”
Specifically, Ichiran is Hakata-style tonkotsu. Ramen in Japan is highly regional with countless variations throughout the country. Kyushu island is known for its tonkotsu ramen, a fatty and salty broth dominated by pork. The creamy and rich broth is achieved by cooking pork bones on a rolling boil instead of a gentle simmer like other ramen styles. Tonkotsu is usually seasoned with salt to preserve the milky color (although soy sauce is also common). In Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen, very thin noodles are used instead of thick.
Ichiran does not serve light-tasting, delicate ramen. Each spoonful of broth has a deep pork flavor and the addition of Ichiran’s signature spicy sauce is essential as it helps cut through the richness of the soup. The thinness of the noodles also complements the thick broth — each strand of noodle is perfectly coated in soup, giving diners a well-crafted combination every bite. Another aspect of Ichiran is that it’s highly customizable. Customers can choose their salt level, spice level, noodle doneness, and toppings, which range from pork slices to wood ear mushrooms. This is one of the best aspects of Ichiran Ramen — the amount of customization can result in a totally different flavor profile for each diner.
Each Ichiran Take-Home Kit comes with three servings. At $29 per kit, it’s definitely on the pricey end for packaged ramen. The good news is that it’s extremely easy to prepare. All three components are separated into packages with instructions on the box. Simply boil noodles to the desired doneness, turn off the heat, add soup mix, stir, and sprinkle spice mix on top (optional but highly recommended). You can also choose to add garnishes like boiled eggs, scallions, or pork slices.
So how does the packaged version compare to the restaurant? The answer is that it’s surprisingly close. Of course, fresh ramen at the restaurant is superior — it’s not possible for any shelf-stable version to taste identical to its fresh counterpart. The take-home version lacks the restaurant ramen’s depth of flavor and there is a slight “packaged” taste to the take-home version. But the consistency of the broth is very good considering it came out of a package. However, because the noodles are so thin, it is quite easy to overcook them. The best recommendation would be to cook the noodles just under what you prefer before adding the soup mix into the hot water. The noodles will continue to cook in the broth.
Although it’s on the expensive side, Ichiran Take-Home Kits are worth a try for those looking to sample Ichiran ramen from the comfort of their home. Remember, this isn’t cheap instant ramen, it’s restaurant ramen curated for the home experience. Ichiran Take-Home Kits are available for delivery on its website.