Ramen is usually known in the USA as an inexpensive meal, often most popular with starving college students. However, experiencing “real” ramen in Japan is about 1000x better than the dorm room microwaved version!
Japanese ramen can vary greatly in taste and ingredients. Almost every region of Japan has its own style, and it is one of the most popular meals throughout the country.
When selecting a variety, it’s first important to know which broth you prefer:
Shoyu: A traditional soy and meat or fish based broth that is deep brown in color
Shio: Meaning “salt,” a light colored clear broth similar to broths in Western dishes
Miso: Broth flavored with miso to give a more complex taste
While the three above are by far the most popular, it is easy to find other varieties throughout Japan. For example, Hokkaido is known for its curry ramen. Some also consider Tonkotsu to be a separate variety; while it still has a shio or shoyu base, it additionally includes pork bone broth for a richer flavor.
Once you have selected your broth, there are so many ingredients to choose from. Some of the most common selections include pork belly, boiled eggs, nori, scallions, and leeks.
Phoenix is actually home to a quite a few ramen shops. We have outlined our five favorites below. Here you can experience what ramen is meant to taste like and say goodbye to the microwaved version forever!
Tampopo is a cozy ramen shop in the heart of Tempe offering a range of menu options. We recommend the Tonkotsu option, although you can’t really go wrong with any of the choices. While Japanese food is not traditionally spicy, those looking for an extra kick may also enjoy the “Ultra Spicy” ramen that includes Tonkotsu broth, roasted pork, and chili oil.
Most importantly, come hungry! You can order kae-dama, or extra noodles, for $1.50 if you have leftover broth. Plus, you don’t want to miss out on the red bean dessert after your meal.
Tampopo is also a New Times winner for best in town, and we fully support their choice.
3223 S. McClintock Dr. Tempe, AZ
Ramen Dozo is just around the corner from Tampopo. (Anyone living in Tempe has great choices for ramen shops!) Ramen Dozo comparatively is more modern in feel and offers a variety of sushi choices on the menu as well.
The Tonkotsu ramen here is another crowd favorite. We also enjoy the option to build your own bowl by selecting your broth and meat. The restaurant also has some great “combo” options, allowing diners to add a sushi roll or other side dish to their meal.
3415 S McClintock Dr. Ste 107 Tempe, AZ 85282
Hot Noodles Cold Sake
Despite being a fairly new restaurant, Hot Noodles Cold Sake has already been featured in the New Times and other local publications as having some of the best noodles in town. The American-born chef learned to prepare ramen while living in Tokyo, and he has worked to bring authentic flavors to his shop in North Scottsdale.
The house specialty here is Goma ramen; it includes pork, bok choy, sesame seeds, and two varieties of pepper. If you’re in the mood for a more traditional flavor, however, the Shoyu and Miso options are tasty as well.
As the name suggests, you can find plenty of sake choices to accompany your meal!
15689 North Hayden Rd. Scottsdale, Arizona 85260
We aren’t kidding about Tempe having the best ramen! Hachi is an excellent choice for those looking for authentic flavors and tasty appetizers as well. We should mention the expansive bar options too, as these are often featured on their Facebook page.
Hachi was featured in New Times as well as one of the best new restaurants in town. The traditional Shoyu style option is a must have, in our opinion. Plus they offer appetizers that can be hard to find in town, such as takoyaki.
655 W Warner Rd. Ste 114 Tempe, AZ 85284
Cherry Blossom Noodle Cafe
We can’t help featuring Cherry Blossom Noodle Cafe on our page again and again! Cherry Blossom is known for its delicious noodles, of course, and also features numerous sushi options as well as pastries for dessert.
Hakata ramen, originating from Fukuoka city in Japan, is our favorite. In includes barbecue pork, green onion, and kikurage mushrooms. You also can’t go wrong with the traditional menu choices, such as the Miso or Shoyu ramen. Try the happy hour (3-6pm weekdays) if you are in the mood to sample a variety of menu items!
914 E. Camelback Rd. Phoenix, AZ 85014
Do you have other favorite spots in town? Feel free to comment below! Be sure to also check out our other favorite Japanese restaurants in the Phoenix area as well.
In the mood to make your own ramen? You can find all the ingredients you need at Tempe’s Fujiya Market.