Ramen Rules: Warm up from the inside out with these five tasty and take-out friendly noodle bowls

Tonkotsu ramen from Kokoro Ramen - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Tonkotsu ramen from Kokoro Ramen

GLOSSARY

BROTH

Miso — A soy-based broth blended with chicken and/or fish stock

Tonkotsu — A creamy pork-bone broth; cloudy and tan

Shoyu — A soy-based chicken or veggie broth; clear and dark

Shio — A salty chicken, veggie or fish-based broth; clear and light

TOPPINGS

Chashu — Pork

Ajitsuke tamago — seasoned boiled egg

Kikurage — wood ear mushroom

Moyashi — bean sprouts

Menma/shinachiku — bamboo shoots

Nori — dried seaweed

Naruto/narutomaki/kamaboko — processed fish “cakes”

Negi — Green onion

Ninniku — garlic

OTHER TERMS

Ramyun — Korean-style ramen

Ramenya — ramen shop/house

Renge — ramen spoon

Tsukemen — noodles served separately to dip in soup

Although it sounds like the epitome of bad manners at the dinner table, it's totally acceptable — encouraged, actually — to noisily slurp up those long, starchy noodles from a steaming bowl of ramen.

Moreover, it's also OK to pick up the entire soup bowl to tip that savory, slow-cooked broth right into your mouth. For confirmation we're not making this all up, ask any chef familiar with Japanese cuisine, or consult the distinguished Michelin Guide.

Another gesture of courtesy to ramen chefs is not lingering over your bowl, as the longer those toothy, al dente noodles sit in the broth, the more liquid is absorbed, which alters the entire dish's flavor and texture. With origins as a street food, ramen was designed to nourish diners on the go, and many ramen stalls in Japan feature quick-service bar counters where diners are otherwise silent save for the sound of slurping. While there are many more nuances of ramen culture, such as regional differences in ingredients and preparation across Japan, those of us stateside can get away with these three basics: slurp, sip and speed.

Let the ramen eating commence.

CHEY SCOTT,
Inlander food editor

MONARCH RAMEN

1401 N. Fourth St., Coeur d’Alene, 208-966-4230
What we got: Monarch ramen ($15)

Steamy windows always remind of that hide-away restaurant tucked into an urban side street, with pungent aromas hitting as you enter — the promise of something warm and hearty on the plate. At Midtown Monarch, that something is in a bowl, and having tried nearly all five of their standard ramen noodle soup offerings since the place opened in October 2019, it’s tough to choose a fave. The signature Monarch ramen hits all the right notes with a spicy pork broth, savory and very tender braised pork, crunchy vegetable toppings like bean sprouts and bamboo, and the creaminess of a fried egg. The pickled mustard greens on top of the soup cuts through the richness and balances the other flavors, making you wonder why pickled goodies aren’t part of every soup offering. Even better, you can build your own ramen ($13), which allows you to explore the various broths, noodles (try kale noodles), proteins and toppings to create the perfect bowl. (CARRIE SCOZZARO)

Monarch ramen - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Monarch ramen

KOKORO RAMEN

509 N. Sullivan Rd. E, Spokane Valley, 309-2992
What we got: Tonkotsu ramen ($12)

You might be skeptical about how well ramen can travel, but Kokoro Ramen and Boba Tea Time gives you a user-friendly setup. You’ll find all those tasty noodles, a sheet of nori, sliced pork, green onion, red ginger, bamboo shoots, a soft-boiled egg and other veggies, depending on your ramen choice, perfectly arranged in a travel bowl with a lid. The unctuous, fatty broth is in another container ready to be poured right into the bowl. Many Kokoro fans swear by the black garlic ramen, but their tonkotsu — made with their unique recipe for pork bone broth — is perfectly delicious, too. Hitting all the savory notes you can only get from slow-boiled broth, this dish warms you from the inside out, perfect for winter time and that classic ramen craving. For 50 cents more, you can make it spicy. The servings are hefty — you might even get two meals out of it like I did. Plus, if you want some sweet with that savory, Kokoro offers extensive boba tea options (seriously, almost 40 tea options, and that’s not even counting the smoothies) with add-ons like tapioca boba, popping passion fruit boba, lychee jelly and more. (SAMANTHA WOHLFEIL)

LITTLE NOODLE

713 W. Garland Ave., 598-8635
What we got: Miso ramen with smoked pork belly ($15)

Run, don’t walk, to Little Noodle, the Garland District’s new, seasonal noodle shop that debuted in October inside a space occupied the rest of the year by Honey Pig Barbecue. A project of local chef Kadra Evans (formerly of North Hill on Garland) and her brother-in-law Ryan Stretch, Little Noodle was born of creative necessity after both were laid off from previous jobs due to the pandemic, and to spotlight Evans’ carefully perfected pho recipe. The shop’s take on ramen is just as worthy of your taste buds. Thankfully, ramen noodles, their toppings and broth travel well to combine at home into the largest bowl you’ve got. Evans and Stretch’s take on ramen features an ultra unctuous miso-based broth that’s well seasoned with traditional Japanese togarashi spices (red chili pepper, hemp seed, roasted orange peel, sesame, ginger, nori and poppy seed) for rich, warm flavors. All the protein options for both pho and ramen are smoked prime meats (plus tofu), including tri tip, pork and pork belly (our favorite), as well as shrimp. Bonus: The kitchen doesn’t skimp (unlike many ramen houses, which only serve a single slice of pork) on these savory, smoky, salty meats. Joining the hearty protein portion are a few usual suspects: baby corn, a soft egg, green onion and dried seaweed. (CHEY SCOTT)

Spicy minced pork ramen from King of Ramen - YOUNG KWAK PHOTO
Young Kwak photo
Spicy minced pork ramen from King of Ramen

KING OF RAMEN

1601 N. Division St., 321-7050
What we got: Spicy minced pork ramen ($11)

I was an early advocate of King of Ramen when Nick Weng and Terry Pan opened the unassuming spot in a Division Street strip mall in 2016. The broths used in steaming bowls of tonkotsu ramen or their Spicy King ramen were so heavenly it took me several visits before trying the spicy minced pork ramen. Ever since I did, I rarely let my attention travel to other parts of King of Ramen’s menu except for the occasional gyoza or spring roll appetizer. Resisting the broths of the traditional house ramens isn’t easy, but this dish is worth it. Visually, it almost resembles an Italian pasta dish. The minced pork, piled high and topped with a jolt of electric-pink ginger, delivers incredible flavor through its spices that leave your tongue tingling, and the meaty mixture sits on a bed of ramen noodles that help you sop up every last bit of piggy, peppery goodness. If spicy or pork-based dishes aren’t your thing, King of Ramen has plenty of options, from those dreamy traditional ramens to a couple of curry and teriyaki dishes. And best of all, all their dishes proved just as tasty taken to-go for at-home dining. (DAN NAILEN)

NUDO RAMEN HOUSE

9602 N. Newport Hwy., 467-0292; 818 W. Sprague Ave., 290-5763
What we got: Tantanmen ($12)

With its eye-catching pop-art aesthetic and unorthodox menu options — ramen burgers, anyone? — Nudo Ramen House has become a go-to spot for getting your ramen on, and both their downtown Spokane and Newport Highway locations are as bright and inviting as the food they serve up. As far as I’m concerned, any combination of savory broth and chewy noodles is likely to be a slam dunk, especially on a drab January evening. But this time around, I opted for the tantanmen, a dish that was new to me and might now be a future favorite. It’s a Japanese variation on a popular sichuan noodle meal, with chicken, veggies and peanuts swimming in a sesame paste broth. Nudo’s menu specifies that the dish is spicy, which often gives me pause (you never know just how volcanic it’s going to be). But it turned out to have just the right level of heat for my tastes, and that extra kick meshes nicely with the earthiness of the sauce, the tenderness of the chicken and the crunch of the carrots and peanuts. (NATHAN WEINBENDER)


MORE TASTY RAMEN

Beet and Basil
105 S. First Ave., Sandpoint

Fusion Korean
13112 W. Sunset Hwy., Airway Heights

Kaiju Sushi & Spirits
424 E. Sherman Ave., Coeur d’Alene

Kinja
7458 N. Division St.

MadLo’s Ramen House
5919 Hwy. 291, Nine Mile Falls

O-Ramen
131 N. Grand Ave., Pullman

Red Bento
1896 W. Pullman Rd., Moscow

Domaine Drouhin Wine Dinner @ Dish at Dover Bay Cafe

Wed., March 10, 6 p.m.
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