OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Let’s see, how does that go?
Step 1: Open packet
Step 2: Microwave
Step 3: Sprinkle packet over noodles
Step 4: STOP….stop immediately!
Sure those instant noodles are .10 cents and, in a pinch, you might do that but ... use your noodle! Omaha has wonderful ramen options that are light years above that packet, feature depth of flavor, fresh ingredients, and an experience that will delight your senses.
If you haven’t yet experienced ramen in its big bowl, long noodle, egg, and veggie-topped format — then you are in for a treat.
Starting at Westroads Flagship Commons is Yoshi-Ya at 10000 California Street. The reason we’re starting here is that this is one of the first places that I experienced ramen. I learned that the big bowl is the business.
If you’re a person like me that loves a bowl of soup that is so much more than broth, then you are in luck. This will be a meal because we’re talking about a portion the size of a small mixing bowl. They also provide you with their basic rules of ramen: there are no forks and slurping is ok!
Like many ramen spots, you get to pick your broth and you can choose a meat-based broth as well as a vegan option. If you are ok with a savory meat base, start with the Tonkotsu Ramen. Yoshi-Ya’s version is a mix of chicken and pork, a whole egg, corn, bacon rayu oil, and of course pork chashu. The pork, as you will find at most spots here in Omaha, is thinly sliced and you might want to add some extra chashu for an extra meaty bowl. Keep an eye on the menu for "chashu" or "char siu" at your local ramen spot as they are different names for the same savory slice.
If you’d like to add some excitement to your meal with some amazing options you won’t find anywhere else in the metro, then head to Ika in Benson at 6109 Maple Street or one of it’s sister restaurants Ika San (Downtown/Shadow Lake) or Lucky Tiger in Blackstone. You are going to find a vibe here. Keep an eye out for specials like Birria Ramen, featuring noodles ensconced in a burrito or the Spicy Seafood Ramen.
The very first Faturday Omaha trip to Ika yielded the Hot Rocks appetizer that was rare beef served sizzling on…well...hot rocks! The point is that Ika is putting the fun into their menu. Not only fun but a diverse list of broths.
The Tonkotsu here is a pork broth and they also offer chicken, seafood, beef, and veggie broth depending on your preference.
If you have a late-night craving on Friday or Saturday they are open till 2 a.m. Don’t forget to check those add-ons as you can get a second round of noodles for $2 and slurp those up with any broth left in the bowl.
Near and dear to my heart is Rizin Ramen. This is a small shop in Rockbrook plaza at 2814 S 108th St and I have had more bowls of noodles from this small shop than any other. The Shoyu Ramen and Shio Ramen are my go-tos.
The menu here is smaller, but it is executed very well and very consistently. If you talk with foodie photographer, Japanese-born, Omaha resident Nat Ogura of Yum Omaha, she would likely tell you that you need to get Gyoza (pork pot stickers) with your meal. Rizin makes some of the best with their nicely and gently browned wrappers.
Note that at Rizin the add-ons are key. The base bowl of ramen is under $10, but I would recommend you add a Ni-Tamago (soft-boiled egg) and extra Chashu which will bring that bowl up to about $15 (and your happiness up to 11). This ramen travels well too, as they place the broth in one container and the dry ingredients in another so that you can keep it as fresh as possible until you apply your chopsticks.
Faturday Omaha focuses on locally owned locations, but Jinya at 7010 Dodge St. bears mentioning while we are noodling on things. The environment here is urban/fun and they have specials that are of interest as well.
If you catch the fried chicken ramen you may want to give that a go. For your first time out try the regular menu item, the Tonkotsu Black, but specify thick noodles. There is something about the mouth feel of switching out to those thick noodles that really creates a hardy bite.
As we round out our list, I’d like to add an entry that is not Japanese ramen, rather it is Burmese ramen, and you can find Aagya’s Burmese ramen at Kathmandu Momo Station within the Inner Rail Food Hall at 1911 S 67th St.
This ramen has a completely different flavor profile than its Japanese counterparts and a thinner rice noodle. There are two broth options here: a fish and a vegan. One bite of this will transport you to a taste that, to my palate, evokes flavors that I would expect to find in Thai cuisine. Since Burma/Myanmar shares a border with Thailand I could see those flavors crossing to and from those countries.
Also, you know the old saying, “When in Burma…” that’s right you get momo.
Ok, maybe that’s not right, but what is right is Kathmandu Momo Station momos. Get some of these Nepalese dumplings to go with your Burmese ramen and experience a mosaic of flavor in your meal.
Hopefully, this article has made you hungry for some hardy bowls of noodles. Please find/follow @FaturdayOmaha on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter. Locate our podcast on your podcast provider, and our radio show on 91.5 KIOS FM Saturdays at 2pm.
Until we eat again, stay hungry! - Dave Zorko