In the port city of Yokohama, Japan, there is a large museum dedicated to ramen. There, one can learn the story of ramen’s genesis between slurps of noodles and broth: Though the noodle is now practically Japan’s national dish — popular enough to support more than 200,000 ramen restaurants — the noodles are actually Chinese in origin, and it was Chinese migrants who brought the springy wheat noodles to Japan in the early 20th century. Japanese cooks remade the noodles to their own taste, and by the 1950s, Japan was the ramen-crazy country it still is today.
Around New York, we can get the noodles in various dishes and regional styles, some traditional, like Ippudo’s Hakata-style ramen, and some seemingly invented, like ZuZu Ramen’s green curry ramen.
Our picks for the nine best ramen joints in New York follow — just nine this week because that’s how many places we were able to confirm as great. As always, if we missed your favorite, tell us about it in the comments.
9. ZuZu Ramen The spicy green curry broth makes this place worth a try. 173 Fourth Avenue, Brooklyn, 718-398-9898
8. Totto Ramen Notable for its long-simmered chicken broth, lighter than the usual porky stocks. Try the spicy version, which adds chile oil seasoned with garlic, onion, and dried shrimp and scallops to the mix.) 366 West 52nd Street, 212-582-0052
7. Sapporo Excellent hiyashi chuka, or cold summer ramen, with lots of garnishes and a sweet-tart cool broth. 152 West 49th Street, 212-869-8972
6. Rai Rai Ken Flavorful shoyu — soy sauce — broth; attractive and traditional-looking 14-seat bar. 214 East 10th Street, 212-477-7030
5. Minca Ramen Factory Deliciously porky, garlicky tonkotsu broth, springy wheat noodles, and sometimes they have “experimental ramen,” which seems to mean that the cook will make you whatever he feels like. 536 East 5th Street, 212-505-8001
The top four, straight ahead …
4. Rockmeisha An izakaya that happens to serve stellar Hakata-style milky pork-bone broth zested with red pickled ginger and sesame seeds. 11 Barrow Street, 212-675-7775
3. Momofuku Noodle Bar Oh, you know. There are lots of things to say about the Momofuku ramen, but most of them have already been said. It’s just extremely tasty. 171 First Avenue, 212-777-7773
2. Ramen Setagaya The spicy miso broth is spicy, nutty, delicious. Or get the cold noodles tsukemen-style, with a dipping broth. The ramen is springy and al dente. 34A St. Marks Place, 212-387-7959
1. Ippudo There are reasons not to like this place: It’s more expensive than most; there’s often a long wait, except at lunch; and it’s off-puttingly slick. But it also makes the best ramen and broth, by a mile. Those thin, gossamer noodles manage to be both delicate and chewy-resilient. They practically taste alive. The tonkotsu broth has layers of savory flavor that go on forever. We particularly like that stock when flavored with hot sauce and ground pork, as in the karaka-men, or with miso and garlic, as in the akamaru tonkotsu. 65 Fourth Avenue, 212-388-0088