Posts Tagged ‘Hakata ramen’

Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part V

February 1, 2012
Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV |  Part V 

Although varying in sizes and flavors, many of the ramen shops we covered in this series have one thing in common: their noodles are supplied by the same, local, noodle factory based right here in Hawaii. So what better way to close this series out than with where ramen in Hawaii all begins… Sun Noodle.

Outside Sun Noodle's Honolulu Factory
Outside Sun Noodle’s Honolulu Factory

At the helm of it all is Sun Noodle Founder and President Mr. Hidehito Uki who started the business more than 30 years ago (founded way back on July 10, 1981). Uki-san in fact comes from a noodle making bloodline. His family had a fresh noodle making “ya” (store) in the Tochigi Prefecture (then) named the Ikeda Noodle Company. Here, he perfected the art of “men” before moving to Hawaii.

Sun Noodle President Mr. Hidehito Uki
Sun Noodle President Mr. Hidehito Uki

While studying ESL (English as a Second Language) here at Hawaii Pacific University (Hawaii Pacific College at the time), he would often eat at local ramen shops looking for a place that reminded him of home. Frustrated, he set out to do something about it and that’s how Sun Noodle was born.

“There’s nothing more powerful than the sun. When you think of Hawaii, you think of the sun. That’s why I named the business Sun Noodle.”

His 10,000 square foot Honolulu factory on Colburn Street can produce up to 30,000 servings of raw noodles per 8 hour day. They churn out over 100 products like yakisoba, udon, chow fun, pancit, gyoza and won ton wrappers, and, for ramen alone, they make over 30 different styles!

Overlooking the Sun Noodle factory from above
Overlooking the Sun Noodle factory from above

Amazingly, even with that many choices, Mr. Uki’s philosophy is that every noodle order must be custom made for his clients based, on the flavor of their soup.

“Every soup our customer makes is their personality. The noodles and the soup have to have a nice combination. Even if you make good noodles and good soup, if it doesn’t match, it’s no good. That’s why we go out there and taste the soup from each client and try to figure out what noodle would go best with that particular soup. We keep trying until we get it right. Sometimes I spend months to find the perfect noodle to match their soup.”

Most of his factory’s noodles start with the same base: flour, water, salt and potassium carbonate. It is the variances in flour type and water that makes all the difference.

“We are lucky to have good water here in Hawaii. It makes good noodles.”

The ingredients are thrown in (by hand) to a large vat…

Sun Noodle employee throwing in the ingredients for this batch of noodles
Sun Noodle employee throwing in the ingredients for this batch of noodles

… where it is mixed together…

Ingredients are mixed together
Ingredients are mixed together

… and flattened into a thin sheet by automated machinery. Large rolls of these flattened concoctions are then fed into another machine…

Large flour rolls feeding into the machine that cuts them into noodles
Large flour rolls feeding into the machine that cuts them into noodles

… which slices and dices them into their famous noodle shape.

Where noodles are cut into their famous shape(s)
Where noodles are cut into their famous shape(s)

Some are straight, some are wavy, and some even have a different color to them (based on the type of flour). Here’s a batch of noodles being prepared for Zippy’s Restaurants’ famous Zip Min.

Noodles for Zippy's Restaurants' Zip Min
Noodles for Zippy’s Restaurants’ Zip Min

Depending on what is being made, the noodles are then either packaged right there or sent off to the steaming/cooking room where they (usually yakisoba or udon) take a bath before being packaged.

Trays of yakisoba noodles are cooked in hot water before being packaged
Trays of yakisoba noodles are cooked in hot water before being packaged

For a while, he tried to service his mainland customers out of this factory alone, but it proved to be a difficult task with them being spread throughout California, Washington, Nevada, Vancouver BC (Canada), and parts of the East Coast. Ultimately, in order to provide the freshest noodles possible to his mainland customers, he decided to open up another factory in the greater Los Angeles area (on W Mahalo Place ironically) in 2004. Not satisfied, he will soon open up another factory in the New Jersey area so that his East Coast customers and their clientele get the freshest Sun Noodles they can get.

“Providing fresh noodle is the best! Instead of making the noodles in L.A., freezing it, and shipping it to the East Coast, we decided to make a factory in the East Coast so we can provide the freshest noodles possible.”

During the tour, I asked Mr. Uki what he thought of Saimin (compared to ramen), and his answer, which I really enjoyed, gave me that ultimate “a-ha” moment.

“Each area in Japan has their own, unique style of ramen. Kyushu has Hakata style (tonkotsu), Hokkaido has Sapporo style (miso)… Saimin is Hawaii’s style of ramen.”

I never thought of it that way, but it’s very true! I now have a new found appreciation for saimin. Being from Hawaii, I’m required to be proud of it. 😉

I also asked him what his thoughts were on slurping as a custom. I once asked my parents (who are also from Japan) why people slurp so loudly when eating their ramen. They told me that it is a sign of respect and appreciation for the ramen chef. It tells them that the noodles are delicious and is the ultimate compliment you can give to them. Mr. Uki had a different explanation:

“It looks tasty if you slurp your noodles. If you don’t smell the noodles, you can’t taste it. Of course, when you slurp, you bring in the air, which is important to help you smell and taste the ramen. Nowadays, even the non-Japanese community is starting to slurp their noodles.”

In my brief conversation with Mr. Uki, I could tell that his passion for noodles ran deep.

“We try to make the best noodle possible. We will try to make best noodle market in Hawaii for everybody to enjoy ramen.”

He truly loves what he does and best exemplifies what I love so much about ramen: a warm base with humble beginnings… Here’s to another 30 years!

 

Mahalo for following along during this obsessive, noodle & soup-filled expedition. Although the Hawaii Ramen Quest series has come to an end, the journey continues. See y’all at the next ramen stop!

Note: R.I.P. to Hawaii Journalism legend Mr. John Heckathorn who also covered Hidehito Uki and Sun Noodle in his noodle series: “In Search of the Ultimate Noodle“.

Part I | Part II | Part III | Part IV |  Part V 

Hawaii Ramen Quest – Part II

November 1, 2011
Part I |  Part II  | Part III | Part IV | Part V

We continue the slurp fest this month with a variety of ramen from Ramen Nakamura, Gomaichi, Goma Tei, Menchanko Tei, and Shokudo. Hungry? We go!

The last time I went to Ramen Nakamura was the day after I got hitched (in 2008). Since we had the hotel room for an additional day, we thought we'd play tourist and walk around to grab a bite to eat.

Ramen Nakamura sign
Ramen Nakamura sign

Ramen Nakamura has been a popular ramen-ya in Waikiki for years. They are known mostly for their Hakata style ramen and their Oxtail Ramen. I got the Oxtail Ramen Combo.

Oxtail Ramen Combo (Shio flavor, small fried rice, 3 pcs gyoza) - $17.20
Oxtail Ramen Combo (Shio flavor, small fried rice, 3 pcs gyoza) – $17.20

Not exactly cheap, but what the hey, we were on pseudo vacation. 😉

Wifey got the Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen.

Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen ăŻă‹ăŸăšă‚“ă“ă€ăƒ©ăƒŒăƒĄăƒł - $8.70
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen ăŻă‹ăŸăšă‚“ă“ă€ăƒ©ăƒŒăƒĄăƒł – $8.70

Ramen Nakamura ăƒ©ăƒŒăƒĄăƒłăȘかむら
2141 Kalakaua Ave, Suite 1
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 922-7960
Mon-Sun: 11am-11:30pm

For some reason, a lot of people I talk to seem to be crazy about these next two places: Gomaichi and Goma Tei. Don't get me wrong, I think they are both OK, but am not sure if the fanatical nature of their enthusiasm is quite justified IMO.

As the story goes for many of these restaurants with strikingly similar recipes (RE: Boulevard/Dillingham Saimin & Tanaka Saimin, Shige's Saimin & Nakai Saimin, and Genki Ramen & Ramen-Ya), there was a rift between the owners that caused one owner to spin off and create Goma Tei. We'll start with the original: Gomaichi.

One night before heading to the club (yes, it was THAT long ago! 😛 ), we decided that we'd grab a quick bite to eat at Gomaichi (on Keeaumoku). We got the popular Tan Tan Men (of course) as well as the Wakame Tan Tan Men.

Tan Tan Men from Gomaichi たんたんメン - $7.40
Tan Tan Men from Gomaichi たんたんメン – $7.40

Close-up of the Tan Tan Men
Close-up of the Tan Tan Men

Wakame Tan Tan Men (seaweed & half hard boiled egg) わかめたんたんメン - $7.40
Wakame Tan Tan Men (seaweed & half hard boiled egg) わかめたんたんメン – $7.40

Gomaichi Ramen ă”ăŸă„ăĄăƒ©ăƒŒăƒĄăƒł
631 Keeaumoku St
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 951-6666
Mon-Sat: 11am-2pm
Mon-Sat: 5:30pm-9pm

And because I'm such a thorough (and investigative) journalist, I ordered the exact same thing from their Goma Tei counterpart: the Tan Tan and the Wakame. That, or we just always crave the same thing! 😉

Tan Tan Ramen from Goma Tei ăŸă‚“ăŸă‚“ăƒ©ăƒŒăƒĄăƒł (served with Japanese style char siu and vegetable garnishes) - $8.18
Tan Tan Ramen from Goma Tei ăŸă‚“ăŸă‚“ăƒ©ăƒŒăƒĄăƒł (served with Japanese style char siu and vegetable garnishes) – $8.18

Wakame Tan Tan Ramen ă‚ă‹ă‚ăŸă‚“ăŸă‚“ăƒ©ăƒŒăƒĄăƒł (served with wakame, shoyu egg and vegetable garnishes) - $8.48
Wakame Tan Tan Ramen ă‚ă‹ă‚ăŸă‚“ăŸă‚“ăƒ©ăƒŒăƒĄăƒł (served with wakame, shoyu egg and vegetable garnishes) – $8.48

We also picked up their specialty side dish, the Ban Ban Ji Chicken (which you will also find at Gomaichi).

Ban Ban Ji Chicken (Slices of chicken breast, cooked in a sake scallion and ginger broth then chilled in ice. Served on a bed of thinly sliced cucumber, chilled with a slightly spicy and tangy sesame sauce) バンバンゾチキン - $7.48
Ban Ban Ji Chicken (Slices of chicken breast, cooked in a sake scallion and ginger broth then chilled in ice. Served on a bed of thinly sliced cucumber, chilled with a slightly spicy and tangy sesame sauce) バンバンゾチキン – $7.48

Goma Tei currently has two locations: one in Ward Center (1st floor near the old Borders), and the other at Ala Moana Center (1st floor in between GNC and ABC Store). These photos were taken at the Ward Center location.

Goma Tei Ramen (Ward Center)
1200 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 591-9188
Mon-Thu: 11am-9:30pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-10pm
Sun: 11am-9pm

Goma Tei Ramen (Ala Moana Center)
1450 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814 (map)
(808) 947-9188
Mon-Thu: 11am-9:30pm
Fri-Sat: 11am-10pm
Sun: 11am-8:30pm

A friend recommended we check out this next place. It had all the makings of an authentic Japanese ramen experience:

  • in Waikiki
  • menu written in Japanese
  • Hakata style ramen

Wifey outside Menchanko-Tei
Wifey outside Menchanko-Tei

Unfortunately, Menchanko-Tei in the Waikiki Trade Center did not deliver. I'm hoping that it was just an off night though and am willing to go back for another try. Here's what we had that night.

Hakata Pork Broth Ramen æœŹć Žćšć€šăšă‚“ă“ă€ă‚‰ăƒŒă‚ă‚“ - $8.95
Hakata Pork Broth Ramen æœŹć Žćšć€šăšă‚“ă“ă€ă‚‰ăƒŒă‚ă‚“ – $8.95

Seafood Menchanko æ”·ăźćčžă‚ă‚“ăĄă‚ƒă‚“ă“ - $15.95
Seafood Menchanko æ”·ăźćčžă‚ă‚“ăĄă‚ƒă‚“ă“ – $15.95

Menchanko-Tei
Waikiki Trade Center
2255 Kuhio Ave, Suite S
Honolulu, HI 96815 (map)
(808) 924-8366
Daily 11am-11:30pm

And finally… we end with another Ramen "event" that recently occurred, this time from Shokudo Japanese Restaurant (See my review on Shokudo). Like the "Best of Japan: Ramen & Gyoza Festival" event I featured last month from Shirokiya's Yataimura, Shokudo held a similar event over a four day period, dubbed the "Ultimate Ramen Battle", where only 300 bowls of ramen were made available per day at $10 each. The days and hours were a bit strange (if you blinked, you missed it), but I was able to get to the one I wanted to: Day 2's Ultimate Ramen "Goku" from Japan's Chef Hide Kawahara (on 10/18/11).

The Ultimate Ramen "Goku" from Japan's Chef Hide Kawahara - $10
The Ultimate Ramen "Goku" from Japan's Chef Hide Kawahara – $10

It was served with a spoonful of sizzling sesame seed oil that made the green onions on top snap, crackle and pop. +1 for style points. LOL! And although the local style noodles didn't match that well, the tonkotsu broth was off the chain! I would go as far as to say that it might even be the best base I've tasted in Hawaii so far. It's a shame they won't be serving it again. 😩

Rick Nakama (@RickNakama) tweeting his bowl
Rick Nakama (@RickNakama) tweeting his bowl

Side Note: Although the original invitation called this the Ultimate Ramen "Goku" from Japan's Chef Hide Kawahara, the voting ballot when we got there said it was the Sizzling Tonkotsu Ramen "Goku" from Japan's Chef Yusuke Kawahara FYI.

Day 1 (10/17/11) featured the Premium "Tsukemen" from Japan's Chef Hiroshi Shigematsu, which social media extraordinaire Melissa Chang (@Melissa808) was able to experience.

Premium "Tsukemen" from Japan's Chef Hiroshi Shigematsu [Photo Credit: Melissa Chang - NonstopHonolulu.com]
Premium "Tsukemen" from Japan's Chef Hiroshi Shigematsu [Photo Credit: Melissa Chang – NonstopHonolulu.com]

Day 3 (10/19/11) was the Okinawa So-Ki Soba from Izakaya Naru's Chef Hiro Akiyama. Here's Brandon Suyeoka's (@WeHeartHawaii) shot from that day.

Okinawa So-Ki Soba from Izakaya Naru's Chef Hiro Akiyama [Photo Credit: Brandon Suyeoka]
Okinawa So-Ki Soba from Izakaya Naru's Chef Hiro Akiyama [Photo Credit: Brandon Suyeoka]

Shokudo closed out the battle on Day 4 (10/20/11) with the DaKine Curry Miso Ramen from Shokudo's own Chef Hiro Hosoda. Here's @StarletShay's photo from that day.

DaKine Curry Miso Ramen from Shokudo's own Chef Hiro Hosoda [Photo Credit: @StarletShay]
DaKine Curry Miso Ramen from Shokudo's own Chef Hiro Hosoda [Photo Credit: @StarletShay]

I didn't see any kind of announcement as to who the winner was, but a quick call in to Shokudo told me that Day 3's Okinawa So-Ki Soba from Izakaya Naru's Chef Hiro Akiyama was the ramen that came out on top. Lucky Brandon!

Incidentally, on normal days, Shokudo serves three different types of ramen for $9.95 each: The Spicy Miso Ramen (Ramen noodles served in spicy miso paste broth topped with seasoned pork and Chinese chives), the Tokyo Shoyu Ramen (Ramen noodles served in shoyu broth topped with charsiu, bamboo shoots, onions , and half a hard boiled egg) and the Ox Tail Ramen (Ox tail and assorted vegetables are braised more than 6 hours in house. Ramen noodles are added in for the ultimate comfort food).

Ox Tail Ramen ă‚Șックă‚čăƒ†ăƒŒăƒ«ăƒ©ăƒŒăƒĄăƒł (Ox tail and assorted vegetables are braised more than 6 hours in house. Ramen noodles are added in for the ultimate comfort food) - $9.95
Ox Tail Ramen ă‚Șックă‚čăƒ†ăƒŒăƒ«ăƒ©ăƒŒăƒĄăƒł (Ox tail and assorted vegetables are braised more than 6 hours in house. Ramen noodles are added in for the ultimate comfort food) – $9.95

Shokudo Japanese Restaurant & Bar
Ala Moana Pacific Center
1585 Kapiolani Blvd
Honolulu, HI 96814
(808) 941-3701
Mon-Thu & Sun 11:30am-1am
Fri-Sat: 11:30am-2am
Twitter: @Shokudo

Wow, two parts already in the books! This series seems to be flying by too quickly! Don't let it ennnnd! 😛

Nah, no worries, I've still got lots of ramen for y'all from Kanpai Bar & Grill, Mr. Ojisan, Yakitori Yoshi, Aiea Bowl, Chinpei, Taiyo, Sumo, Rai Rai, Ichiben, Genki, Ton Ton, Nishi Mon Cho, Ramen-Ya, Ezogiku and Kiwami Ramen!

If you have any other suggestions, post them in the comment area below or send them using the form on the right. Thanks a bunch!

Part I |  Part II  | Part III | Part IV | Part V