You would think that good, authentic ramen, in a big city like Shanghai, would be a cinch to find. You might think that, and you’d be right…sort of.
My head was spinning from all the possible choices!
Ok, maybe some of us are a little harder to please. After some research for ramen that’s a bit less…corporate, I set out for Ishin Ramen, or 维心 (Wei Xin in Chinese) in the Gubei area of Shanghai. From what I heard, Ishin has great tonkotsu or shoyu ramen with hanjuku egg (yes!), and excellent gyoza. Let’s go!
Gubei is a residential area known for ex-pats from Japan, among other Asian countries. Ishin Ramen is just a few blocks away from a major subway station, so I got there late in the afternoon and took a leisurely stroll. I passed plenty of tempting-looking restaurants and diners filled with hungry students and became hungrier and hungrier. My growling stomach was very excited when I spotted Ishin’s menu printed on their side window.
I almost skipped to the front entrance…
Waitasec! Was this a bad joke? Did they move? I called their phone number a few times…no answer. ARGH. Picture a thought bubble filled with ramen and floating hanjuku eggs. Now picture a large and nasty-looking needle cruelly piercing it with a loud “pop.”
But I came prepared! I hailed a taxi, and braced myself for a wild ride to my next destination (in general, all taxi rides in China are wild rides). After a few minutes, I was dropped off in an almost deserted, very residential area. “Is this it?” I asked, not seeing any obvious signs of ramen nearby and bracing myself for yet another disappointment. “Yep,” the taxi driver grunted. “corner of Xinyu Dong Lu and Shuicheng Lu. That’s what you said.”
I don’t see any ramen here, do you?
A few minutes walk down Xinyu Dong Street revealed their sign: Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen.
No really, that’s the name of the restaurant: Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen. Ok, I guess they didn’t waste any effort on coming up with a name.
Inside, a somewhat empty spartan interior. To be fair, it was a bit early for the dinner rush.
There’s quite a bit to choose from, even if you’re not in the mood for ramen. I decided on a simple bowl of tonkotsu ramen with an egg, fried rice, and gyoza.
You’ll be asked if you want hard or soft noodles with your ramen. “Hard” should be your answer.
Bown-chika-bown-wow…soft pr0n ramen pic for you…
The meatless fried rice was salty and not very oily. The red cabbage bits gave it a more neutral flavor. I happen to like heavier flavored, oily fried rice, but if you like your fried rice on the light side, you might enjoy this.
The gyoza was filled sparingly with garlic and leek and not a whole lot of pork, but decent.
And the ramen? The decent soup had an obvious pork bone flavor but was somewhat muted overall. Like the fried rice, it could’ve been heavier tasting, though the generous use of green onions greatly helped. The stachy and not-really-that-hard noodles were also decent. The lean pork was tasty despite a lack of fatty parts, and the hardboiled and slightly marinated egg was decent.
Overall, everything was…well, decent. Maybe my expectations were too high. Or maybe I still hadn’t gotten over Ishin ramen. On the plus side, my entire dinner was only 35 RMB (a little over $5 US), and I was supporting a neighborhood ramenya. Shanghai residents and visitors with a craving for ramen will find Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen a good choice.
Hakata Tonkotsu Ramen 豚骨拉麵
Address:252 Xinyu Dong Lu
Phone: 3208 7977
Mon-Fri: 11:30am to 3:00pm
Sat-Sun: 11:30am to 12:00am
(…and for the adventurous, there’s a nice wet market just down the street that has a stall selling handmade noodles.)