Ten-cent packages of ramen may provide a sodium-filled sense of college nostalgia, but true Japanese ramen is another story. On the bright side, there’s more of this Japanese soupy goodness lurking in Tucson than you might have thought.
Ramen broths aren’t available in your neighborhood grocery store. The hours needed for a delicious tonkotsu broth consist of vigorously boiling pork bones for hours to form a creamy emulsion. Broth varieties also include miso, shoyu (soy sauce), and more.
Here are our picks on places to politely slurp away.
811 E. Wetmore Rd. • Food Truck
This ramen food truck expanded with a brick-and-mortar location. Their from-scratch approach, including noodles made with local Sonoran wheat, earned it a loyal following. Ramen burgers are also available.
Keep up with Fat Noodle on Facebook.
5425 N. Kolb Rd. #115
Savory slices of chashu add extra pork belly fat to an already sinfully rich bowl of Chashu Tonkotsu ramen. The velvety egg yolk adds another layer of richness. Pickled ginger adds a sharp contrast.
More info at ginzatucson.com.
2040 W. Orange Grove Rd. #180
Ramen is only available at Ikkyu on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. A slice of slightly-chewy naruto provides a color contrast, while lean pork slices round off the bowl of Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen. If you want it spicier, each table has shakers of Japanese red pepper and bottles of Sriracha.
Visit Ikkyu on Facebook.
K Japanese Restaurant
2962 N. Campbell
Hidden behind Old Chicago, K is a hidden gem. While sushi is the star here, you can build your own noodle soup by picking the soup base, noodle, and topping. All soups come with sweet corn, bean sprout, fish cake, marinated boiled egg, seaweed, and ki-kurage (wood ear mushroom) by default. For the three steps, we recommend picking tonkotsu pork, ramen, and char siu.
More info at on K Japanese Facebook page.
OBON Sushi + Bar + Ramen
350 E. Congress St.
The hippest ramen option, OBON doesn’t sacrifice quality. The eponymous OBON Ramen features roasted pork shoulder, pork belly, dried shredded chili, bamboo shoots, scallion, and a 64º egg. The cold Spicy Kimchi and Mikado are also available as refreshing chilled options.
For more information, visit fukushuconcepts.com.
2955 E. Speedway Blvd.
The new kid on the block, Raijin Ramen is brought to you by the owners of Ginza Sushi. We had the Black Roasted Garlic Tonkotsu Ramen, Spicy Miso Ramen, and Veggie Ramen. While we loved all three, we were particularly impressed with how much complexity and richness was coaxed out of the vegan Veggie Ramen.
For more information, call (520) 795-3123. Keep up with Raijin Ramen on Facebook.
1101 N. Wilmot Rd.
Eastside sushi fave, Sachiko (they also have a second location on Valencia), does not feature a traditional pork broth tonkotsu. Though they lack a true tonkotsu, they more than make up for with their pork and soy sauce broth. Other options include a seafood version and miso. A California roll is included on the side.
Keep up with Sachiko Sushi on Facebook.
3912 N. Oracle Rd.
Samurai has the smallest bowls of ramen on this list, but they’re also more affordable. Bean sprouts cool down the piping hot broth so you can start slurping sooner. Variations such as cold ramen and Tan Tan ramen make seasonal appearances.
More info on Samurai Facebook page.
5655 E. River Rd. #151
Formerly Sushi Yukari and located at the Whole Foods shopping center at River and Craycroft, Sushi Zona’s shio (salt) broth provides a simpler, cleaner flavor. Soy sauce, miso, and tonkotsu are also available soup bases.
More info at sushizona.com.
Union Public House
4340 N. Campbell Ave.
Union’s house-made noodles swim in bacon dashi alongside mushroom, scallion, soft egg, black garlic oil. The bacon provides an American smoky umami in place of traditional bonito used in dashi.
More info at uniontucson.com.
Yamato Japanese Restaurant
857 E. Grant Rd.
Yamato has been tucked away in a strip mall two doors east from Sher-E-Punjab since 1988 with the same sushi chef, owner, and operator, Noboru Nakajima. They also happen to serve three types of ramen: tonkotsu, miso, and shoyu.
More info on Yamato Facebook page.
2741 N. Campbell Ave.
Since moving into their new location across the street, they’ve significantly stepped up their ramen game. They now have about ten different varieties, including seasonal specials such as the vegetarian Tomato Ramen.
More info at yoshimatsuaz.com.
Have a favorite that didn’t make the list? Please let us know in the comments below.