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.
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.
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.
For more information, visit ginzatucson.com.
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, grab a shaker of Japanese red pepper blend.
Keep up with Ikkyu on Facebook.
JA Ramen features eight varieties of ramen, focusing on the classics. They also offer radically spicy versions of each dish; you have been warned.
For more information, visit thejaramen.com.
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.
Keep up with K Japanese Restaurant on Facebook.
MSA Annex newcomer Kukai offers ramen a few days a week, usually on the weekends. Their intensely porky Hakata with spicy roe is one of the richest broths in town.
Keep up with Kukai on Instagram. For more information, visit eatkukai.com.
Westside newcomer Maru Japanese Noodle Shop offers eight types of ramen ranging from Tantan Ramen (Spicy Ground Pork) and Veggie Creamy Ramen.
Another little perk: vegan options are clearly marked on the menu with lime green letters. The ramen noodles used have eggs, but the rice noodles are vegan.
For more information, visit marunoodle.com.
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. Veggie options are the red miso Veggie and the soy milk Veggie White.
For more information, visit fukushuconcepts.com.
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.
Eastside sushi fave Sachiko (they also have a second location on Valencia) features a pork and soy sauce broth. Other ramen options include seafood and miso. A California roll is included on the side.
Keep up with Sachiko Sushi on Facebook.
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.
Keep up with Samurai on Facebook.
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.
For more information, visit sushizona.com.
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 serve three types of ramen: tonkotsu, miso, and shoyu.
Keep up with Yamato Japanese Restaurant on Facebook.
Yoshimatsu serves about ten different ramen varieties, including seasonal specials such as the vegetarian Tomato Ramen.
For more information, visit yoshimatsuaz.com.
Have a favorite that didn't make the list? Please let us know in the comments below.
[This article was originally written on December 08, 2014 and was most recently updated on September 24, 2019.]
Jackie Tran is a Tucson-based food writer, photographer, culinary educator, and owner-chef of the food truck Tran's Fats. Although he is best known locally for his work for Tucson Foodie, his work has also appeared in publications such as Bon...