The Perfect Bowl Of Ramen
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You can recognize a good bowl of ramen by its many dimensions. There’s depth of flavor in the broth, the condiments give character, and the noodles, if properly cooked, give texture. The protein, be it char siu, chicken or ground meat, lend volume, and everything has to come together for a bowl to be worth returning to.
Eiji Kato, owner of Junpuu, is well aware of the complexity behind this seemingly simple Japanese dish. “A good bowl of ramen is all about balance,” he says. “Even if you have good soup and good ingredients, putting everything together requires a sense of harmony.”
You might have driven by Junpuu many times before — it’s a hidden gem inside Honolulu Medical Arts Building on South King Street. Junpuu used to be one of the three ramen vendors at the former Shirokiya in Ala Moana Center, before the Japanese food court relocated to its current Ewa Wing location. “When Shirokiya moved, I was asked if I’d like to return to the new location,” says Kato. “I gave it a lot of thought, but I made the decision to not return and instead to open my own shop.”
That was nine months ago, and in that time Junpuu has become known for its Tan Tan Men ($10.50) and Garlic Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen ($10). All the bowls on the menu are the owner’s original recipes. Kato, who originally hails from Tokyo, Japan, learned to cook out of his own home, testing out flavors in his kitchen and getting tips from his mom, who was a cooking instructor. And when he couldn’t find any ramen shops that suited his taste buds, he decided to learn how to make his own.
Tan Tan Men is moderately spicy, but the heat level can be adjusted on Junpuu’s scale that ranges from mild, known as “1/2,” to “x100 and up,” which translates to extremely spicy. The hearty bowl comes with spicy ground pork and bamboo shoots, and there is a roasted sesame paste that’s made in-house.
Garlic Tokyo Tonkotsu Ramen is topped with a red and green onion mix, juicy char siu, chewy bamboo shoots and a generous drizzle of blackened garlic oil. You can add an ajitama, or marinated seven-minute boiled egg, for $1.50, and extra char siu for $2. And for $3, you can get both char siu and ajitama. Other extra condiments include bamboo shoot (50 cents), onion (50 cents), blackened garlic oil (50 cents), wakame or nori seaweed ($1.50) and seasonal vegetables ($2).
Both bowls have a delicious pork-based broth, which is made by cooking pork bones in high heat for 16 hours to remove any gamey taste and smell, resulting in a rich, creamy flavor that’s addictive. Vegetarians have options too, with Tomato Ramen ($10.50) or Vegetarian Tan Tan Men ($10.50). Gluten-free vegan noodles also are available for $3.50.
Additionally, Junpuu carries a handful of sides perfect for accompanying a bowl of steaming-hot ramen. Currently, the eatery is offering a special deal just for Dining Out readers: Present the coupon on page 4 and receive a complimentary three-piece gyoza with the purchase of any ramen after 2 p.m.
WHAT A TREAT
If you’re looking to get some last-minute holiday gifts, or need a great birthday present for a friend or loved one, consider giving the gift of ramen with a Junpuu gift card. Just remember when going to pick it up that Junpuu is closed Christmas Day and New Year’s Day.
1010 S. King St., Honolulu
Daily, 11 a.m.-9 p.m.
* While there is ample street parking near Junpuu, there also is a parking lot at the building with plenty of stalls for customers. Junpuu can validate for up to one hour before 5 p.m. on week-days, and the lot is free after 5 p.m. On weekends, parking is free after noon.