A ramen expert explains what a lot of people get wrong about the iconic noodle dish

Insider's Sydney Kramer and Joe Avella tried some of the best ramen in Los Angeles.

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Insider’s Sydney Kramer and Joe Avella tried some of the best ramen in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

  • Ramen has been a staple of Japanese cuisine for nearly a century, but the noodle dish only made its way to the United States after the invention of instant ramen in the 1970s.
  • Former ramen chef and Japanese noodle expert Mark Hoshi strives to help people “understand a little bit more about the ramen industry and the ramen culture,” via his Ramen Culture website and social-media channels, according to an Insider video he was featured in.
  • In the video, Hoshi told producers Sydney Kramer and Joe Avella that there’s no “right or wrong way” to eat ramen, but “traditionally, you slurp it.”
  • He also said that one sign of a good ramen restaurant is a clean restroom, which he said means “they’re doing the small things really well.”
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Ramen has been a staple of Japanese cuisine for nearly a century, but the noodle dish only made its way to the United States after the invention of instant ramen in the 1970s.

As a result, many American consumers and restaurants are trailing behind in their ramen knowledge. Luckily, former ramen chef and Japanese noodle expert Mark Hoshi strives to help people “understand a little bit more about ramen industry and the ramen culture,” through his “Ramen Culture” website and social-media channels.

Insider producers Sydney Kramer and Joe Avella talked to Hoshi for a video on the best ramen in Los Angeles, in which they visited four restaurants to determine which does the noodle dish best; Avella’s favorite was Tsujita, while Kramer preferred the ramen at Okiburu.

In the video, Hoshi told Kramer and Avella about the fundamentals of ramen, and said that, although “traditionally, you slurp” the dish, there’s no official “right or wrong way” to eat it.

Check out some of Hoshi’s other ramen-related tips and tricks.


Meet Mark Hoshi, the former ramen chef who founded “Ramen Culture.”

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Mark Hoshi and Sydney Kramer’s dog, Paul.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Hoshi started Ramen Culture to help inform people stateside about the ins and outs of Japanese ramen.

Insider's Sydney Kramer and Joe Avella tried some of the best ramen in Los Angeles.

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Insider’s Sydney Kramer and Joe Avella prepare to eat some ramen.
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Insider/Best of the Best

His passion for the noodle dish originated from a young age. “I grew up in a Japanese home and my parents would always bring home Japanese food,” Hoshi told Insider’s Joe Avella and Sydney Kramer. “Japanese food culture has always been part of my family.”

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Ramen Culture’s Instagram page.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Although he grew up in Los Angeles, Hoshi spent nearly a decade living in Japan and served as an apprentice for Chef Ikuta Satoshi at Ramen Nagi in Tokyo.

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A bowl of ramen from Chef Ikuta Satoshi’s Ramen Nagi.
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TripAdvisor/Hitomi5

Not long after, he made a decision to pursue his love of ramen full-time and began working under Chef Yukihiko Sakamoto in Japan’s highest-rated ramen shop, Menya Itto.

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The kitchen at Chef Yukihiko Sakamoto’s Menya Itto.
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Yelp!/Simon C.

Hoshi eventually made his way back to the US and started Ramen Culture to help people “understand a little bit more about the ramen industry and the ramen culture,” he said.

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Ramen is prepared in the kitchen at Los Angeles’ Tsujita Annex.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Hoshi identified five different components that comprise all ramen dishes: noodles, soup, soup base, topping, and aroma oil.

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Mark Hoshi identified five different components of authentic ramen.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Hoshi noted that most Americans only think of miso ramen and tonkotsu ramen as “ramen,” but there are actually many other varieties available depending on the ingredients used.

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Tonkotsu ramen from Daikokuya in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Jiro-style ramen, for example, combines fatty slices of pork with tonkotsu soup, shoyu, and thick noodles. As a result, it’s significantly heavier than many other ramen dishes.

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Jiro-style ramen from Tsujita Annex in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

And shio-style ramen is known for its salty taste.

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Shio-style ramen from Los Angeles’ Santouka Ramen.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Meanwhile, tsukemen ramen is prepared and served entirely differently than its ramen counterparts.

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A chef prepares tsukemen ramen at Okiboru Ramen in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Restaurants that offer tsukemen ramen serve chilled soba noodles separately from the ramen broth.

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Tsukemen ramen from Okiboru Ramen in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Patrons are then expected to dip the noodles in the dashi soup base.

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Tsukemen ramen from Okiboru Ramen in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

When it comes to choosing a good ramen shop, Hoshi had a surprising piece of advice: Check out the restroom. “If they have a very clean restroom, they’re doing the small things really well,” he said.

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A restaurant bathroom.
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Thakorn/ iStock

He also said that if there’s a noodle timer in the kitchen, that’s a good sign that the chefs know what they’re doing.

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Tonkotsu ramen from Daikokuya in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Hoshi told Avella and Kramer that he doesn’t subscribe to the idea that “there’s a right or wrong way” to eat ramen. “It’s your bowl, so if you can enjoy it the way you eat it, it’s perfect.”

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Insider’s Sydney Kramer and Joe Avella eat ramen at Daikokuya in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Hoshi added that “traditionally, you slurp it,” but acknowledged that some people who did not grow up in a “Japanese environment” may find it “a little bit uncomfortable to do that.”

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Insider’s Sydney Kramer and Joe Avella slurp ramen.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Hoshi said his wife is not a ramen slurper. “My wife, she’s very classy, she doesn’t really slurp and she’s 100% made in Japan,” he said.

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Jiro style ramen from Tsujita Annex in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Hoshi suggested that Americans can take longer to finish a bowl of noodles, and said that people spend an average time of 12 minutes to finish a bowl in Japan.

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Jiro-style ramen from Tsujita Annex in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

The longer the noodles sit in the soup, the soggier they get, according to Hoshi. As a result, ramen shops in the US experiment with different types of noodles that absorb broth at different rates.

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Insider’s Sydney Kramer analyzes her noodles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

So, when people try to mix and match their noodles and broth, it can alter the taste and consistency of the dish.

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Shio-style ramen from Los Angeles’ Santouka Ramen.
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Insider/Best of the Best

“Noodles are very important because it brings a different kind of texture when you’re slurping it,” Hoshi said.

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Ramen noodles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Ultimately, Hoshi says that some American chefs have a fundamental misconception of what ramen is. He’s even seen restaurants simply add noodles to miso soup and label it as ramen.

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A spoonful of ramen.
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Insider/Best of the Best

“Ramen is basically ramen when the noodles have alkaline in it,” Hoshi explained. “If there’s no alkaline in that noodle, it’s not really ramen.”

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Jiro-style ramen from Tsujita Annex in Los Angeles.
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Insider/Best of the Best

You can find more ramen insights from Hoshi, including his interactive map of the best ramen shops in Japan, on the Ramen Culture website.

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Ramen is prepared in the kitchen at Los Angeles’ Tsujita Annex.
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Insider/Best of the Best

Check out the Ramen Culture website here.

Watch Insider’s video on the best ramen in Los Angeles here.