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Foodie Reviews, Japanese, Vancouver

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka: A definite must-try ramen shop

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is the most popular ramen joint in Vancouver; you usually see a massive line out their door while passing by on Robson during dinner. G and I were shopping on Robson, met up with J, and were looking to grab a pre-dinner bite somewhere close-by. Luckily, Santouka wasn’t packed yet and we were seated immediately, yay!

At Santouka, there are 4 soup different soup bases: shio, shoyu, miso, and kara miso. The first three are the most commom and can be found at any ramen establishment, but each can also vary widely from shop to shop. Basically, shio is the soup with the lightest taste, followed by shoyu, and then miso with the richest taste; kara miso is just spicy miso.

Shio Ramen and Negi-meshi Combo:
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If you want a lighter tasting soup like I did, order  a ramen with the shio soup base. And if you want to try one of their rice bowls on the side, negi-meshi shown above, make it a combo! The negi-meshi is basically a bowl of rice topped with a bunch of chopped green onions, some alfalfa, nori, dried beancurd, and soysauce to season. I think there was also pork floss or dried fish of some sort. It was just okay by itself in my opinion and so, tasted even better when I scooped over some of my shio soup from the ramen, haha. The combos also come with half of an egg and some purple pickled plums; the egg tasted like a regular boiled egg.

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There’s nothing to complain about the soup nor the noodles. The shio soup, although the lightest-tasting of the four, is still very flavourful. When you taste the shio ramen, it’s quite a creamy-tasting pork broth. And although shio basically means salt-flavoured, I didn’t find the salt taste prominent but rather balanced. The toppings were overall good; the pork cha-shu slices were awesome, being tender with the right proportions of fat and meat. You can also see wood/jelly ear “kikurage” (brown on the right), bamboo shoot “menma” (light-yellow sticks on top), green onions, and sesame seeds sprinkled. And FYI, the shio ramen is the only one topped with a red pickled plum in the center; it was crisp and refreshingly sour! :)

Kara Miso and Negi-meshi Combo:
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G and J ordered the kara miso ramen and combo respectively. I initially thought that the miso soup base would be a bit too heavy for my liking, but I was surprised when it didn’t taste overwhelmingly salty. Although I just had a sip, the miso base blew me away. It was very rich in flavour, creamy, and it was a balanced soup as well. As a kara miso however, we didn’t find it spicy enough so we had to add some spicy flakes to the soup, which made it taste a better spicy.

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You can also customize your ramen when you order. For example: less fat, smaller/larger, and double noodles. I wouldn’t recommend doubling the noodles though because you may not have enough soup in your bowl! For first-timers, I recommend ordering without customizations. :)

Santouka is one of my go-to ramen shops that will not disappoint. The staff are very nice and polite; you won’t feel rushed by them even when there’s a crowd outside. The food is wonderful, being tasty and filling, and the service is quick despite the shop being so busy. Overall, it was a super hot summer day, and the ramen makes you feel even hotter and perhaps sweat a bit, but worth it since the ramen tastes so good and delicious after a tiring round of shopping.

Happy ramen eats~! *Slurp*

Hokkaido Ramen Santouka 山頭火 on Urbanspoon

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