This post exists to answer one question: What’s the best ramen in Taipei?

Ramen is a staple. I can eat it every day and not get tired of it. There are so many variations, and even more if you consider various types of noodles across cultures. Here, I only consider the Japanese style ramen. I adhere to the simple rules below to determine whether a bowl of ramen is good or not:

  1. The Pork or any accompanying protein must be tender. Cha Siu made from pork belly is preferred. Other cuts of pork gets bonus points of they’re tender and juicy.
  2. There must be a marinated, soft-boiled egg. It irks me somewhat to have to order it as an extra side order, but I usually let that slide.
  3. Additional toppings that add flavors to the overall bowl of noodles get bonus points.
  4. Broth – I prefer a mix of Tonkotsu and Shoyu. Either way, there needs to be a deep, strong umami flavor.
  5. Noodles – Should be cooked al dente and harmonizes well with the rest of the bowl.

There are so many ramen shops in Taipei. Where do I even start? After pouring over “best ramen” lists and blogs, I’ve tried over a dozen ramen shops that have been on the top of those lists. Here are my winners (subject to change):

#1: Ramen Nagi

Ramen Nagi (ラーメン凪) is an international chain, with 12 locations in Japan, and additional locations in Singapore, Philippines, China, and Taiwan. It also has a franchise in Palo Alto and San Jose. The flavor profile of this specific bowl is the most concentrated and complex out of all the Ramen I’ve had here so far. The egg is not included in the order, the overall flavor profile and unique toppings made up for it.

From the menu description of my order (Kuro-o):

Sumptuous jet-black aroma and flavor.

Fragrant blackened garlic and calamari ink in a silky broth with succulent chashu; finished with a ball of minced pork, black sesame, and Nagi spices that is irresistibly complex.

#2: Rakumenya (樂麵屋)

First founded in Kumamoto, Rakumenya now has seven locations operating in Taipei at the time of Writing. It features a very large menu, with options to customize any bowl of ramen you order. The restaurants have switched from ordering slips to tablets, which has the options to switch languages. The customer service in Rakumenya has been consistently impressive. The waiters spoke English (at least in the Yong Kang location) to foreign customers, and will ask if anything was displeasing if customers didn’t finish their meal.

I’ve had the Tonkotsu Negi Ramen and Tsukemen several times. The experience and food were both consistent across my visits. The chashu was consistently tender every time. The broth had a deep flavor. Everything was consistent, and all the elements of a bowl of decent ramen were present.

While not the very best, the large menu, consistent experience, and affordable price point makes Rakumenya a neighborhood staple that I personally would return again and again.

Ichiran Ramen (一蘭)

First founded in the 1960s in Fukuoka, Ichiran Ramen grew from a humble ramen stall to a ramen giant, with more than 65 locations in Japan, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taipei, Brooklyn, and Manhattan. When a new store opens, enormous crowds queue up and wait for up to three hours to dine there. It’s won many accolades, and Forbes calls it “The Best Ramen in the World.” I disagree completely.

The dining experience is quite unique. Ichiran restaurants were designed to serve the busy city crowd – the salary-man demographic – who wants their ramen fast, and who usually dines by themselves. To that end, the little one-seater stalls with privacy curtains are perfect for it. Once you’re seated, you customize your ramen order on the order slip (or via a vending machine, if you’re in Japan). The waiters takes your order, delivers it quickly, and closes the curtain in front of you to let you dine in peace.

The ramen itself is quite a humble. It doesn’t come with an egg. Disappointingly, the soft-boiled egg I ordered was not marinated, and was not served together with the ramen. The chashu slices were thin, but not tender. The broth was more of a shio flavor, rather than a tonkotsu flavor. As I finished my bowl, I can’t help but feel that the ramen is over salted and under-flavored (I ordered regular saltiness, and extra heavy in flavor). Also disappointingly, Ichiran only serves one style of ramen. The scallions and garlic I added also felt weak, and I wasn’t able to taste their flavor with the ramen. The reason for this lack of flavor may be due to Ichiran’s special red powder (recommended with your order) – a uniquely flavored spice powder that delivered a spicy zing. This strong flavor may have been overpowering the rest of the bowl, and whatever subtle flavors might be lingering. Had the broth, or other elements of the bowl had a much stronger flavor profile, then the red powder may have been a more welcome addition, to give the bowl a twist in flavor, rather than something to mask the bowl’s weakness.

The hype behind Ichiran may have done it a disservice by raising my expectation too much. Even so, the one item on its menu is simply subpar. Additionally, the lack of variety makes it hard for me to want to return. I simply cannot recommend Ichiran to any ramen lover.