Keeping ramen interesting with creative mash-ups

Is slurping ramen noodles becoming a thing of the past?

On Monday, the Washington Post reported that in Japan, ramen is on its way out. “The ramen boom has ended,” Ivan Orkin, of New York’s Ivan Ramen said in the piece. “A boom implies that there are new avenues and new growth to pursue, and that’s not the case in Japan anymore.” 

But many a ramen noodle is pulled in New York. 

Lines for Ippudo still loom long, and finger-friendly ramen creations like the ramen burger, ramen fries, ramen hoagies and now, the ramen burrito, are bringing a whole new life to the curly Japanese noodles. New York may not have San Fransisco’s sushirrito yet, but our local Japanese-Mexican fix is pretty close.

Presstea, a year-old tea shop in the West Village is part of the ramen mash-up phenomemon with its ramen burrito, i.e. the ramenrrito.

But unlike the ramen burger, where the ramen is pan fried into a bun, Presstea substituties ramen like a burrito’s typical rice filling, using the Sun Noodle’s curly Hawaiian ramen instead of rice in its burritos ($9.50) and ramenrrito bowls ($10.50). 

Presstea owner George Kuan was inspired by his youth to create the new mash-up.

“When I visited Taiwan when I was younger, we often drank a lot of tea and ate fresh, authentic ramen noodles. Ramen pairs well with tea and it’s one of my favorite cuisines,” he said. “Plus, in high school, burritos were one of my favorite things to eat.”

Kuan likes how the layers of flavors in his ramenrrito creations combine Eastern and Western flavors, just as he aims to do with his teas, which are imported from Asia and brewed European espresso-style in his shop. 

Lines aren’t forming down the block for the ramenrrito (perhaps because you can order one on Seamless?), but it’s still worth the hype — totally unlike any burrito or soup dish in the city.

The ramenrritos are made to order, with noodles heated and freshly shredded cheese melted as you wait. A fresh tortilla (or bowl of lettuce) is filled with Hawaiian-style ramen noodles, flavored with a cilantro and garlic, and topped with salsa, mixed greens, local cheese, cucumber pickles and your choice of either grass-feed skirt steak, free-range chicken, pasture-raised pulled pork or zucchini ratatouille. Add a poached umami egg for $1.50 for an extra touch of the secret house flavoring. 

According to an article in August 12’s New York Times, ramen is trending at an all-time high, with 104 mentions in their paper as of 2013 (up from almost zero mentions a decade ago, but not quite at kale’s status, with 264 mentions last year). 

Perhaps it is because of innovations like the ramenrrito, local high-quality ramen noodle producers like Sun Noodle and New York’s classic slurp shops that the ramen trend continues here at a steady boil.