Two Unique Styles of Ramen Advance to Final Round of NY Street Ramen Contest

What a wonderful day Sunday was for Japan Block Fair and Round 2 of the NY Street Ramen Contest! Samurai Sword Soul co-founder Yoshi Amao and I served as emcees again, and we were happy to be surrounded by six talented and diverse teams preparing unique styles of ramen.

The purpose of the NY Street Ramen Contest is to search for the California roll of ramen, a style of ramen that New York can claim as its own. On Sunday each group created their own style of ramen that they hope will be identified as the signature brand of ramen in the city.

It was a close race between the six contestants: Batten Ramen of Fort Lee, NJ; Soymilk Ramen, a team of Japanese food-industry companies Kikkoman, Myojo Noodle, and Nobu-Chan Ramen chef Nobu Hirooka; Hakkoan, a team led by macrobiotic chef Natsuko Yamawaki; Ramen Yebisu, a restaurant that will open soon in Williamsburg; Asahikawa Ramen, serving traditional ramen from Hokkaido; and Tabata Noodle, a ramen hot spot in Midtown West.

Unlike the first round of the contest, which ended in a draw, there was a clear winner on Sunday:  Tabata Noodle’s Sesame Tantan Men. Hakkoan finished a close second. As the top two vote getters, Tabata Noodle and Hakkoan advanced to the final round, which will be held in December.

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

The winning team from Tabata Noodle, whose Sesame Tantan Men received the most votes

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

Macrobiotic chef Natsuko Yamawaki's entry of Shio Koji Abura Soba was the contest's runner-up

The third installment of the NY Street Ramen Contest will take place on Sunday, October 14 in the Upper West Side on Broadway between 93rd and 94th Streets. If you’re interested in creating the quintessential NY ramen and would like to participate in the contest, send an e-mail to nyramen@gmail.com.

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

The team from Batten Ramen, a popular restaurant in Fort Lee, NJ

Batten Ramen’s entry was a complex and flavorful chicken base with seafood (tuna, scallop, & conch) mixed with a sesame and shrimp head miso, special salt, and special butter. A magnificent blend with savory and tender pork.

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

All hands on deck preparing Batten Ramen's Seafood-based shio butter ramen

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

Chef Nobu Hirooka (right) was part of a team from Kikkoman and Myojo Noodle

In what I like to refer to as a Ramen Consortium, Nobu-chan Ramen’s Nobu Hirooka provided the recipe, Kikkoman provided the soymilk, and Myojo Noodles provided the noodles to create a Soymilk Peanut Butter Tantan Men. The rich texture of the soymilk combined nicely with the sesame.

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

Hakkoan's booth

“Hakko” means “fermentation” in Japanese, and “An” is “residence.” Chef Natsuko Yamawaki’s House of Fermentation presented Astoria with Shio Koji Abura Soba. The cold noodle had no broth and received its texture from shio koji, a type of fermented agent that is used in making miso, sake, shochu, and soy sauce. Chef Yamawaki, who teaches cooking classes in Queens, added fresh vegetables to create a flavorful and healthy ramen that’s perfect for hot summer days. “The flavor is intense, but after you eat you don’t feel full because koji helps you digest food and your body doesn’t absorb oil,” says Chef Yamawaki of her second place ramen.

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

The gorgeous ingredients of Ramen Yebisu's entry

Like Hakkoan’s ramen, Ramen Yebisu’s entry also did not have a broth. Instead, the restaurant’s Lobster-flavored Abura Soba was a sublime blend of lobster oil mixed with the noodles. The boiled egg and fresh vegetables blended beautifully with the noodles’ thick texture.

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

The team from Ramen Yebisu grilled pork and other ingredients before adding them to their ramen

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

Asahikawa Ramen

Asahikawa Ramen is another example – like Soymilk Ramen and Hakkoan – of a group of chefs and ramen lovers creating their own style of dish. Asahikawa Ramen is a shoyu (soy sauce) ramen that represents the traditional style found in Hokkaido in northern Japan. It’s a very simple recipe with a light taste.

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

Yoshi Amao interviews the chef from Asahikawa Ramen

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

Tabata Noodle prepares the winning entry

This restaurant’s specialty may be their Soybean Powder and Coconut-Flavored Soup, but they wowed the crowd in Queens with Sesame Tantan Men, a colorful broth with a burst of flavor.

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine
NY Street Ramen Contest organizer Mai Kumagami is interviewed by TV Japan
ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine
Pop star Alex York files his report for Fujisankei
ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine
Amnet Travel Agency sponsored the voting booth
ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine
Kirin introduced Kirin Free, a beer with 0% alcohol
ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine
Table for Two, a Japanese charity with an office in NYC, collected donations to provide healthy meals to children in Africa
ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

Tabata Noodle's trophy

ramen, NYC, NY Street Ramen Contest, Japan Block Fair, Tabata Noodle, Hakkoan, Batten Ramen, Kikkoman, Nobu-chan, Ramen Yebisu, Asahikawa Ramen, Japanese cuisine

NY Street Ramen Contest Team