I first learned of the Japanese ramen chain restaurant Ippudo through some friends who told me about the New York location, which apparently always has a long line but is “some of the best ramen that [they’ve] had”. I’m not a huge ramen fanatic, and I dislike waiting in lines, so we didn’t include Ippudo in our itinerary when we visited NYC last year. Then, when we were in Taiwan, we happened upon Ippudo inside the food court of a department store in Taichung… wait, what? Just like my previous post on Tim Ho Wan, I actually had no idea that Ippudo had stores outside of Japan and NYC, so we were pretty surprised to see it in Taichung. And since S’s family enjoys ramen, we decided to try it out since there wasn’t too much of a wait.
S’s sister V has been to Ippudo in New York before and said that the menu was similar – a variety of appetizers and ramen. The neat thing about Ippudo is that you can choose your noodle’s level of firmness – something very important to true noodle lovers. S and I prefer our noodles on the soft side, but the rest of his family picked “firm” or “very firm”.
S and I picked the classic tonkotsu broth. It’s Hakata-style, which means the broth is super rich and creamy from a long simmer of pork bones. The version here is quite rich – it was pretty similar to what we had at Ramen Yamadaya. The toppings – pork loin chashu, wood-ear mushrooms, bean sprouts, menma (pickled bamboo shoots), scallions, seaweed pieces, and a soft-boiled egg. We really enjoyed all of the toppings, and the egg was perfect (sad that I didn’t get a picture!).
V picked the Akamaru, which is the tonkotsu topped with their special miso paste as well as black garlic oil. The broth here is even richer and more umami thanks to the ultra-savory miso and garlic. This might have been too rich for me, haha. V said that she liked the firm noodles but would have liked to try “extra-firm” next time. I guess she is really into the “al dente” ramen.
In addition to ramen, we also ordered several small bites:
Apparently their pork belly buns were popularized by the NYC location (they’re called Hirata Buns on the menu there). Pork belly buns are a twist on a classic Taiwanese snack, gua bao, and have been popping up on menus everywhere. The version here has a braised slice of pork belly with lettuce and mayonnaise inside a steamed bun. I enjoyed this quite a bit – the pork belly was tender, and the steamed bun was nice and fluffy.
Cornflake-crusted chicken karaage – sounds pretty brilliant, right? These seemed to be a new menu item, and they were delicious. The chicken was very juicy and flavorful, and the cornflakes added a wonderful crunch. I’ve been thinking of recreating a baked version at home.
Ikageso is similar to squid (I believe sometimes it’s called cuttlefish in the US?), and this tasted pretty similar to fried calamari that you’d find in the US. There wasn’t as much seaweed sprinkled on the squid as I was expecting, but it definitely added a bit more umami to the dish.
Overall, we had a great meal at Ippudo – I still don’t think I would wait in line for it in New York, but I’m glad that we got to try it out in Taiwan. This makes it the second global chain restaurant that we’ve stumbled upon in a department store in Taichung… the last one being Tim Ho Wan. More Taiwan adventure recaps to come!
Ippudo – Taichung
(Located inside Shin Kong Mitsukoshi)
台中市西屯區台灣大道三段301號9樓 ( 台中新光三越 9 樓 )