Ramen doesn't exactly spring to mind when most people mention Bangkok, however the city has produced an army of exceptional places to take a break from Tom Yum Goong or your backpacker Pad Thai. You need to spend a few days on the hunt here, because being a city of its size it takes ages to get from one to the other. From Bangkara at the Manor to Ramen Wakyu (next door to one of our fave spots, Studio Lam), here is a list of our favourite's that are still going strong.
There are cheaper, posher, trashier places scattered around town, but in the months/years of exhaustive research these are our absolute favourites.
After spending months in Japan hunting the perfect bowl of Ramen, who would have guessed one of the top 10 was in Thailand!!
Situated at the back of The Manor, behind the car park, this gorgeously decorated Ramen Bar looks like its straight out of Shibuya. The service is generally excellent, the prices a tiny bit steep (but for quality like this you are happy to pay), the ramen/noodles/pork/egg are all absolutely top, top class. This is one of the best ramen places I have ever been to, outside of Japan, and even kills a lot of the places there too.
100% recommended. The Chashu Tonkotsu Ramen is absolutely mindblowing.
P.s. The branch at Siam Paragon has not been validated yet, so head to the original spot for a guaranteed smile.
The holy grail for Shoyu Ramen in Bangkok has surely been found? Upon publishing my review of Uma Uma, one of the managers kindly wrote to thank me for my review, but also suggested if I wanted a great Shoyu Ramen, to head to his personal favourite. Since it was just around the corner from Studio Lam, and a 15 minute walk from my hotel, I simply had to try it.
The spot is a small, cosy ramen shop with counter space up front and seating in the back for families and bigger groups. I hid on the corner part and ordered their speciality Shoyu with extra pork. The menu described it as the stock being a mix of vegetables, chicken and pork bones, and bonito (which can polarise some people due to its "fishy taste") so I already had in mind what it would taste like. However, this was flavour +PLUS
Dark, umami-packed broth, absolutely sensational pork (some of the best I've ever eaten), and a well cooked egg along with the slight difference of Soba Noodles instead of "regular" ramen noodles. The soba were cooked to perfection, the chew was excellent and the overall texture was spot on.
I was dying to find a good Shoyu place in town since its not every day you feel like eating a calorie-laden bowl of Tonkotsu, so I am forever grateful to the Uma Uma person for tipping me off about this. In the years to come this will feature heavily on my Bangkok agenda.
Just when you thought you had nailed the 3 best ramens in Bangkok, Ramen Kio comes in and sweeps the rug from under your feet. First taste, hmmm... decent, second taste, better.. third taste AHHHHH.. This is not the usual fatty Tonkotsu that lines your mouth with glistening fat on the first sip and leaves you reaching for a toilet or bottle of liquor. This is the slow burn, the creeper. Just when you thought you understood its depths it opens up more and slaps you in the face. This is Tonkotsu without all the faffing around. The eggs are divine, could not be better. The pork was sublime, tender as hell and melted before you even applied pressure. The noodles (medium or thin option) were solid, and the broth itself was a gift that kept giving.
By far better than every single ramen place in Bangkok, except Bankara... but its a close battle. They are definitely the 2 best places in Bangkok as of now.
Slap bang in the middle of the worst prostitute and ladyboy area of Bangkok stands a bastion of peace and mercy, offering respite for a weary soul. Uchidaya with windows looking out over hopeful girls, sitting in their mini-skirts praying for a Japanese businessman to take their fancy, its all a bit bizarre slurping noodles with the on-goings of the street playing out 2 meters away. This ramen though is distraction enough.
The broth is a fishier type of Tonkotsu with a serious umami bolt, pork = top notch and the eggs perfection. They offer the option of thin or thicker noodles which I always love, and don't hesitate to get thick noodles cooked hard. That way even towards the end of your slurpings the noodles still have some resistance.
Its a joy to behold, and reason enough to throw aside the anxiety of being seen in the seedier parts of town. This ramen hides all shame.
ramen uma uma
One block from the chaos of Soi Cowboy (plus another small stand at The Commons), this upstairs ramen spot is a bonafide champion of Tonkotsu. Everything is perfection. The photo might be a bit deceiving since I had accidentally switched on "beauty-filter" so the pork looks like a commercial for skin-whitening cream :-)
Now onto the ramen. Uma Uma, never been before, took a cab, ordered, waited patiently in the hopes that this could be the next best thing... it ALMOST was.
Noodles were of the ultra-thin type which is not my personal fave, but still had some bite to them. The broth was deep, rich, not too fatty, perfectly balanced, the Chashu was up there with some of the best ever: MELT-ON-YOUR-TONGUE tender, full of flavour, absolutely incredible. Egg was cooked a few seconds the wrong side of perfect, but made up for it in leaps and bounds with the marinade, a deep smokey soy flavour. I also love when anyone puts bean sprouts on as garnish, adding that crunchy element.
All in all this doesn't topple Bankara or Kio but sits strongly in third place. A crowning achievement and proof that you should always try new places.
Sendai Ramen Mokkori
Every now and then you catch someone with their pants down. A pretender, a buffoon, a man playing chef. The warning signs were imminent when walking in and seeing a 300 dish menu. I almost wanted to turn and leave. Anyone who attempts that many dishes can't possibly do them right? RIGHT?
Right.... The Miso Ramen was insipid. Tasteless. The menma was cut so thick it spoilt the taste. The egg was butchered to hell and back. The pork was quite tasty but didn't save the dish from being squared at the bottom of the Bangkok ramen pile. Try learn constraint and perhaps he could turn out a couple decent dishes in the future. Ramen, on the other hand, is not his forté.
Right next door to the glorious hallways of Uchidaya lies another Ramen spot vying for business.
Ramen Tei. It looked suspect from the outside, and more so from the inside. Yet another establishment with too many items on the menu. However, I opted for the Shoyu Ramen and was mildly disappointed from the second it was placed in front of me. It didn't look deep, rich, interesting. What followed was 10 minutes of trying to find positives but struggling. To be fair it tasted better than it looked, but this is by no means a ramen anyone needs to hunt down
Opting for the most local place suffering from intense jet-lag and a nagging cold from Oslo, this place was 300 meters from my hotel and the reviews were promising.
I got a slight feeling of apprehension upon seeing it was a street stall with seating inside a shopfront because in Thailand that works for local food, but i've never eaten Ramen at a place like that. Buoyed by my excitement at being back in the big city, and serious withdrawal symptoms, I headed on in and ordered the special.
The service was polite and fast. The food, massively underwhelming. The noodles had a nice chew to them, the egg was acceptable, the chicken pretty tasty, but what let this down was the broth. It was so thick and rich that it felt like you were eating Christmas gravy that had been reduced far too long. It created a gluey sensation on the palate and left me feeling a bit queasy. Needless to say, I didn't finish it.
At 140 Bhat it's definitely not on the expensive side, but when eating ramen in Bangkok its worth spending a bit more and getting a lot more quality.
All these recommendations are just personal opinions based on my palate, things change, chefs get fired or replaced, places open-close, relocate, so take it all with a pinch of MSG and discover your own gems too. But please do try a few of these, they have been researched exhaustively.