Running for ramen in Hong Kong
HONG KONG, China - For those craving for the perfect bowl of Ramen in Hong Kong, here's one restaurant you might want to try.
The restaurant is called Butao Ramen, one of the most popular Japanese ramen houses in Hong Kong. They have three branches: Causeway Bay, Tsim Sha Tsui, and the branch visited for this write-up, Central.
The restaurant is located deep along a narrow, dead-end street in Lan Kwai Fong called Wo On Lane. It certainly doesn’t look and feel like a place where you would find a popular restaurant and yet most of those who visit Butao don’t regret going.
Given its obscure location, don’t expect to find a high-end eatery. The floor area of the restaurant is so small that it only accommodates about 10 guests at a time with another 10 spilling out onto the sidewalk. Movement is limited because customers are packed so close together; the elbow room given to each person is just enough to raise chopsticks and spoons from the bowl to the mouth and nothing more (of course I’m exaggerating, but it truly is a bit of a squeeze).
Such small premises naturally lead to long queues. I have witnessed people actually running down the street to beat out the rest who want to get in line, probably because of the urban legend that claims the restaurant only serves a few hundred bowls per day, after which they shut their doors till the following day. I haven’t been able to verify yet whether this is true or not but fortunately, I’ve never been shut out yet.
My wife has accurately pointed out that if the restaurant were more reasonably sized, the lines wouldn’t be as long. But rushing to get in line first is already an accepted part of the entire Butao experience.
Ramen noodle soup is the main item on the menu and you are given the opportunity to put together your own combination. I haven’t had the chance to try all of the soup flavors but from what I’ve heard, every variant is pretty good.
First, you get to choose from 4 soup broths: Butao King (pork bone), Black King (pork bone with squid ink), Red King (spicy), and Green King (an East-West fusion of pork bone with pesto and parmesan cheese). After that, you get to choose the soup’s consistency (from light to heavy thickness), how much oil you want included and what toppings you would like to place in the soup. Finally, you get to choose how you want your noodles cooked (from “super hard” to “super soft”).
Ordering your ramen is fairly quick; from the moment you submit an order, your soup is brought out to you from the kitchen in less than 10 minutes. With such a small location, quick customer turnover is critical in order to accommodate the most number of guests.
Once your noodles arrive, you get a choice of condiments located at the center of the table. A couple of bowls contain pickled vegetables, and another bowl has fresh garlic. Also, take note that although the restaurant provides you with chopsticks (stacked in a cup), admittedly, these chopsticks look like they have seen better days. I leave it to your better judgment whether you want to brave the use of these wooden artifacts (the choice of that word is intentional; they truly do look centuries old) or if you would prefer bringing your own set.
I am not too adventurous when it comes to food, so I’ve only tried the basic soup broth, which I found very tasty. Whatever you decide to order, though, you can be assured of a generous portion that is both flavorful and filling.
I understand that ramen houses are becoming quite popular in Metro Manila and that there are a number of very good establishments in operation now. Since I haven’t had the opportunity to try them yet, I really can’t say how Butao’s food compares to the joints back home. But if you do find yourself in Hong Kong and enjoy places like these, I have a feeling that you will also like the overall dining experience at Butao.
If not, then you can, at the very least, take consolation in the fact that you will clock in some good exercise while sprinting to be the first one in line before stuffing yourself with a hefty dose of ramen.
Here’s a video clip of how pork bone soup broth or tonkotsu is made:
Butao Ramen is located on the Ground Floor of Wo On Building, 8-13 Wo On Lane, Lan Kwai Fong, Central, Hong Kong, Chinon.
About the author
There is the helicopter parent, the negligent parent, and then there’s Michael Gohu Yu. A doting father one minute who transforms into Homer Simpson the next, his writing on parenting reflects themes ranging from the humorous to the heartwarming. Whichever the case, though, he always aims to entertain parents of all ages.