Ramen Butcher is located in Vancouver’s Chinatown in a two block area that is noodle rich. Just beside Ramen Butcher is Angus An’s Fat Mao. Across the street is Phnom Penh. One block over is Andrea Carlson’s Harvest. All serve excellent soup noodle dishes ranging from pho to ramen and khao soi. It is tough to choose but I frequently find myself opting for Ramen Butcher. It’s the Red Spicy Ramen that draws me, but Ramen Butcher serves a few different types of non-spicy tonkotsu ramen as well, all with handmade noodles.
Tonkotsu, Training, and Tradition
The ramen at Ramen Butcher is Hakata style tonkotsu. It is a heavier pork broth which is boiled on high until it becomes umami-rich and milky white. While this could take up to twelve hours, pressure cookers have condensed the cooking time to just six hours of intense boiling. This rich broth is then paired with a thinner ramen noodle and you have Hakata style.
I had the opportunity to sit down with Kaito Kaneyoshi, director of the Menya Kouiji restaurant group that owns Ramen Butcher. Kaneyoshi grew up in Vancouver after moving from Japan at age two. After a brief foray into the world of orthodontics, Kaneyoshi had the opportunity to change direction, while still putting things into people’s mouths, and he began his study of ramen. In Japan, Kaneyoshi was privileged to study with some of the country’s best ramen chefs, including Kazuo Yamagishi, also known as the God of Ramen. If you watched the first season of Mind of a Chef, you might remember Yamagishi. On the show, the inventor of tsukemen style ramen is seen sitting out in front of his shop, after doing his daily check of the broth. Now, sadly, he is deceased, but Kaneyoshi carries on his techniques and traditions.
Eat All the Noodles
More so than recipes, Kaneyoshi impressed upon me the urging Yamagashi gave him to share Japanese ramen with North America. There is a tradition of experimentation in the world of ramen. Also, there is a tradition of mutual respect and support rather than competition. There is room for play, and an appreciation for new and different flavours, styles, and toppings. I started this article by mentioning the other noodle spots nearby with that tradition in mind. Eat all the noodles! While we don’t have the wide range that Japan has, there is quite a lot of variety in Vancouver.
On that note, I should mention Ramen’s Butcher’s sisters: Ramen Gojiro, which serves jiro style, and Ramen Gaoh which serves miso style. For Kaneyoshi, when it came time to open his second and then third restaurant, he wanted to showcase other ramen styles. There’s a spicy Scorpion Ramen at Ramen Gaoh that I’ll have to try because I do love a spicy bowl of noodles.
Ramen Butcher’s Bowls
As I mentioned, the Red Spicy Ramen at Ramen Butcher is my favourite. The amount of spicy garlic paste added comes in three increasingly hot heat levels. I go for 3/3. The kitchen usually throws in some sliced red chilies as well to really kick it up a notch. There is a special tongue burning, lip tingling, cheek flushing kind of spice to this ramen. The first time I had it, I thought I’d made a mistake. But isn’t that what spicy food is all about, walking the fine line between pleasure and pain? I should note, a spice-loving friend of mine tried the level 3 and not a single bead of sweat developed on her forehead, so it really depends what your own spice tolerance is.
Ramen Butcher also serves the Black Garlic Ramen which comes with a roasted garlic oil that is charcoal black. The garlic is slowly roasted until it is black and then it is ground with its delicious deeply roasted oils. The flavour combination of the black garlic with the rich tonkotsu broth is very pleasing. While I haven’t tried the Vegan ramen myself, I have heard good things from vegan friends. A delicious vegetarian ramen is a laudable accomplishment as the core flavour of the broths typically come from either meat or fish. Ramen Butcher also serves the Yokohama Iekei style ramen that was served by my old favourite, the now closed, Yaguchiya. I’ll have to try a bowl of Ramen Butcher’s to fill the Iekei void.
Try a new ramen style, or a new ramen shop, and celebrate the differences that make this particular food community so rich.
Ramen Butcher is located at 223 E Georgia St.