Have you ever had a dish that was so delicious, you spent years hunting for something equally as delectable? When I visited Japan in 2012 I tried my first bowl of authentic ramen at a street vendor at the Tsukiji Fish Market in Tokyo. It was 8 in the morning and I’d never tasted something so comforting, so savory and so wonderful.
I spent the rest of my days in Japan slurping as much ramen as possible, having it on an almost daily basis in Kyoto. I’ve since taste-tested nearly every bowl in Salt Lake City trying to find something as authentic.
Desperate to find something on par with ramen in Japan, I started searching for the noodle dish when I traveled. I’ve had ramen in downtown Chicago, Montreal’s Chinatown, L.A.’s Little Tokyo, Washington D.C. and the middle of Manhattan. It became a bit of a tradition — regardless of the city’s culture, I’d hunt down the rumored best bowl of ramen to compare it with what I had in Japan.
France is full of incredible food so I wasn’t letting it off the ramen hook. I was determined to find the best bowl of Japanese ramen in Paris and did my research accordingly. Surprisingly, when we arrived to our apartment in the 1st arrondissement, it was right in the middle of the Japanese neighborhood.
That’s right — I stayed in the Japanese neighborhood in Paris. What are the odds?!
We were surrounded by Japanese restaurants and even an amazing Japanese-French fusion bakery with the most delicious green tea muffins and treats. And steps away from our apartment was the best ramen (according to several sources) in Paris: Kotteri Ramen Naritake.
After a long rainy day at the Palace of Versailles, we joined the line outside of Kotteri (lines were everywhere in Paris!) for a bowl of ramen. I was fascinated by the way they cooked their ramen: they’d drain the noodles right on the floor. All the cooks were clad in rubber boots and aprons, as they’d just spray the floor with a hose to clean away stray noodles.
Once our ramen arrived, it wasn’t quite what we expected. The chicken-based broth was heavily overpowered by chicken flavor. Chicken-based broths aren’t uncommon for ramen, but this one was unstrained so the chunky broth made it more like a thick chicken noodle soup. The pork was dry and not very flavorful. And the egg (a classic component of ramen) was nowhere to be found.
I was amused by how different the Parisian ramen was from all the other ramen I’ve had. It was an obvious example of taking one culture’s food and adapting it to another culture’s palate. It may not have been authentic ramen in the Japanese sense, but it was authentically French ramen, done to their taste.
And in the end, that’s exactly the experience I was craving.