Three easy steps for your ramen enjoyment:
Step 1: Go to Boxer Ramen.
Step 2: Order ramen at Boxer Ramen.
Step 3: Enjoy ramen.
These three steps, like Boxer Ramen itself—simple and straight forward—are guaranteed to brighten your typical rainy Portland day. Boxer Ramen, a somewhat new restaurant on Southwest Stark Street between 10th and 11th Avenues, might be the best thing to happen to ramen since you stopped eating Top Ramen. The restaurant offers a grand total of four authentic ramens and an assortment of other menu offerings, including spicy, non-spicy and vegetarian options for the enjoyment of the ramen lover.
Ramen, like the taco, is a dish that achieves perfection in its simplicity. I have been to Boxer Ramen multiple times and have ordered nearly everything on the menu. The first item, a ramen called Tonkotsu-Shio, features a traditional pork broth served with roasted pork belly, soft poached egg, scallions and, of course, ramen wheat noodles. It is a delicious, feel-good dish imbued with roasted pork flavor and grounded by the excellent broth and hearty noodles. The roasted pork belly complements the broth perfectly, and the dish is particularly excellent when served with a heaping helping of Sriracha chili sauce.
Another high point of the menu is the Shitake-Shoyu, a shitake mushroom-based ramen featuring a shitake and pork-bone broth along with the aforementioned soft poached egg. Where the Tonkotsu-Shio is notable for its roasted flavor, the Shitake-Shoyu is a hearty, rich comfort food with an excellent broth and earthy mushroom undertones.
Boxer Ramen’s main vegetarian option, the vegetarian curry, is slightly less exceptional than its non-vegetarian friends, but is tasty nonetheless. Its flavorful yellow curry broth is made with vegetable stock and coconut milk, and the dish includes tofu, mushroom and corn. The slight sweetness of the tofu and corn offsets the almost overwhelming spice of the curry. While it is a good dish, the unfortunate overall lack of vegetarian ramen items on the menu, compared to the array of meat-eaters’ choices, may be disheartening to those on vegan and vegetarian diets.
Ramen is said to have originated in China, where the dish’s wheat noodles come from, but nobody knows for sure. Instant ramen was invented in 1958 by Momofuku Ando, a Japanese businessman who founded the Nissin Food Products Corporation. Ramen’s instant versions, the broth of which is comprised mainly of water, salt, MSG and flavoring, approach nowhere near the richness and complex flavors of traditionally prepared ramen, like the kind found at Boxer Ramen.
The key to a successful ramen dish is an excellent broth. Tonkotsu, Shio and Shoyu, from which some of Boxer Ramen’s menu names are taken, are three traditional types of Japanese ramen broth. The first refers to a broth made from slow-cooking pork bones and other hearty things, which infuses the broth with a thick, milky consistency, giving it a deep and delicious pork flavor. Shio means salt and is another type of traditional broth, made with salt and various ingredients which may include chicken, vegetables, fish, seaweed or the occasional pork bones. Shoyu means soy sauce and can be made with chicken, vegetable, beef or fish stock, and (of course) soy sauce. The items on the Boxer Ramen menu seem to be variations on these traditional styles of broth.
Boxer Ramen also offers delicious Japanese desserts like mochi. I’m told that mochi is a traditional Japanese rice cake, and that what I had at Boxer Ramen is actually mochi ice-cream, which is ice cream wrapped in mochi. It is something that has become popular worldwide, but I can’t be 100 percent sure. What I do know is that I really like mochi.
At $10 per ramen, $3 per mochi, and varying prices for drinks and appetizers, Boxer Ramen may be a tad bit pricey or exceptionally reasonable, depending on how broke you are. It’s a tiny bit pricier than your average food cart, but it is totally, most definitely worth it. It’s also cash only, so make sure to bring cash.