Ramen is a Japanese specialty. The dish is a Japanese cultural icon and it even has its own emoji. And now it’s being served in the Flathead.
Hokkaido Ramen House’s Spicy Ramen influence can be traced all the way to Hokkaido, Japan, the northernmost island in the country. Restaurant owner, Hongyan Cai discovered the centuries-old recipe during a trip to Japan a decade ago.
After tasting many combinations of noodle and broth, Cai returned to Montana with a curated list of ramen types and recipes and opened the first Hokkaido Ramen House in Helena in 2018.
Hokkaido’s Spicy Ramen is made from scratch. Its liquid base is prepared with a “double soup” method, combining a blend of hand-made clear and pork broths, copious miso and three additional spicy pastes. The result is a garlic, ginger and soy-rich tangy soup that’s thick and radiates a fiery orange. To accompany the creamy, rich tastes, thick and wavy wheat noodles are crammed into the bowl and loaded with a spoonful of chili oil. All this spice settles with more toppings: slabs of chashu or pork belly, bean sprouts, bamboo sheets, bok choy and a marinated hard-boiled egg slice. All together its vegetables, noodles and proteins transform the tangy broth into a warm and satisfying meal.
Eating Hokkaido’s Spicy Ramen is an adventure. You can pluck each ingredient from the abyss of flavor individually — a spoonful of noodles or a pinch of boiled pork belly tastes delicious by themselves — or stir all the toppings together. You may taste a buttery bamboo sheet layered with a crisp piece of bok choy. With three levels of spice to choose from, the dish appeals to a range of eaters, for those who sip timidly and to those who have the pallet of a fire-breathing dragon.
Hokkaido has ramen down to a science: Preparation is the key to warrant delicious tasting results. According to restaurant manager John Watson, 50 percent of its dishes rely on prep alone. Six cooks are responsible for the bone broth that is boiled for eight hours. They also marinate the in-house pork for several days and the egg recipe requires a 24-hour marinade. Fresh green onions, cilantro, bean sprouts, jalapenos and other vegetables are chopped daily too.
Watson says the menu is more heavily weighted with ramen right now, but appetizers, boba tea and sushi are becoming increasingly popular as the restaurant grows.
Now with roughly 50 different sushi rolls on the menu, Hokkaido offers traditional rolls, specialty rolls and four deep-fried tempura rolls. Fish is flown from Seattle and Alaska twice a week. And soon the Kalispell location plans to obtain a cabaret license to eventually sell beer, wine and sake.
One doesn’t have to fly across the Pacific or drive east to try the soul-warming soup. Valley residents can now cozy up to the bowl of hot broth and noodles that is beloved by people all over the world in Kalispell at the Hutton Plaza Ranch.
Description: Hokkaido Ramen House’s Spicy Ramen is a traditional spicy soup with a liquid base, noodles, pork, egg and other toppings.
Location: 110 Hutton Ranch Rd. Suite 101, Kalispell