Calling all ramen lovers

By: Corbin Stewart

Downtown’s Tokiwa Ramen continues to prove why it is one of the best spots for a bowl of soup in the city.

How to order ramen kits from Tokiwa Ramen online. (Corbin Stewart)

As soon as you enter the confined hallway of Tokiwa Ramen, a bold and cozy aroma begins to surround you. Servers are moving fluidly throughout the restaurant in perfect rhythm, never missing a beat. Steam is rising from the kitchen as you see all the chefs behind the counter, cooking ramen to perfection. Every table and bar seat is guaranteed to be occupied open to close, even during the height of a pandemic. That’s what happens when you build up such a strong reputation over the years like Tokiwa Ramen has.

If you have ever eaten lunch at Tokiwa Ramen, you know they run things differently than other ramen restaurants. The little noodle house tucked away in the Brewery District plaza on 104 Avenue opens up at 11 a.m. daily. However, they only have a limited supply of soup. So, when they are all sold out, they close shop for the day. It must say something about the ramen’s quality if the restaurant runs out almost daily, especially during a global pandemic.

Even on a snowy Monday afternoon, the lineup was outside the door with people waiting to get a taste of the hearty ramen. However, with COVID-19 affecting the hospitality industry nationwide, Tokiwa Ramen initially had to make some changes to stay afloat.

Tokiwa Ramen has a neon “Soup” sign that lets you know they are still serving. When they run out, you’ll see the “No” sign light up in red. (Corbin Stewart)

When restaurants shut down early on in the pandemic, the only way to make money was through pickup and delivery. Instead of signing up with food delivery apps like SkipTheDishes or Doordash – who gouge restaurants by taking 20-30 per cent commission for each order – Tokiwa decided to create ramen kits for curbside pickup.

“They’re very popular,” says Tokiwa server Esther Lee.

“It’s like a Lunchables for ramen. I love them because I can easily pick them up and just cook it from home,” says downtown resident Brady Gonek. “It’s convenient for people who aren’t accustomed to cooking ramen.”

Popular favourites of regular customers include the Tokyo tonkotsu and spicy goma bowls. Kits are available for every bowl of ramen that Tokiwa serves. 

 To get a good bowl of ramen, it’s not as easy as boiling Mr. Noodles and throwing in some meat and a soft-boiled egg. It takes time to masterfully combine all the ingredients and mix it into a rich broth. You need the right amount of oil, soy, and vegetables. Everything needs to be balanced out so that the soup works together in harmony.

The black garlic ramen. It takes 10 hours to prepare the pork soup that is served daily. (Corbin Stewart)

At Tokiwa, the pork soup takes ten hours to perfect while the chicken soup takes six. Of course, it won’t take that long at home. Tokiwa’s ramen kits only take five minutes to prepare and come with instructions that help you get the best out of their natural in-house ingredients that contain no MSG or preservatives. Most other bowls of ramen contain these ingredients to enhance flavor and shelf-life.

“This is not the way to make ramen,” said owner Tatsuo Asai in a previous interview with the Edmonton Journal. “Totally not. This is all artificial stuff. The good ramen, real ramen, is like making a good craft beer. You have to select carefully how you make it.”

The ramen kits were the only way to taste the delicious and complex bowls until dine-in opened back up in August.

Gonek says he has been to Tokiwa over 10 times and keeps coming back because of the local convenience, smaller aesthetic, and delicious ramen.

“There’s a big difference in how they prepare the noodles and broth. It’s better noodles, better soup, and nothing else compares to this.”

To order the ramen kits online, you can visit Tokiwa Ramen’s website here.

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