White Hot Ramen: Zen Box Breaks the Tonkotsu Spell, Tries Paitan Ramen on for Size

Zen Box Izakaya's duck ramen

Zen Box Izakaya's duck ramen

If your idea of a perfect bowl of ramen features rich porky broth with fatty slabs of pork belly bobbing around, you're not alone. Tonkotsu ramen, or pork bone ramen, is a chef's -- and diner's -- darling.

But in their ongoing, epic quest for the perfect bowl, Zen Box owners John Ng and Lina Goh have found inspiration in a different kind of ramen. Traveling twice to Japan and most recently to New York where they slurped at the now-famous Ivan Ramen Slurp Shop (Ivan Orkin is probably the only American with a wildly successful ramen joint in Tokyo and now in NYC, also wildly successful), the pair fell in love with new broths, noodles, and fixings, and brought that inspiration back to Minnesota.

See also: Zen Box Izakaya brings worldly inspiration to ramen


"Tonkotsu (pork bone ramen) is getting so much attention in New York, and I think some of the chefs are trying to get somewhat away from that," says Ng.

Ivan is famous for incorporating rich chicken schmaltz into his broth. Ng says his own take on Paitan ramen, or cloudy chicken broth ramen, will involve double chicken broth (where both bones and meat are used to create a powerfully flavored stock), chicken confit, fried onions, and never fear -- pork belly chashu (braised and rolled pork belly). Fresh noodles are brought in from the two most authentic ramen noodle manufacturers in the country, Yamachan Ramen in California and Sun Noodle in New Jersey.

With his tiny kitchen space, Ng only keeps his special ramen around for a limited time. Get yours for dinner service starting at 5 p.m. today, and if it lasts, Saturday too.

Zen Box Izakaya 602 Washington Ave. S. Minneapolis 612-341-3313

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