I’m still catching up on my San Francisco blogs, trying to sort out all the photos of everything I ate! One of the best things I ate on the trip was a warm, comforting reminder of home, but was full of Northern California ingredients: Hapa Ramen.
It’s owned by Richie Nakano, who was the sous chef at the popular Nopa restaurant in San Francisco. Thanks to the accolades built up during his time there, when he started his new venture last year, hordes of people stormed his ramen stand. The hordes have since calmed down, but you will still find a steady stream of Hapa Ramen fans at his booth at the Ferry Building.
Nakano is hapa, of course, with his dad hailing from Hawaii — thus the name. According to an interview with menuism, Palace Saimin here on Oahu was one of two noodle shops that gave him his epiphany of flavor. How wonderful that a little spot in Kalihi could serve as an inspiration for a renowned chef!
So I had a bowl at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market on my recent trip there. Chris Kajioka and I split a Big Daddy Ramen Bowl ($12), which has everything in it: slow cooked pork, fried chicken (like karaage), vegetables, and a soft-boiled egg. See that photo, above? That’s HALF a bowl. They don’t call it the Big Daddy for nothing! Hapa Ramen is big on the snout-to-tail cooking movement, so on this day, you could buy add-ons like smoked jowl and fried ear (which of course, we did).
The ramen bowl is rich and comforting, but not over-the-top heavy. I’m not a soup drinker, but I did drink this one. Each of the ingredients is moist and full of flavor; you can taste the pig, you can taste the smoke, you can taste the freshness. Every bite yields a delicate wash of concentrated flavor. It really is hapa, in every sense of the concept.
Here’s my interview with Nakano at the Ferry Building, with a grand tour of his booth:
I’ve blogged many times about visits to the Ferry Building, so I’ll just give you a quick look at what I saw on this last trip.