When I’m in a certain mood, there’s nothing I find as comforting as a piping hot bowl of ramen. No, I’m not talking about the packaged stuff that requires nothing more than hot water and three minutes, though that stuff will sometimes do in a pinch. The type of ramen I need and love needs to adhere to a few simple, yet vital rules. First, the broth needs to be good. Bad broth equals bad ramen, and no one wants any of that. Second, the chashu, which is the slices of pork that is often found in traditional ramen, needs to have its own flavor outside of what’s in the broth. Third, and this is the most important rule for me, the egg that comes in my bowl of broth and noodles must not be fully cooked. Hard boiled eggs are great, but I don’t like them in my ramen.
I recently visited 라멘만땅 (Ramen Manddang) in hopes of finding that bowl of noodles that could satisfy my craving for salty carbs. The place came highly recommended, so I arrived with high hopes. I also dragged a few friends along to help me with the tasting process. Though my trips to to Bongseondong have been limited, the restaurant was fairly easy to find. The overall setup of the restaurant, including the decor, the signs, and even the limited seating space, reminded me of some of the local ramen shops I’d often visit during my time in Japan.
After we were seated, we were immediately greeted by the owner, who spoke fluent English. Though the menu was in Korean, he was more than eager to assist us with translating and even gave some helpful recommendations on what to choose. Considering how many delicious looking options there were to pick from, his guidance was appreciated. Not only were there different types of ramen featuring broths with bases like soy sauce, miso, salt, and pork bones, but there were rice dishes, sides, and other staples of Japanese cuisine as well. We ended up getting the 도리가라쇼유 라멘 (Torigara Shoyu Ramen), the 돈꼬츠 라멘 (Tonkotsu Ramen), the 타이완 라멘 (Taiwan Ramen), the 가츠동 (Katsudon) Set, which came with both pork cutlet over rice and a bowl of shoyu ramen, 치킨 가라아게 (Chicken Karaage), and 야끼교자 (Yaki Gyoza). We also ordered some warm sake, because why not?
Once our orders were placed, it didn’t take long for our food to arrive. Since most of the ingredients for each bowl of ramen were the same, outside of the broth, I made sure to focus on getting a good taste of everyone’s soup before letting them eat in peace. The first taste I had was from the Tonkotsu Ramen, which is traditionally made by simmering pork bones for a long period of time. I was happy to see that the broth was milky and opaque, which I’ve learned is a good sign when it comes to bone broths. The flavor was rich and porky, and none of the toppings took away from it. The oil in the broth was a bit on the heavy side, and I would have appreciated some bits of burnt garlic, but it was still a lovely bowl of ramen. The Taiwan Ramen, which was actually my bowl, was mildly spicy without going overboard. The slow burn combined with the clear, clean broth made this dish a little lighter compared to other noodle bowls I’ve had in the past.
The Torigara Shoyu Ramen, which is made with soy sauce and chicken broth, was my favorite. The clear broth was addictive and savory without getting too salty. The bits of fried tempura bits added a lovely contrast in texture as well. Overall, I was pleased to see that every bowl passed the broth test. Each bowl came with bouncy noodles, a grilled piece of chashu that I wish I had more of, and a soft boiled egg that pretty much guaranteed I would be returning in the future.
As much as I wanted to like the Katsudon that came in the set, I wish there could have been a little more of the flavorful sauce that traditionally sets this dish apart from all the other rice dishes. The Chicken Karaage, which is basically Japanese chicken nuggets, was properly fried and stayed juicy on the inside. It was good enough to have on its own, but a squeeze of lemon and a bit of sauce made it extra delicious. The Yaki Gyoza, also known as fried dumplings, came deep fried. Though I prefer to have my Japanese dumplings pan fried, what we got was still delicious. The warm sake, which even I had a bit of, helped round out the entire meal.
When it came to passing my rules for ramen, 라멘만땅 definitely passed. Though I won’t say they’re authentic enough for me to cancel my next trip to Japan, they definitely had some of the best ramen I’ve had in Gwangju. I definitely wouldn’t recommend this restaurant to parties larger than four, as it is fairly limited in terms of space. That being said, if you ever find yourself in Bongseondong and are craving one of the greatest comfort foods in the world, it’s definitely worth stopping by.
Address: 광주광역시 남구 봉선동 144-8 (near the Mudeung Park Apartments)
Hours: 11:30AM to 10:00PM
Average Price Range: 7,000 to 9,000 for ramen