A common question I’ve been receiving these last few months is “where the best ramen in Kelowna is.”
Most of the time when I get asked about Kelowna’s food scene, I know the answer. But with ramen, I actually didn’t know. If you go to the Lower Mainland, there is ramen everywhereee. Here in Kelowna, there’s only a few spots I can think of.
I thought a ramen challenge was over due so for the month of March, we did a #stuffwithsvetramenchallenge!
Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup with a variety of toppings. There are different types such as pork, chicken or veggie ramen. Because a lot of my followers resonate with vegan/vegetarian food, I decided to review a veggie ramen.
My guest for this month was Kenny, a foodie that goes by the Instagram account of @heyhangryhippo. Kenny was awesome as he taught me how to do a proper “noodle lift” and took all the photos of the ramen for this blog (see photos). We also had the luxury of reviewing four ramens this month instead of the usual three. We had reviewed three and then last minute, had another restaurant reach out. Therefore, we decided to throw in a bonus fourth review!
So what were we looking for in a great ramen?
-Broth – The broth in ramen is the body and soul of the dish. I want to be knocked in the face with flavour without having to add any additional salt and pepper or hot sauce. Flavorful broth is key.
-Noodles – Three out of the four ramens we tried had green noodles which I actually realized I prefer. But, is not a deal breaker. Fresh in house noodles are the best. I also prefer them a bit thicker.
-Toppings – The toppings can make or break a ramen. A great balance of freshness and texture is key in a successful ramen.
Let’s review where we went:
Kojo is located in West Kelowna and is newer to town. Their first location is actually in Penticton which is super popular. I’m so glad they made their way to Kelowna because their ramen is bomb! Their ramen is called “Vegan Creamy Ramen” which consists of vegetable broth, cilantro, smoked tofu, fried onions, seaweed, and bean sprouts. Visually, there is lots of green which ultimately gives lots of freshness. It’s served in this decadent bowl with big height. The broth is super creamy and the tofu is smoked which created some really nice flavors. Even though this ramen is vegan, it doesn’t “taste” vegan – you still get the heartiness that you would want from ramen. The only thing I would say with this ramen is that it’s not typical for traditional ramen to be creamy like this.
Next up we checked out Wasabi. I think Wasabi was one of the first places in Kelowna that I tried ramen from. They had two ramens to choose from: a vegetarian ramen and a vegan ramen. The owner suggested we try the vegan one so we went with that. The ramen provided lots of veggies which is great as I’m a big veggie girl. The ramen consisted of vegetable stock with Yuzu peel, garlic oil and mixed vegetables. Some of the veggies seemed a bit random for ramen (ex fresh tomatoes). I thought maybe this was an effort to over compensate for there being no meat? The broth was polar opposite from the first ramen we had and more traditional. It was more tomato-y tasting and thinner in texture. The noodles served were the regular thinner noodles and the tofu was miso flavored. Overall, I loved the colorful presentation. I would definitely make the conclusion that this ramen tasted more “vegan”.
Flip Flops and Hops:
Flip Flops and Hops is located in Glenmore and was recently rebranded from Flux 74. I had never been here for ramen but my followers actually enlightened me that they had it. Their ramen was called the “Tan Tan” and consisted of sesame seed plant-based broth served with green onions, carrots, enoki mushrooms, shallots, ginger and bean sprouts. You have the option of noodles so we went with the green ones. The bowl was visually pleasing with the broth being orange in color. Almost reminded me of laksa soup. In terms of taste, the ramen tasted healthier and lighter but was still very flavorful. The broth is so warm and homey and the soup in general gives all the comfort food feels. I did find the portion a bit small but it depends how hungry you are. I definitely found it less filling than the other ramens. Flip flops and hops also offers ramen at a discounted rate on Sundays so that would be the day to go check them out! Hint hint!
Soy Asian Fusion:
Lastly, our fourth bonus round was at Soy Asian Fusion. They are a cute little restaurant with lots of ramen to choose from. Their ramen was called “Vegan Shio Ramen” and consisted of vegan spinach ramen noodles with vegan shioo (Japanese sea salt) & vegetable, and konbu (kelp) dashi stocks. It was topped of boiled vegetables, bamboo shoots, sliced wood ear mushrooms and garlic onion oil. Presentation wise, lots of great height and veggies. This ramen reminded me a lot of Wasabi’s ramen in terms of some of the veggies being quite random again (ex bamboo shoots, cauliflower). Again, I appreciate lots of veg but less is more sometimes. The broth is quite watery and thinner which again, can be a preference thing if you prefer thicker or lighter broth. All around, definitely a vegan’s delight.
So who was the winner?
The winner is……
They were the first restaurant we reviewed and Kenny and I both knew they were going to be tough to beat. The had their broth down. The creamy broth and the smoky flavor is what won us over.
Kojo is located in West Kelowna so if you’re on the Kelowna side and can’t make it out there, I would definitely try Flip Flops and Hops as they were a close second. But all the ramens were good! It’s the ultimate comfort food.
Now that this challenge is over, I wanted to quickly chat with you about the future of the #stuffwithsvetfoodchallenges. With COVID-19 going on currently, all the restaurants in Kelowna are closed. That being said, I won’t be able to continue with a challenge for the month of April. However, some of you mentioned you would love for me to review some take-out options. Not sure if that’s something I should pursue or if I should take a pause out of respect for this global pandemic. Send me a DM on Instagram to let me know your thoughts! Otherwise, look for updates on Instagram Stories.
#stuffwithsvetfoodchallenges WILL continue as soon as COVID-19 is over. We just don’t know when that will be as everything is up in the air right now. Thank you so much for your patience and in the meanwhile, support these small business that I mention by getting take-out from them. They need us during this difficult time!
We’re in this together!