Robert R. Fragnito | Chief Operating Officer
Pour in boiling hot water, seal the lid for approximately two minutes, and there you have it—instant cup ramen. Well not anymore. The ramen craze is in perpetual motion in the OC and an unsuspecting spot just a few blocks away from John Wayne airport is bound to launch you to another world.
I’m talking about HiroNori Craft Ramen, a small and very popular restaurant at the heart of Irvine’s financial district located on Michelson between MacArthur Boulevard and Von Karmen Ave. The dish par excellence is the tonkotsu ramen featuring a delicious creamy pork broth, craft noodles, and three strips of succulent, melt-in-your-mouth pork belly chashu.
The history of ramen dates to the early part of the 19th century in Japan where Chinese immigrants introduced a noodle dish with broth made from pork bones and salt. By the 20th century, ramen became one of the most popular dishes in Japan. So popular in fact, it inspired inventor and businessman Andō Momofuku to invent instant ramen. Monofuku’s Nissin brand is an innovation college students and dinners of last resort are still using today (a little joke).
HiroNori prides itself on quality, excellence, and outstanding service. Every part of their comforting noodle soup is made with expert care. The pork bone-based broth is incredibly creamy and is boiled over a period of 24 hours. The chashu pork belly is top quality and is balanced in fat content brazed in a soy-based sauce giving it a light soy barbeque taste. According to the menu, HiroNori’s soy sauce is barrel aged for over two years.
The final and critical element to completing this artistic master piece is the daily fresh cut crinkly noodles. Making ramen noodles is more of an art form than simple construction. They may be crinkly, straight, thin or thick cut and are typically made with four key ingredients: wheat flour, salt, water, and kansui or alkaline mineral water. I’m not going to speculate on how HiroNori makes its noodles, but my research leads me to believe that the kansui may have something to do with their brilliant flavor.
Ramen comes in several different varieties and depending where you find it in Japan, you will find tremendous diversity. HiroNori offers three types, one being a vegan option. The sides and toppings for your ramen are ample, and if you have a big appetite, I recommend getting the salad and mini-rice bowl combo. The pork buns are also a favorite appetizer.
A little prep work will be required before heading to HiroNori. This place is a hit and you should be prepared to wait. The wait will last between 45 minutes to an hour and a half, but don’t let that intimidate you from going to this OC gem. The restaurant’s digital signup list and text message alerts will ensure your place in line is secured.
Finally, let all traditional soup etiquette fly completely out the window and slurp your noodles! Slurping your noodles is considered a great compliment and not to mention, you will gain the fullness of the flavors emerging from your ramen. Happy eating and happy slurping!
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