Ramen—the name still conjures up memories of dorm life and penny-pinching budgets. But a new wave of restaurants, noodle joints and food carts are taking the classic Japanese comfort dish to a whole other level. Forget the spice packet; hearty, savory broths, flavored with mild miso, spicy curry or sinus-clearing kimchi, are simmered and skimmed for hours. No more brittle, crimped insta-noodles—now they're fresh, handmade and deliciously al dente. Toss in veggies like celery root, caramelized onions or exotic peppers. Add a poached egg and some porky goodness, then top with charred scallions and a splash of garlic-infused oil. That's what we call umami heaven. Forgive us our slurping.
Originally published in the November 1, 2011, issue of Family Circle magazine.