Ever since experiencing authentic Japanese in its home country, I've had quite the appetite for the cuisine in the UK. I think Japanese food still flies a little under the radar in England, although I'm excited to see more and more spots opening their doors to share this delicious food. From truly authentic to twists on the usual, my chopsticks have been clicking through as many menus as I can get to.
There's something about a bowl of ramen that ticks all the boxes. Hearty and warming, eating over the bowl to get the heat and delicious scent of the dish. Navigating chopsticks to slurp up the noodles and hugging the ends of the bowl to get the last of broth. With selfish motives, I've spent the last year or so working my way around the best ramen in Leeds, ready to round up exactly where you can find it.
There is of course eats beyond the bowls of broth at each of the below, but as an intro to Japanese? I'd say ramen is a good place to start. Here's where to get ramen in Leeds.
In my opinion, the closest to a true Japanese experience in Leeds. Tables smushed into a small room, quick but excellent service and bowls filled to overflowing with broth and toppings.
We started with gyoza, as has become a tradition, piping hot and deliciously herbed. Followed by the above, the Toyko ramen which is a pretty close comparison to the real thing; a seriously filling serve (as can be expected with every option on menu) and the freshest of toppings, complete with emojis in the wild 🍥
My own historic favourite and what was my intro to Japanese food many years ago. I have a soft spot for Little Tokyo but I'm not sure it lives up to my memories with each booking. I'm partial to a bento box here, but in true research style, Matt and I went to dabble in the ramen.
Another authentic environment with starters that are always delicious. On the couple of more recent occasions we've been, the mains haven't blown us away. The couple of ramens we've tried have been much more of an English take on the dish, no real depth of flavour and not an exciting experience, not terrible, just nothing to shout about. Should you get the opportunity to go, I'd angle more for a Japanese tapas style meal, picking through the starters and sushi dishes, to get the best experience for your tastebuds.
Little Bao Boy
This one is a place to keep your 👀 on. Alongside their mainstay of bao buns everyday, there are infrequent pop-ups serving steaming bowls of laksa ramen. I debated whether to include as it's a Malaysian take on the dish and also not always available, but with the immediate booking I always make when an event pops up, I figured it deserves a spot.
Laksa ramen is more of a curry style broth, thicker and creamier, typically with a little more spice. The Little Bao Boy bowls are always a winner, topped with their fried chicken (some of the best I've had) or the tofu option, along with fresh mint for a moreish scent as you dip in. Their events are usually pretty last minute, so follow their Insta to keep up to date and book as soon as you see them as they usually sell out.
Based in Assembly Underground, Holy Ramen are serving up ramen in minutes with fresh produce on an ever-rotating menu. There will always be ramen and dim sum, but the specifics of each will change depending on what products are available to the team. The guys behind it are amongst the nicest in Leeds, going out of their way to cater for you and delivering to your table when set-up in Assembly.
In terms of the flavour flaves, my serves have always been delish. The broth is a little more watery than a traditional ramen, but the fresher than fresh ingredients and ever changing flavour profiles keep me coming back. A few friends that have been have had very hit and miss experiences but I'm sure the team would be keen to hear any feedback so get chatting and keep an eye on their specials.
Tucked out of the centre on Great George Street (by Fettle, behind the courts), Senbon Sakura is another traditional Japanese experience. The extensive menu is serving up the usual Japan favourites, including ramen that is somewhat customisable to your taste buds. Choose your meat or veg, your broth and your noodle style and await a piping hot bowl served to your table.
I went for the shoyo stock, ramen noodles and chicken for a rich but easy-eating flavour. The pork bone broth is a creamier serve and closer to the authentic, but the menu leaves enough for you to come back and work your way through, I'll definitely be heading back soon.
This is a place that has gone under my radar for so long. Housed under the karaoke bar on the top of Briggate, Sushi Waka ramen is part of a massive authentic menu; from katsu to sushi and everything inbetween. From the outside, you may not expect much, but with tables full every time I've walked by and the delicious food I'm about to tell you about, here's your next discovery.
As far as the ramen goes, we went for the katsu pork for a crunchy coating sitting on top of a rich broth. Insider secret, I never eat the eggs, I know they're a big deal but hard boiled isn't for me - saying that, I know these weren't peak ramen eggs. The rest was delicious with a good selection of toppings resting next to the katsu and another wild emoji to boot 🍥
Cocktail, Beer, Ramen & Bun
As is tradition in a North of London round-up, I'm slipping one in from out of Leeds - for good reason. Cocktail, Beer, Ramen & Bun is in Manchester's Northern Quarter and is well worth the trip, it's undoubtedly the best ramen in the UK for me. The tonkatsu ramen is a thick broth, topped with sesame seeds and deliciously cooked pork belly. This is amongst the few ramen bowls I have eaten every single bit of, not a spoonful left behind.
The menu has five permanent bowls in the line-up, as well as a selection of bao buns and small plates which would make for a great (and large serve) sharing platter. Their Instagram has some tasty food styling if you need an excuse to whet your appetite. I would recommend a trip to Manchester solely for this serve and if you have room for it, you can explore the rest of the extensive food scene in the Northern Quarter.
Back to Leeds and on the horizon is House of Fu, hopefully set to open at some point this year after their sell-out lunchtimes at Headrow House. Keep an eye on my Instagram for updates 👀
Until then, you can take your pick from the above to get your fix of Japanese food in Leeds. Happy slurping 🍜