Ramen is quite literally everywhere. In the last decade, the Japanese soup with possible Chinese origins has been transformed in the global consciousness from a poor man's meal of brittle, freeze-dried noodles and a lonely, sodium-laced seasoning packet, to a made-to-order speciality with more riffs and remixes than is probably necessary for a bowl of soup.
In Jakarta, we're spoiled for choice. There's legit Japanese spots, bowls swimming for Korean kimchi, served with steaming heaps of ox tongue, seasoned with Indian curries, or just downing in cheese. It seems like every neighborhood has an amazing bowl of ramen just waiting for hungry noodle slurpers, as long as you know where to look.
Unfortunately I do not have any idea where to find the perfect bowl. But thankfully we all have Putri Soe—a serious ramen connoisseur who is a rising star on Indonesia's hip-hop scene, where she raps under the moniker Ramengvrl. Her breakout single, "I'm Da Man," is a swaggering, trap-inspired anthem that playfully reverses the tropes of masculinity in hip-hop. And it was even shot in one of her favorite local ramen bars.
So what ramen joints are a must? Here are Ramengvrl's favorites.
"Despite its shady exterior, this is one of the best ramen joints in the city, and probably the most authentic one in town. I usually come here for the good ol' Tonkotsu Ramen with a side of kimchi. They also enlist a few Japanese bikini mags, which might be a plus for a few people. I also love that every portion is super big—which adds to its authentic feel."
Jl. Mahakam No.11, RT.1/RW.6, Kramat Pela, Kby. Baru, Kota Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota
"I ALWAYS come back here for the Spicy Tonkotsu Ramen. I think what makes it tasty for my 'Indonesian tongue' is the fact that they use chops of real chili for this particular dish. You can see the chilli seeds in your bowl so it kind of balances that 'thick' taste you usually get from a pork broth ramen."
Lotte Shopping Avenue Lt 2 Ciputra World No 02A, Jalan Prof Dr Satrio Kav 3-5, RT.18/RW.4, Karet Kuningan, Jakarta Selatan, Kota Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta 12940
Ramen 38 Sanpachi
I love their Buta Kakuni Tonkotsu Ramen. The portions are huge and the bowl is absolutely packed with really, really juicy cuts of pork. Honestly, I usually just order the Buta Bara along with a side of rice to make me extra happy and full. You can usually find me here with my friends on weekends. We come here after we're done partying around South Jakarta because it's open 24 hours.
Kota Kasablanka Lantai LG, Jalan Casablanca No.88, RT.16/RW.5, Menteng Dalam, Tebet, Kota Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta
"I love the ambiance of this spot. The tables are divided into cloisters and each is hidden with a banner so you can eat ramen with some sense of 'privacy,' though you can still listen to the conversation from neighboring seats. I usually order the Tan Shio Ramen, which is served with ox tongue and garlic butter (I love garlic). Even though the Shio is my favorite, this place is definitely famous for its Buta Bara."
Jl. Melawai 9 No.26, Melawai, Kby. Baru, Kota Jakarta Selatan, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta
"Don't be fooled by the exterior here - it looks pretty basic but it's a favorite of many, many people. That said, prepare for a long waiting list. I only go to their Central Park or Mal Kelapa Gading outlets—they have the pork menu. The big sell here is that each ramen is customizable so you can order exactly to your liking. I've noticed that most people order the Buta Kara (classic) ramen, but I opt for the Buta Tonshabu which has pork belly slices—I really like pork. I usually go here when I want a really simple bowl of ramen that isn't too strong in taste and feels just right in the size. I especially love their "premium pork cheek", I can't even begin to describe how good it is!"
Grand Indonesia - West Mall Lt. LG #27, Jalan MH. Thamrin No. 1, Kb. Melati, Jakarta Pusat, Kota Jakarta Pusat, Daerah Khusus Ibukota Jakarta