For those who are accustomed to downing hot broth and noodles during the sweltering summer months, heading out for ramen—heat dome or not—is a no-brainer. But trying to introduce people to steaming bowls in the summertime, instead of winter, is pretty much a lost cause.
However, if you’re itching to head out for ramen and have to bring along significant (or insignificant) others who hold membership cards in the latter camp, you could consider finding a location that offers something some people may not be aware of: chilled or brothless ramen.
Year-round, most ramen shops in Vancouver serve either dipping noodles, like tsukemen at Ramen Gojiro or the Ramen Butcher, or warm options without broth like mazesoba (some examples listed below).
But several ramen shops offer specials, particularly cold ramen, only during the summer months—not all ramen restaurants do.
So here are a number of examples to check out—and chill out with—in Vancouver proper if you're noodling around for summertime options.
One of our faves, the signature cold ramen ($14.95) of Benkei Ramen (545 West Broadway) is like a salad consisting of ramen noodles with ingredients such as sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, ham, tamago (omelet), seaweed, and ginger all arranged on top. With your choice of an original or sesame special blend sauce (we recommend the latter), you can mix it all together or eat it the way it’s presented—both are indelibly satisfying.
Another reliable choice, this cozy spot at 740 Denman Street offers Japanese citrus-flavoured cold ramen. This version features spinach and flour noodles, accompanied by sweet and salty sliced beef, green onion, white sesame, nori (dried seaweed), naruto (fish cake), tenkasu (tempura bits), wasabi, and a poached egg. It’s available for $14.90, with extra noodles added on for $1.75. There’s also brothless spicy mazesoba with minced pork and fried onions in a spicy house sauce ($10.40, an extra $1.30 for extra noodles, and an extra $1 to make it extra spicy).
Almost next door at 788 Denman Street is one of the city’s longest-running and most popular ramen shops that often draws lineups from devout noodleheads: Kintaro. Similar in appearance to the previous examples, Kintaro's cold ramen ($15.35) is only served from July to September, and comes with barbecue pork, egg, cucumber, bean sprouts, wakame, ginger, Japanese mustard, and sweet-and-sour sauce.
Gyo Para Gyoza and Ramen Bar
Straddling Arbutus Ridge and Kitsilano neighbourhoods, Gyo Para Gyoza at 2120 West Broadway (at Arbutus Street) also offers a chilled ramen ($14.95) with chashu, cucumber, lettuce, tomato, wakame, egg, and ginger, with a choice of either a sesame or shoyu sauce.
Slightly diverging from what's at the other locations, the chilled ramen ($15) over at Gyoza Bar (located at 622 West Pender Street) takes a more seafood-oriented approach. This version features a chilled saba dashi broth with poached tiger prawns, inari, cabbage, corn, cherry tomatoes, and nori.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
During the summer, the 1690 Robson Street location of this top shop offers toroniku hayashi while its 558 West Broadway location, unfortunately doesn't. This limited-edition cold ramen is served on a plate with toroniku (simmered pork jowl) accompanied by thinly sliced cucumber, shredded egg crepes, kikurage (wood ear mushroom), spinach, and ginger, all displayed on a side plate. Whether regular ($15.35) or kara-hiyashi, the spicy version ($15.90), there are only 10 servings available for dine-in each day so get them while you can. Both the Robson and Broadway locations do serve tsukemen ($16.80) and its spicy version, kara tsukemen ($17.35).
Torizo Ramen Bar
This relative newcomer that opened in October (during pandemic restrictions, no less) at 1265 Granville Street is unafraid culinary innovations. Case-in-point is cold yuzu shio ramen with clear chicken broth and chicken cha-shu, as well as red onion, Japanese leek, bamboo shoots, honey, yuzu (a Japanese lemon-lime fruit that’s become the international flavour of the moment), tomato, and arugula for $14 (or $15.75 with egg). And stay tuned—more options may be coming soon.
Near city hall, Torizo’s sibling ramen shop (both are from the Zakkushi Group), which opened in 2018, also serves cold shio ramen ($13.80), although this one has honey, yuzu, radish sprouts, and green onions. Hiyashi chuka ($11.80) is also available, with egg crepe strips, cucumber, tomato, pickled ginger, ham, and sesame, with a housemade soy sauce, all atop cold noodles.
Perched on the edge of both Gastown and Chinatown, Taishoken has tsukemen options but its version of chilled and brothless hiyashi ramen ($13.50), with chicken, tomato, cucumber, and egg pancake, offers a choice of one of three sauces: chuka (soy sauce), black sesame, or sesame (and extra sauce for an additional $2.25, for those feeling particularly saucy).
Over at 102–6111 University Boulevard at UBC, Kinton Ramen offers three summery options (all $14.95 each). First up, there’s the new Yuzu Boost Bowl ($14.95, available until August 31)—brothless cold ramen noodles in sesame oil, served with chicken breast, onsen tamago, arugula, edamame, corn, seaweed, pickled red ginger, yuzu dressing, and a side dollop of Japanese mustard to spice things up with. Next, there’s Amaze Mazemen, or brothless ramen featuring seasoned thick noodles in sesame oil and garlic with pork shoulder and belly, corn, onsen tamago, bonito flakes, nori, chili, scallions, and mayonnaise. There’s also chilled tsukemen, featuring cold noodles tossed in sesame oil and sesame seeds with pork shoulder, seasoned egg, and nori. The housemade dipping sauce is served in a separate bowl, along with daikon, wasabi, and scallions on the side.
Jinya Ramen Bar
This ramen spot smack dab in the downtown core at 541 Robson Street offers cold hiyashi ramen ($15.80) with thick noodles accompanied by pork chashu, seasoned egg, bean sprouts, cucumber, kikurage, and red ginger, with a choice of sweet soy sauce or sesame sauce. But for those seeking plant-based options, something to note is that there's also vegan mazemen ($16.80), with no broth and thick noodles in vegan umami sauce, served with sautéed curry cauliflower, soy meat soboro (ground meat), bamboo shoots, corn, green onion, red onion, sesame seeds, and nori.
Not to be confused with Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba (see below), this independent East Vancouver spot at 5695 Victoria Drive is no slouch in the summertime ramen department. There are three summer tsukemen options for dipping into ($16.50 each): yuzu tsukemen with egg and chintan-style (or clear) broth; spicy tonkotsu (pork broth) tsukemen; and for the hardcore ramen otaku—Niboshi tsukemen with pork and dried sardine broth, served with egg.
Kokoro Tokyo Mazesoba
The royal ruler of brothless ramen, this international chain, with locations in Downtown Vancouver (551 Seymour Street), UBC (206–5728 University Boulevard) and Coquitlam (109–531 North Road), is the best bet for variety as it offers the city’s most extensive array of mazesoba, or brothless ramen. (Note, however, that it serves heated rather than chilled ramen.) Among the variations are cheese, mentaiko cream, salmon avocado, curry, and vegan bowls. And, yes, they do have bowls with broth—for those who are into that sort of thing.