Among the many Japanese ramen shops in the bay area, Ringer Hut stands out as somewhat of a unique place. It serves a special type of ramen called champon, most famous from the city of Nagasaki. It is at this city where this style of ramen originated from the local Chinese restaurants.
Based on the best information I could gather, and no, internet (nor xxpedia) does not have all the right answers, champon is basically a variation of the original Chinese dish called Chao Ma Mian (炒碼麵; chaomamian). When the Chinese from Shandong province who emigrated to Korea introduced chaomamian to Korea, it became one of Korea’s favorite Chinese noodle dish (the other is zhajiangmian) Because of the family resemblance, the Koreans gave it the name of “jjamppong” (after champon) to chaomamian.
One can think of Champon as a close cousin of chaomamian. And one taste of Nagasaki champon from Ringer Hut can confirm this. They offer many dishes, including regular shoyu ramen and even curry tonkatsu rice (long before places like Curry House stirred up the popularity of Japanese style curry here in the bay area) But their specialty and something that’s found rarely elsewhere in the SF bay area is the Nagasaki Champon. They even offer it in four sizes: small, regular, large, and super. The large bowl is a big bowl with enough ramen noodles to trump other Japanese ramen shop’s ramen with extra noodles. Even I rarely tackle the super size.
The key to champon is the stir-frying of pork and vegetables prior to the addition of the pork or chicken based soup broth. The stir-frying adds the extra dimension of flavor that differs it from traditional ramen broth. The now closed Do-Henkotsu used to have a Yasai (野菜) ramen that was in the same spirit as the champon and chaomamian.
The subtle difference between the Nagasaki Champon at Ringer Hut and the original chaomamian found at Shandong (Korean-Chinese) style restaurants is that the champon soup broth has more of a peppery underone, while the Shandong version has a more pronounced garlic flavor.
The noodle used by Ringer Hut for champon is very good. It is thick and cooked to the right Q-ness. If fact, it is my second favorite ramen noodle next to those from Halu Ramen.
The ingredients included stir-fried cabbages, bean sprouts, woodear mushrooms, and a little bit of small shrimp and calamari. The great flavor of the broth infused by the stir-frying plus the excellent noodles makes a great bowl of noodle. (Grade: A- )
Latest update to my best ramen of San Francisco bay area rankings:
- Ramen Halu, San Jose – Halu Ramen
- Gen Ramen, Fremont (CLOSED) – Kakuni Tonkotsu Ramen
- Do-Henkotsu, San Jose (CLOSED) – Pork Rib Ramen & Yasai Ramen
- Ajisen Ramen, Fremont – BBQ Pork Chashu Ramen, Paiku Ramen
- Kahoo Ramen, San Jose – Shoyu Ramen, Shio Ramen, Miso Ramen
- Maru Ichi, Mountain View – Kuro Ramen, Tonkotsu Ramen
- Ringer Hut, San Jose – Nagasaki Champon
- Santa Ramen, San Mateo – Kakuni Tonkotsu Ramen
- Himawari, San Mateo – Kakuni Tonkotsu Ramen
- Maru Ichi, Milpitas – Kuro Ramen, Tonkotsu Ramen