Noodle Me Crazy: First Annual Great Ramen Challenge at Ikea Draws Huge Crowds

Photos by Mai Pham
From Top Left, clockwise: Kata Robata, Boheme, Uchi, Underbelly, Eatsie Boys, Cove

Ramen was the name of the game last night at the First Annual Great Ramen Challenge held at Ikea. Six sous chefs got their chance to shine as they competed for a golden ramen trophy and bragging rights as the creator of the best bowl of ramen made with $3 or less.

The free event, organized by Dutch Small and open to the public with an advance RSVP, was a tremendous success. Hundreds showed up as early as two hours before the event to wait in line for wrist bands that would grant them access to the competition, where, in addition the ramen samplings being offered, there were finger foods provided by Ikea, cocktails by Deep Eddy Vodka and ByeJoe Spirits, beer by 8th Wonder Brewery, and fantastic 80's tunes spun by a DJ.

Huge crowds line up for a taste of ramen

I bopped in my seat for most of the night as chef after chef stepped into the spotlight to demonstrate just how easy or complicated it would be to make their ramen creation with little more than a cutting board, a burner, a pot, and a handful of ingredients.

Attendees David Kung, Tiffany Lin, Angela Chiang, Eric Chiang happily munching on ramen samples

As a judge for the event, we were asked to score each of the dishes on taste, how easy it was to make, plating/presentation, originality and traditionalism. There were six competitors in all, and in truth, they were all winners for me, just each in their own different way.

Here's how the competition played out according to my scorecard:

Cyrus Caclini and Masahide Wakatsuki of Kata Robata

Winner, Most Authentic: Cyrus Caclini and Masahide Wakatsuki of Kata Robata
Even before we were served our sample, the aromas coming off of their steaming pot smelled like authentic, restaurant-quality ramen. Nonetheless, a peek at the ingredients showed a simple bag of Sapporo Ichiban miso ramen, a couple of eggs, and a few veggies. The final offering was a tasty ramen topped with green onions and a simple ground meat and egg omelette -- very Japanese in style and flavor, and quite delicious.

Jordan Economy of Boheme

Winner, Best Plating/Presentation: Jordan Economy of Bar Boheme
Economy also used an egg as his main protein, but it came with a twist. He covered the egg what tasted like a spicy meat paste, and crusted it with panko crumbs before deep frying it. The egg was then halved, exposing a runny inside. Served with pickled corn and a thickish noodle, I ate this one with my eyes before actually tasting it -- it looked that good.

Location Info



7810 Katy Freeway, Houston, TX

Category: General

Kata Robata Sushi & Grill

3600 Kirby, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


904 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

Boheme Cafe & Wine Bar

307 Fairview, Houston, TX

Category: Music

Eatsie Boys

4100 Montrose Blvd., Houston, TX

Category: General


2502 Algerian Way, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant


1100 Westheimer Road, Houston, TX

Category: Restaurant

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gossamersixteen topcommenter

Hot dog has no place in ramen, save it for a bun or baked beans. And good gracious beets are trendy lately..

FattyFatBastard topcommenter

If it ain't a ramen burger, I ain't interested.

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