100 Favorite Dishes 2013-2014: No. 26, Spicy Miso Ramen at Soma Sushi
This year, leading up to our annual Menu of Menus® issue, Kaitlin Steinberg counts down her 100 favorite dishes as she eats her way through Houston. She'll compile a collection of the dishes she thinks are the most awesome, most creative and, of course, most delicious in town. It's a list of personal favorites, things she thinks any visitor or Houstonian ought to try at least once and dishes that seem particularly indicative of the ever-changing Houston foodscape.
Photos by Kaitlin Steinberg Can you finish a big ol' bowl of miso ramen? I couldn't, but I got so close!
I have never finished a bowl of ramen. Ever. They're just too big. There are too many noodles or too much broth. The bowl always seems never-ending, no matter how good the soup.
Recently, though, I've tackled the spicy miso ramen at Soma Sushi and come alarmingly close to cleaning my plate. It's not that the bowl at Soma is smaller than your average serving of ramen -- it's definitely still a good several cups. And it's not that I'm generally hungrier when I tackle a dish at Soma.
It's that Soma's spicy miso ramen is so darn good I cannot stop eating it.
Every time I go, I do this dance.
Beneath the surface lurks melt-in-your-mouth pork belly.
I'm full, I'll tell myself. I'll set down my spoon and my chopsticks. I'll glance around to see if a server is on his way over to whisk the bowl away. I'll wait ten seconds. I'll pick up my spoon again and stir the soup around, playing with it to pass the time. Then I'll submerge the spoon in the broth and pull it back up, filled with cloudy, reddish brown soup and a piece of seaweed or two. I examine it. Is this bite good enough to eat? And then, just a few seconds later, I'm devouring the ramen once more. Stop, slurp, repeat.
There's something addictive about the combination of the soothing miso and bit of chile oil that floats on top in tiny golden puddles. It's warm and comforting, but at the same time, it makes my face flush.
Then there are the perfectly chewy fresh ramen noodles, thin but sturdy enough to hold up to the broth and the various other ingredients -- mushrooms, onions, seaweed, wakame, tofu, pork belly -- in the soup. The two different mushrooms, enoki and shiitake, give the ramen an earthy flavor, while the seaweed adds bitterness and the pork belly, fatty, savory meat. The tofu, I think, is mostly there for texture, as it tends to take on the flavor of anything surrounding it, in this case the spicy miso broth.
After 15 minutes of eating and resting, then eating again and resting again, I am usually vanquished by the awesome bowl of ramen. One of these days, I'll finish the whole thing, but until then, I'll think longingly of that final spoonful before giving up.
See the full list of favorites on the next page.