Ninja Ramen opens in Hillsboro, offers authentic Japanese dishes
Finding authentic Japanese ramen in western Washington County can be tough, but a new restaurant in Hillsboro is trying to make it a little easier for those looking for the right bowl.
Visiting Ninja Ramen, located near the Hillsboro Airport on 2020 N.E. Cornell Road, Suite #D, is like stepping into a ninja's yummy lair. The walls are painted black with splashes of red, while Japanese music plays in the background.
In the kitchen, owners Hitsumoto and Chiga Taka are cooking up classic Japanese dishes, such as tonkotsu pork bone broth ramen and fried chicken karaage.
"Our mission is to have delicious and healthy ramen," said co-owner Hitsumoto Taka, who opened Ninja Ramen last September. "Outside of Portland, there's no non-MSG ramen. We are the only ones in the area that don't add that to our ramen."
Both Hitsumoto and Chiga take pride in not using monosodium glutamate, or MSG, in their dishes. MSG is a flavor enhancer that is commonly added to Chinese and Japanese food.
Taka said he can taste the difference in ramen that has the additive versus a bowl that doesn't.
"It's just not the same taste as what you can get in Japan," he explained. "I know that most ramen restaurants in the U.S. just buy the powder from the supplier."
Taka said a supplier was surprised to hear he wasn't going to use powder in the ramen, adding, "That's going to take you a long time to make."
The supplier wasn't wrong about that.
Taka cooks six different ramen broths for 14 hours overnight. Other than the tonkotsu pork bone broth, the restaurant offers spicy and non-spicy miso, creamy sesame paste tantan men, tamago garlic, and vegetarian broth.
"I start from the raw materials from the bone and from the meat," said Taka.
A bowl of authentic Japanese ramen usually contains broth, noodles, protein and various vegetables.
"You have to have confidence in your product, and we do authentic," Taka added.
Taka learned how to make authentic ramen from Yamato Noodle School in Japan. After completing the program, he earned his Japanese ramen expert certificate.
As for what he learned working in restaurants in the same area, Taka replied, "Everything."
"At the school, you learn knowledge," he explained. "The restaurants? I learned experience. I needed both. That's why (I did that)."
But Taka isn't the only cook in the kitchen.
His wife and Ninja Ramen co-owner, Chiga, earned her Japanese chef certificate while living in Japan. She said her family owns three restaurants in Tokyo, where she learned the basics.
"The whole side menu comes from me," said Chiga Taka. "(My husband) makes the ramen."
She added that with a baby on the way, the restaurant's side menu is currently limited. Chiga Taka remembers decorating the restaurant and realizing she was expecting the same day.
"After I deliver (the baby), I'll continue making more," she said with a laugh.
For Chiga Taka, it was important to also include the input of her first born. Her 5-year-old son was the one who decided on the name Ninja Ramen.
"My son likes ninjas a lot," said Chiga Taka as she cradled her belly. "Then I thought, there are no restaurants called 'Ninja Ramen,' so it was the perfect name for us."
Her husband was also easy to get on board with the name.
"I guess the main reason is that we wanted to make a name that's easy for customers to remember," said Hitsumoto Taka.
When asked if the name was also influenced by other Asian cuisine restaurants in the area, Taka said, "No, because there was simply no ramen restaurant (in Hillsboro). We are the only ones. … That's why we chose Hillsboro."
He hopes others fall in love with ramen as much as he has.
"With ramen, you can create a lot of different varieties," Hitsumoto Taka said. "You can make one that fits you."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.