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Pho vs. Ramen [moved from L.A. board]

Just had the special ramen with BF at the Torrance Mitsuwa and i just don't get it. I love ramen, but to pay $7.00 for a bowl of ramen noodles, half a soft boiled egg, a slice of charsu pork and a piece of nori? Are you for real?
For that much, I can get a big bowl of Pho with tons of beef and tendons, an assortment of herbs and sprouts, spring rolls for appetizer and a Vietnamese coffee at Pho So 1.
Maybe I'm comparing apples and oranges, but if you had to choose, which one would you choose?

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  1. If I HAD to choose between the two, I'd choose ramen. I enjoy pho, but I enjoy ramen far more on the whole. I understand the price difference (a bowl at Daikokuya is a couple bucks more than a large at Pho 87, my two regular spots as someone who avoids driving in LA), but the combination of the thicker soup, abundance of bamboo and fatty charsiu is just too good.

    Then again, so much of choosing between the two is about feel and cravings. As a soup lover, it's hard to imagine only getting to have one.

    1. I agree, went to Mitsuwa and they were selling ground beef and ground pork combo for $3.99/lb nicely pre-packaged. At ABC supermarket in Westminster, each will set you back $1.99/lb at the most. Japanese culture is also very aesthetic, using little doilies for tempura and the use of nice serving dishes. Most SE asian will serve in acrylic dishes/bowls with either plastic or wooden chopsticks, won't find that at a ramen place. Also with the Japanese into the 3rd or 4th generation, it's harder to woo folks to do the restaurant biz as bulavinaka said. Makes me hopeful that the SE asian cuisine will flourish after this current generation. Still wierd to have an elder asian speak to me in perfect english, as you will find with many Japanese.

      Each has it's own place. Pho is my comfort food being vietnamese and adding your own touches makes it your own. I love ramen though, it's salty filled with different textures that tantalize. Any meal under $8 in OC is a good deal for me!

      1. Oops - look like my post vanished... oh well - I still think both are good - just a preference thing for me... but it's hard to beat your comparison on a bowl of ramen versus a mini-cauldron of pho...

        1. sometimes i want pho noodles, but often I want ramen, especially for the taste and texture of the noodles broth is good on both

          1. i don't think you can really compare. basically pho is a dish, whereas ramen is more like, a category of food like... a "sandwich" or "pasta."

            while there are a few regional variations in pho (north versus south, pho from hanoi as opposed to saigon, etc.), it's all primarily the same thing - a beef-based broth prepared using fairly defined spices, rice noodles, beef toppings, etc. (unless you're talking chicken pho lol). it's all a matter of finding the one place that does pho best/most to your liking.

            with ramen, you have a multitude of soup and noodle types and toppings and dozens of variations that have evolved over the years into unique and accepted styles - asahikawa ramen, tokyo wafu ramen, chukasoba, etc. each unique and completely unlike the other.

            along those lines, it might be more approriate to compare say, pho from a particular restaurant with a specific kind of ramen from a specific ramen shop. Like Golden Deli pho versus shoyu ramen from Ramen-ya. Althought to me it's still apples and oranges =).

            as for bang to buck ratio, keep in mind that when it comes to japanese food, we're talking about a culture where you can pay $1,000 or more for a single piece of sushi!

            that said, i eat both pho and ramen. personally, pho is great for "light days" when i still want something brothy. ramen, then, the rest of the week ^^.

            1 Reply
            1. re: rameniac

              I agree that pho is great for "light days"; ramen, to me, is a bit more heartier.

            2. I say comparing Pho and Ramen is like comparing apples and oranges. The one thing I love about a bowl of Pho is that it comes with all the fresh herbs and vegetables you can add. I think the broth in a good bowl of Pho is a little more complex. That said, I do enjoy Ramen, especially when it has really good Charsiu. Someone once said "sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don't".

              Of course, if you want to add Bun Bo Hue or Bun Tom Thit Nuong in the mix, I would vote for those. Bun Bo Hue has a very unique flavor and comes with a big pig's foot in the bowl (like a Crackerjack prize in a bowl of noodles). Bun dishes are one of my favorite things to eat on a hot day. The addtion of fish sauce also gives it a very unique flavor. Both dishes are great with a bunch of herbs and veggies added.

              1. I can't compare the two fairly, because ramen is kind of a cultural touchpoint for me. It reminds me of sitting in my grandparent's kitchen, eating Obaachan's lovingly prepared bowl of ramen, spiked with whatever bits of goodness (ie leftovers) she had in the fridge. I enjoy both ramen and pho tremendously, but I can't separate the emotional reaction to ramen from the culinary aspect. It's probably been 30 years since I had any of her ramen, but every bowl at Daikokuya takes me back.

                3 Replies
                1. re: ricepad

                  It's all about perspective - and your point-of-view as well as everyone else's is what it's all about... and very touching...

                  1. re: bulavinaka

                    Agreed, pho or ramen at restaurants usually doesn't compare to homemade. Mom's pho tastes very different than store pho. With that said, eating something that reminds you of wonderful memories, that is true comfort food. Even though the taste isn't 100% the same.

                  2. re: ricepad

                    I hear you, ricepad. Only I'm back in my parents' house filled with yummy smells of everything that's cooking up in their kitchen. The water is boiling in the pot for them to toss the noodles in, their home-made (never store bought) chicken broth is simmering away, and there are all kinds of veggies and meat waiting to be embraced by the broth and noodle. Then we'd all sit silently around the dining room table, slurping away. Those really were the days....

                  3. Hi... I understand the basic premise of your pho vs. ramen topic. But as resident nit-picker :-) I'm gonna pick a small nit with you: the Pho with beef and tendon (and garnish) at Pho So 1 is gonna set you back at least $5. The spring rolls are gonna be another $5, so you're up to $10 already. Add your viet coffee, and you've nearly doubled the price (at Pho So 1) that you paid for your $7 ramen bowl at Mitsuwa, yes? I love me some Pho So 1 at any price, but unless the branch you frequent has radically lower prices, the two meals you describe in the original post aren't comparable, price-wise...

                    1. You're right. You're comparing apples and oranges. Yet, if I *was forced to* pick between the best available pho and ramen in Los Angeles, I'd pick ramen.

                      1. i love both and they are very different so i can't just pick one.

                        1. I love ramen, and I love pho, but if I had to pick, I would go with pho. As previous posters have mentioned, it has a lot to do with nostalgia. I grew up with pho and didn't have non-instant ramen till I was in college. Pho just seems more comforting to me.

                          1. It is apples and oranges. But if I am forced to pick one as the last meal of my life - it will be pho.

                            It's a party in a bowl - complexity of the soup, the chewiness of the noodles and tendon, the crunch of the sprouts, the herby flavors, the salty and the sweet.

                            Ramen, while good, doesn't seem to have that kind of complexity to me. I can't tell a great bowl from a good bowl. Pho - for me it's easy to tell at first sip/bite if it's a great one or mediocre one.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: notmartha

                              if i was off to the gallows or strapped into the electric chair, there'd be a hakata ramen yatai right next to me. heck, i'd request the chef flip the switch!

                              1. re: notmartha

                                Hi there, notmartha: I think for many of us, the 1980s film Tampopo was a break-out moment of delightful education and clarity (albeit, fictionalized) into precisely what *should* constitute an exemplary bowl of ramen, from parts-to-sum. When reading poster Rameniac's blog about ramen in southern California, I get a sense of where some of those elements might be found locally...

                                1. re: silence9

                                  I loved that film, pretty entertaining (but I generally like any food related films).

                                  However, even knowing that the keys are the broth, and of course the noodles the distinction between best and next best isn't that obvious to me for ramen. Flaws are easier to hide in stronger flavors, perhaps.

                              2. Pho. More of a meal for me. Like em both, but go out of my way for pho.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: tdo ca

                                  Ramen at home
                                  Pho for eating out

                                  Ramen has too many home cooked memories for me to order it when I go out. Too many personal touches that I grew up with.

                                2. Wow, ... what a debate!

                                  I think I would agree with the original poster, and say that pho does give more bang for the buck. It's just as hearty, I think. The broth can be so rich, depending on where you go, ...and my regular joint does it sooooo well. The veggies and herbs make it so much more interesting.

                                  Ramen, that's kind of a treat for me. I like it too, but ... if I had a choice, I think I'd pick pho.

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: jennjen18

                                    I've been eating pho since I was a wee youngin', but having just went on a mini-ramen tour...I gotta say ramen.

                                    As an above poster mentioned, pho is pho no matter where you go. Pretty much the same base, + noodles, + beef/whatever. Some are better than others but all are pretty same.

                                    I've tried 5 or 6 different kinds of ramen in the past 3 weeks, and they're all significantly different. Different noodles, soup based, toppings etc. Just so much more variety and depth IMHO. But it's also a bit more expensive, which IS a bust.

                                    Here's a better debate: what's WORSE, the god awful efficiency of ramen shops (daikokuya and SSG to be exact), or the jackass but efficient service from pho places....

                                    1. re: ns1

                                      The thing is, it depends what meal you're on about. Ramen is lunch; pho can be breakfast. And you don't hear about college kids subsisting on sub-par packaged fried pho... which may be why pho has a cachet that ramen doesn't.

                                      As for the service question -- Santouka takes like 20 minutes to get a bowl of ramen. I think the longest I've EVER waited for a bowl of pho is 3 minutes and that was in a place where people were howling because it was so damn slow (Pho Hoa, if you're interested, in San Mateo).

                                  2. haha, i had a similar debate to this question a few weeks ago. "if you had to eat it every day for the rest of your life, would you eat pho or ramen?" and almost unanimously, the answer was ramen. it's just got a richer, meatier broth, toothsome noodles, and a hot salty taste (not to mention all those varieties). that being said, pho is my ultimate post-drinking food, but these days, that's the ONLY time i'll eat it.

                                    4 Replies
                                    1. re: esquimeaux

                                      In resurrecting this topic thread, I would like to answer the question posed above.

                                      If given the choice between eating pho or ramen every day for the rest of my life, my choice is pho hands down.

                                      I guess this puts me in the minority.

                                      We have both a pho restaurant and a ramen restaurant in my neighborhood. They are about a 5-minute walk away from each other.

                                      A small bowl of pho at the pho restaurant costs $7.75. A bowl of ramen at the ramen restaurant costs exactly $12.

                                      The size and volume of the small bowl of pho at the pho restaurant and that of the bowl of ramen at the ramen restaurant are about the same.

                                      As a result, I am paying over $4 more for a bowl of ramen at the ramen restaurant that is about equivalent in size and volume as the bowl of pho at the pho restaurant.

                                      Don't get me wrong. I like ramen. It's just like I like pho better. I prefer rice noodles to ramen noodles. I enjoy being able to add fresh herbs and spices to my pho.

                                      I enjoy many different varieties of pho, including those which include beef, chicken, and shrimp. I haven't experienced quite the degree of variety available in ramen that is available in ramen.

                                      I have never had a bowl of ramen that justifies the difference is costs.

                                      Maybe I have never really had a great bowl of ramen. But I have had many great bowls of pho.


                                      1. re: PontiusPalate

                                        What if they cost the same? Would your answer change?

                                        1. re: ricepad

                                          I don't think so.

                                          Overall, I like pho better, regardless of the price.

                                          Maybe it's because I have been eating pho a lot longer than ramen.

                                          In all fairness, I probably need to eat ramen a little longer to see if I am able to develop more of a taste for it.


                                        2. re: PontiusPalate

                                          As far as variety, if you're ever in the Greater Los Angeles area, you should go to Foo Foo Tei (in Hacienda Heights). It's 31 flavours of ramen; have a different one everyday for a month.

                                          Here's an extensive review of FFT: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/5697...

                                          And Keizo's review of ramen-a-day challenge on his page (former CHer & creator of the Ramen Burger): http://www.goramen.com/search/label/F...

                                      2. In the U.S., Japanese dishes can be a bit like French ones ... as in paying more for less.

                                        Beyond that, comparing pho to ramen is a bit of apples and oranges.