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Pumpkin Ramen Maddness or the power of Chowhound

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Today RWCFoodie and I drop by Halu Ramen to try the Pumpkin Ramen. We got there at 11:00 AM half an hour before opening since they only have twenty serving per meal. Did not want to miss this yearly treat. There were ten people waiting for Halu Ramen to open.

I was never a ramen fan before in my mind noodle is noodles. Well I was very impressed with fresh ramen. It was worth the ride down the Penisula for this treat.

I found the broth to rich without being over powering the rest the dish. The fresh noodles were of course fresh and toothy to the bite. I feel like learning to make this noodle myself (just a pipe dream). Very filling and wonderful for a cool day expect it warmed up.

What was interesting that there were at least three other tables where Chowhounds took over. The power of Chowhound and Ms. Wong.

I will let the other pitch in on their opinion of the noodles.

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  1. Darn. I was thinking about going to Halu today, but decided just to go home and eat leftovers.

    1. I tried the pumpkin ramen ($9.50) and thought it was ok. I was expecting a very heavy pumpkin flavor, but didn't taste any pumpkin at all. It was like eating fettucine w/ some pork, parmesan cheese (got clumpy and sank to the bottom of the bowl), onions, nori. I dumped at least 10 tiny spoonful of garlic paste into my bowl.

      Ben ordered the Halu Ramen Cha Shu-which I preferred the noodles more-thin, chewy, delicious.

      They don't have appetizers at lunch. We wanted the cold tofu dish but couldn't get it--only for dinner.

      Cash only place!!
      Ramen Halu, 375 Saratoga Ave, SJ

      Then we walked over to Bijan Cafe (corner of Kiely & Saratoga Ave. One short block over. Get a number and then they'll help u..be patient if there are people ahead of you. Got a Cafe Au Lait-just ok, and a slice of Princess Cake (2.99) I love Princess Cake and this was good. Good marzipan, cream, raspberry jam, moist yellow cake. Hope to try the Bijan special sandwich, Olivea $4.99 w/ chipeas, potatoes, egg salad. They take credit card over $10--good to know.

      Bijan Cafe, 441 Saratoga Ave, SJ 95129

      Have to try Harry's Hofbrau one day-they have many locations. One across the street from Ramen Halu, and San Leandro.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Arlene

        And if you want a really good latte next time, then head out to the little cafe hidden behind McDonald's in the little strip mall that houses a dry cleaner and a Yummy Yogurt. The staff is friendly and they roast their own coffee.

        1. re: Arlene

          I too was hoping for a heavier pumpkin flavor and was disappointed in that respect. Everything else in the bowl was good (loved the parmesan on top of the cha-shu) and the pumpkin (kabocha?) chips were perfect. Perhaps I just need to reset my preconceived notion of what pumpkin ramen is.

          Tried to go over the Bijan/Lion Market, but the parking lot there was a zoo -- your idea of walking makes more sense, but my wife had intended to do a bit of shopping at the Lion Market.

        2. I really enjoyed the special pumpkin ramen! Thanks Yimster for getting us there early. I couldn't believe the line that formed behind us. We placed our orders and soon we were served. The bowl is every bit as attractive as Melanie's pix - I loved the nori bats and would have liked more of the fried pumpkin strips! The broth was so flavorful. I was surprised that the noodle looked like fettucine. I haven't eaten much ramen so I don't have much of a frame of reference but it surprised me that it didn't look like any ramen I've ever eaten. I really couldn't tell if I tasted pumpkin or not but it was so delicious that it didn't matter to me! Maybe one of these days I'll have to cook up some kabocha and try my hand at making this noodle treat... Watch the Home Cooking site - I promise to post if I give it a try.

          2 Replies
          1. re: RWCFoodie

            Let us know if you try making this; I don't think it would be that hard w/ the proper equipment.

            I haven't eaten much ramen in my life, but I assumed that these fettucine-style noodles weren't traditional at all. I thought it was a creative twist that took some Italian influence and played off of the grated parmesan. While a round ropey noodle like the one in the Halu ramen had a better texture to my taste and balanced the broth more effectively, these special noodles were more fun and still made well.

            I will say that I was very, very full about 20 min. after the meal. We stopped by Lion market down the street and I felt like I was rolling down the aisles. In fact, I skipped dinner that night. Not an everyday noodle soup like pho for me, but great comfort food on a cold day now and then.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              Saw a Japanese chef making ramen on Iron Chef one time and there was not much equipment needed. Just a very large heavy knife to cut the noodles.

              May have too get use of a large kitchen and have a crack at it someday.

          2. Madness indeed! After getting stuck in the shopping vortex known as Fry's Electronics, Y and I rolled into Ramen Halu's parking lot around 1pm today (Sunday). I was worried that the pumpkin ramen would have been depleted for this lunch service and then became more discouraged when I saw about 15 hungry patrons w/ ramen rabies (some foaming at the mouth) waiting for a table. I wondered if the place had always been this busy or if the Mercury News article on our esteemed Ms. Wong (which was proudly displayed on their bulletin board) had a noticeable impact...

            We put our name down on the wait list and figured it would be at least half an hour, so we wandered around. Y was parched and hungry, so we stopped in the little Indian market next door and got what I think of as Indian trail mix (we chose "dal muth") and some sort of lemon drink. Lemon drink was interesting and had a subtle ginger flavor and the dal muth mix was crispy, spicy, and unexpectedly addictive. We wondered if the Indian guy was glad he was next to Halu...

            We didn't eat much so that we could save stomach space for ramen, which I expected to be quite rich and filling. Our name was called after only 20 minutes of waiting, not bad at all! We knew exactly what we wanted...special pumpkin ramen and signature Halu ramen. I was so happy when the waitress confirmed that pumpkin was still available! Left and middle photos below are of the pumpkin ramen (I dug up the noodles for the 2nd photo for you to see). Right photo is of the Halu ramen.

            Was it worth the wait and did it live up to the hype I've been hearing over the last year? Without a doubt, it was everything I expected and more. No words (not even Melanie's descriptive ones) or photos prepared me for the magical potion of broth and kaleidascope of flavors and textures.

            The pumpkin ramen broth was made w/ a mix of pork, chicken, dried fish, and vegetables. Very complex and unlike any other broth I've ever tasted before. It would playfully dance from savory to sweet. As others said, the pumpkin noodles were similar to fresh fettucine...plush, slippery, and delicious! I def. tasted the pumpkin (I'm pretty sure it was kabocha squash) and wouldn't want it to be any stronger in flavor since I think it would have made the dish too sweet and cloying. Loved the fried kabocha chips, and texture reminded me of thin plaintain chips. The boiled egg half was like a sinful dessert. Cha-shu was tender and delicate. Thought the browned corn and onions worked well, and the parmesan was a creative touch...

            Y's Halu ramen was equally mesmerizing. I had envisioned a thicker, richer broth and thicker noodles (closer to udon size), but this prep was perfect. More salty and savory than my broth and soy sauce flavor was more vivid. Even though both broths were clearly rich and fatty, the mouthfeel was amazingly luscious and not offensively greasy. Loved the noodles that came w/ the Halu.

            Y always hemmed and hawed when I suggested going to Halu in the past b/c he never thought ramen would be worth it. He must have praised his bowl about 20 times today, and I don't think it will take much arm-twisting next time. Service was very efficient, and the staff were working their tails off and looked like they were burning lots of calories rushing around. I was enlightened today and can't wait for a return visit!

            Link: http://www.ramenhalu.com/index11E.htm

            Image: http://i2.photobucket.com/albums/y45/...

            3 Replies
            1. re: Carb Lover

              I too was never a big fan of ramen, because I always think of the dried package verison. But fresh ramen like all fresh noodles have a life and taste of it own.

              Now ramen will have it places next to hand pulled noodles and fresh rice noodles rolls in my list of must haves.

              As I already posted with in ten minutes of opening there was a line of ten people waiting for a seat.

              I wonder if the twenty orders per meal is true. Since on Saturday there were at least ten orders of the pumpkin noodles order at this first seating. So if you showed up at 1:00 PM and they still had the noodles.

              1. re: yimster

                Yeah, I also thought that they might fill more than 20 orders per service period. I didn't see anyone else w/ the pumpkin ramen so maybe it was moving more slowly on Sunday? Today's the last day for pumpkin ramen!

                I really liked the vibe of the place and the small focused menu. While they take their ramen seriously, the staff looked like they were having fun and some had Halloween accessories on. All the customers looked so gratified from and fixated on their bowls.

                While dried rice noodles are more traditional in pho, I really wish that some places used fresh noodles after having this ramen experience!

                1. re: Carb Lover

                  On Saturday, outside of the initial orders of pumpkin ramen, I don't think they were getting all that many takers. There was a large table next to mine (in the "corral") and not a one of them order pumpkin. That table and many of the customers in line were Chinese and I'm not sure they were there for the pumpkin ramen. My wife (she's from China) thought the concept of pumpkin noodles was just odd.

            2. I should have expected. I walk in the door of Ramen Halu and the first face I see is Yimster's. And then RWCFoodie swivels around with a grin on her face. Now I know I'm in a Chowhoundish sort of place!

              Lack of pumpkin taste aside, I really enjoyed the pumpkin noodles Thanks, Melanie for introducing this rarity to your fellow hounds.

              1. This month's triple A magazine sent to members feature a ramen article, and mentions Halu as well.

                1. I went to Halu today to enjoy the pumpkin ramen. When I had it two years ago I thought it was one of the most delicious things I ever had. This year's was even better........ I don't think he had the fried pumpkin chips in 2004. If you've been considering it, don't delay!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Nina

                    Quite a wonderful Halloween tradition, isn't it? Here's a link to my post for this year with a photo -

                    Thanks for turning us on to this in 2004!

                  2. ooooh. I'm there tomorrow afternoon, before they open.

                    1. Pumpkin ramen is back! I'm going tomorrow before the Shonen Knife appearance in San Jose.

                      Ramen Halu
                      375 Saratoga Ave, San Jose, CA 95129

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: Nina

                        I love seeing this old thread pop up again! I always forget about the pumpkin ramen at Halu - but we really loved it... Wish I could get back there this year but it's doubtful. Let us know how it was and thanks for reminding us.

                        312 8th Ave, San Francisco, CA 94118

                        1. re: Nina

                          Thanks for the reminder. I'm waiting for my bowl now. The waiter said pumpkin noodles will still be available on Sunday, the day after Halloween. Then that's it till next yr.

                          The tantan men special is still available and will be for a while more.

                          1. re: Melanie Wong

                            Here's the photo, http://twitpic.com/nk44m

                            The noodles are the thick Halu noodles or whole wheat option. The pumpkin flavor is in the fried chips and the broth. Noodles just a bit overcooked, not soft but not as toothsome as I like. But still a fine bowl and I'm glad I had a chance to enjoy it this season.

                            1. re: Melanie Wong

                              I went last night, got there at 7:15 and was afraid the pumpkin might already be gone but it wasn't. I think they've stopped doing that "only 20 bowls a night" business, and just limited the time period when the pumpkin is available. I had agedashi nasu for an appetizer and it was very good, although it is hard to make a cold braised eggplant look pretty and Halu doesn't try. I thought while I was eating it that this was something I never would have even sampled in my fussy youth, just taken one look and "Yuck". The ramen was delicious, I agree that the noodles were a bit soft...I'd ask for them to be a little underdone next time but when you only order something once every year or two or three it's hard to remember that. Also, I would have ordered an extra portion of pork, which was a bit skimpy. And if they offered extra fried kabocha chips...even a whole side of kabocha chips...I'd be so there.

                              Afterward, because I had time to kill before a concert and one can't linger at Halu with the line of prospective diners staring in from the sidewalk, I popped in to Green Cup Yogurt on Winchester. Yet another tart yogurt joint but the nice thing about this one is it's all self-service and they charge by the pound, so if you've just had a small bowl of eggplant and a huge bowl of ramen and really just want a few palate-cleansing mouthfuls, you can get out for $1.99. I tried the pomegranate, which was good, and the pumpkin pie, which was a little too much pumpkin-pie-spicey flavor and not enough actual pumpkin. But still a nice finish to the pumpkiny meal. Green Cup is in a small strip mall adjacent to a movie theater; it's invisible from the parking lot of the theater, on the far end of the street frontage towards the Toys'R'Us lot next door.

                              Green Cup Frozen Yogurt
                              747 S Winchester Blvd, San Jose, CA 95128

                            2. re: Melanie Wong

                              The waiter said we got the last two servings today at lunch. Phwew! Very tasty, and I liked the doneness of the noodles -- had a nice amount of chew for me.

                              The parmesan seemed grittier this time -- is that just me? Maybe I let it clump and fall to the bottom before. This time I stirred it into the broth, and I think that was a mistake. Oh well, still plenty tasty.

                              1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                lschow and I made a last-minute excursion from SF for pumpkin ramen. We were a little disappointed there were no pumpkln noodles (last year's version apparently). But the delicate broth more than made up for it. Next time I'd skip the cheese and onions, which seemed to clash. We also shared a regular Halu ramen and eggplant appetizer.

                                To justify the drive, we detoured to Penzey's on the way down to restock obscure spices.

                                On the way north, we made our first trips to Grocery Outlet, in Redwood City. This was great fun after reading reports for months. (There is no GO in San Francisco.)

                                I'm munching on my fifty cent cracked pepper water crackers, and looking forward to working my way through some of the canned items (crushed pineapple in juice, Oregon berries in syrup).

                                Sadly Harmony frozen yogurt closed early for Halloween.

                          2. Are they doing pumpkin ramen yet? Website doesn't mention it.


                            1 Reply
                            1. re: hhc

                              I called & they have pumpkin ramen now. I think he said they'll have it until Halloween.

                            2. One caution about "Pumpkin" anything from Japanese places -- in Japan, the kabocha is often mistakenly called a pumpkin, when it is really a kind of squash. The pumpkins that Americans use to make pies for Thanksgiving are quite a bit different in terms of texture and flavor from kabocha mistakenly called "pumpkin".

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: Tripeler

                                  All pumpkins are squash; some squash are pumpkins.

                                  'Pumpkin' is not an exact term anyhow. We know what we mean when we say it, that they're orange, or maybe white, round or oblong sitting on their ends, with distinct ribs. Or else the stuff in cans that we eat.

                                  But that which we call pumpkins can actually be any of three different Cucurbita species:

                                  C. pepo -- these are the sugar pumpkins and the 'Jack Be Little" types

                                  C. maxima -- most jack-o'-lantern types and the record breaking kinds

                                  C. moschata -- e.g. Dickinson, which doesn't even look like a traditional pumpkin, but is the variety grown for canning! Heck, Kabochas look more like pumpkins than Dickinsons do.

                                  All that said, I think the pumpkin/Kabocha flavor in the noodles is so mild that it's hard to identify anyhow. But it's a great seasonal treat. Maybe I can get there next week for a bowlful, if they're doing it this year.

                                  1. re: Karen_Schaffer

                                    I agree with Karen's description. If you're looking for a hearty pumpkin flavor like a Thai pumpkin curry, you'l find this pumpkin ramen is much milder.

                                2. Their website doesn't seem to work anymore so I called them a couple days ago. Pumpkin ramen available now through Mid-Nov. They now take credit card minimum $20.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: hhc

                                    Thanks hhc for the update. I hope I can get down there this year for the special Pumpkin ramen. Good news about the credit card thing too.

                                  2. Well eight years after I started this post I returned and again try this fall treat. They now open at 11:30 AM and the broth was again something to enjoy on a cold day (but it was a warm day) but I really enjoy the richest and depth of the broth. A bowl with regular ramen was 13.50 and with whole wheat noodles was 15.00. The menu has growth large but I did not check it out as my mind was set on pumpkin ramen soup. Hopefully I can return again before they stop this treat.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: yimster

                                      Yimster, forgive me if this is the wrong place to ask, but I was really hoping you might be willing to share the Mariposa Roast Pork recipe you had as I moved from the area 2 years ago and have not been able to make it back. This was one of my all time favorites and it would be such a sad thing to never taste it again.