It seems these days that the city’s most sought-after bowls of ramen all come with a caveat. Guchi’s Midnight Ramen pops up sporadically and sells out within minutes. Backbar in Somerville serves only 10 bowls a night, and has suspended this offer until the fall. Uni Sashimi Bar serves the Japanese noodle bowls after 11 p.m. And Yume Wo Katare, perhaps the most hyped ramen spot, located in Porter Square, Cambridge, often has prohibitively long lines and a set of rules reminiscent of a certain “Seinfeld’’ episode. At the moment, it’s closed till early next month.
All of which leads to the question: Don’t you wish someone would just deliver ramen to your door?
Enter Joe Emiro of Boston Ramen Noodle Co., a delivery service that only offers creative, sometimes international, twists on the Japanese soup. Shortly before 9 p.m. on a recent weeknight, Emiro is putting the finishing touches on two orders of ramen, his last of the night. He portions a pile of freshly cooked homemade noodles into kitschy red Chinese takeout containers and piles them with all manner of accoutrements — traditional and non — before dousing them in deeply savory, meaty broth, garnishing them, and packing it all up in a small red plastic bag.
Emiro sets out for his destination, a short walk, to where Justin Manjourides opens the door, beaming. He heard about Emiro on Twitter. “I’ve taken larger leaps of faith with going places to eat,” says Manjourides, 31, who is confident in the mysterious boxes that await him.
Ramen, whose origins can be traced to China, is a popular Japanese noodle soup with myriad regional variations. Though often associated with instant noodles, thanks to the 1958 invention of packaged ramen, bowls made with handmade noodles are serious, not to mention time-consuming, business. David Chang’s Momofuku restaurants in New York have done much to popularize a new wave of ramen fanaticism in the United States, which has recently begun to catch on in Boston.
Emiro, 54, didn’t take a conventional path to ramen delivery, not that there is such a path in this country. After growing up in Amesbury, studying accounting, working at Lotus Development Corp., and as an HR data analyst at Harvard, Emiro decided, at 49, to pursue a lifelong interest in food. He was raised on the food of his Italian heritage.
“One day I saw this commercial on TV, and the next thing you know I was enrolled,” he says.
He spent 18 months at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Boston. In addition to working as a culinary expert at Williams-Sonoma, doing catering and cooking classes under the name “Feast,” and participating in the new service Kitchensurfing, which sends a chef into your home, Emiro teaches an “Oodles of Noodles” class, among others, at the Cambridge School of Culinary Arts.
Students learn to make their own ramen noodles, rice noodles, and udon noodles. In researching and developing recipes for the class, Emiro, who says he made his first bowl of ramen seven months ago, pored over cookbooks and did numerous taste tests while trying to perfect the ideal stock. Emiro recalls: “Somebody in the class, he’s like, ‘This is the best ramen [I’ve] ever had.’ ” At that point Emiro decided to take his ramen on the road.
Emiro refers to his style as “rogued ramen,” as it draws influences from all around the world. For now, he’s offering three varieties a night, and has been doing deliveries two to three nights a week in the Fenway, South End, Back Bay, Jamaica Plain, and Beacon Hill. Would-be customers sign up for his mailing list and receive notifications when he’s planning deliveries.
Herein lies the caveat to these generous bowls: Emiro works by himself and can handle only so many deliveries a night; orders are filled on a first come, first served basis. Lucky early birds choose from toppings like red miso-braised skirt steak with whipped avocado or garlic and olive oil-poached head-on prawns with lemon foam. All orders come with nori, pea shoots, beech mushrooms, grilled corn, and a soft-cooked egg, with the option of other toppings such as homemade kimchi, Singapore sauce, the Japanese seven-spice seasoning shichimi togarashi, or a soft-boiled duck egg, which Emiro says is richer because of a higher yolk fat content.
While Emiro is passionate about ramen, his relationship to the popular noodle bowl is not what you may think. He says matter-of-factly that he’s never been to Momofuku, let alone Yume Wo Katare, and doesn’t compare his special 18-hour tonkotsu-style stock made with pork bones to anything but previous incarnations of itself.
As for the hype: He’s not so interested in that, either. All he cares about, he says, is that his ramen is good.
It is. Very.
BOSTON RAMEN NOODLE CO. www.bostonramenco.com
Luke Pyenson can be reached at email@example.com.