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Hawaii: In Real Life ~ Hapa Ramen

Here’s another Hawaii connection in San Francisco: Hapa Ramen. We caught up with Richie Nakano to learn more about his food

Posted June 2, 2011 by Melissa Chang

Richie Nakano and Susanna Ok of Hapa Ramen

I’m still catching up on my San Francisco blogs, trying to sort out all the photos of everything I ate! One of the best things I ate on the trip was a warm, comforting reminder of home, but was full of Northern California ingredients: Hapa Ramen.

It’s owned by Richie Nakano, who was the sous chef at the popular Nopa restaurant in San Francisco. Thanks to the accolades built up during his time there, when he started his new venture last year, hordes of people stormed his ramen stand. The hordes have since calmed down, but you will still find a steady stream of Hapa Ramen fans at his booth at the Ferry Building.

Nakano is hapa, of course, with his dad hailing from Hawaii — thus the name. According to an interview with menuism, Palace Saimin here on Oahu was one of two noodle shops that gave him his epiphany of flavor. How wonderful that a little spot in Kalihi could serve as an inspiration for a renowned chef!

So I had a bowl at the Ferry Building Farmer’s Market on my recent trip there. Chris Kajioka and I split a Big Daddy Ramen Bowl ($12), which has everything in it: slow cooked pork, fried chicken (like karaage), vegetables, and a soft-boiled egg. See that photo, above? That’s HALF a bowl. They don’t call it the Big Daddy for nothing! Hapa Ramen is big on the snout-to-tail cooking movement, so on this day, you could buy add-ons like smoked jowl and fried ear (which of course, we did).

The ramen bowl is rich and comforting, but not over-the-top heavy. I’m not a soup drinker, but I did drink this one. Each of the ingredients is moist and full of flavor; you can taste the pig, you can taste the smoke, you can taste the freshness. Every bite yields a delicate wash of concentrated flavor. It really is hapa, in every sense of the concept.

Here’s my interview with Nakano at the Ferry Building, with a grand tour of his booth:

I’ve blogged many times about visits to the Ferry Building, so I’ll just give you a quick look at what I saw on this last trip.

Brunch at Brenda's (1 of 20)

Brunch at Brenda's


  1. Annoddah_Dave
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 6:07 am

    Delicate Blossom: the secret to good soup noodles is the dashi…the soup stock has got to have it or all the stuff you add to the dish is just stuff. I refer to the classic movie Tanpopo regarding the development of the dashi. I presume his soup stock is a “secret” like most guud ramen places.

  2. DianeSeo
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 6:09 am

    The ramen looks so good. Can you imagine if we had something like that at KCC Farmers’ Market?

  3. Melissa808
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 6:27 am

    @DianeSeo I know! wedgelee & parkrat always talk about how eating ramen/saimin outdoors would make it taste better because of the ambience. I think it did enhance the flavor!

  4. Melissa808
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 6:27 am

    @Annoddah_Dave I’m pretty sure it’s a secret recipe!

  5. M
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 7:11 am

    Hello Melissa, A bowl of ramen would hit the spot right now.

  6. Melissa808
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 8:29 am

    @M especially one like this!

  7. 808marv
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 9:49 am

    @DianeSeo gotta get that Nonstop Noodles going! lol ;-)

  8. nonstopmari
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 11:48 am

    that ramen does look scrumptious. but more to the point: WHERE ARE MY CHICHARRONES?

  9. Melissa808
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 11:50 am

    @nonstopmari I have one bag left, and have been debating if I should part with them or not. XD

  10. Melissa808
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 11:50 am

    @nonstopmari besides, you don’t eat that stuff!

  11. DianeSeo
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 11:54 am

    @808marv Please don’t tell that to john garcia . Next thing you know, I’ll be serving from the Nonstop Noodles truck at the next Eat the Street.

  12. M
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 12:34 pm

    Melissa, Did you go to Boccalone Salumeria in the Ferry Building to see if Chris Consentino of Food Network was there?

  13. nonstopmari
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 3:56 pm

    @Melissa808 earth calling melissa … who’s organizing snout to tail?

  14. turkfontaine
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    i never get tired of the Ferry Building. it’s a great destination for Inez and I to take older friends (yes some people are older than us) we would always take the ferry from Larkspur landing. there’s so much to see and eat there. and biking along the waterfront from the ball park to ghirarardelli square is fun.

  15. Vfozzie
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 9:33 pm

    love love trying different ramen!

  16. Melissa808
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 9:45 pm

    @Vfozzie agree!

  17. Melissa808
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    @turkfontaine Me, too! I feel like there’s always something new. Although I’ll admit, I was super bummed out to find Far West Fungi doesn’t have savory truffle macarons anymore.

  18. Melissa808
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    @M No, I forgot!

  19. Melissa808
    Posted June 2, 2011 at 9:47 pm

    @nonstopmari you like organizing!


About Melissa Chang

Melissa has been blogging regularly since 2007 and has more than 25 years’ experience in marketing and public relations. She is currently an independent marketing consultant, specializing in social media. 

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