And just like that, another year has passed. Padded coats and parkas have started to crawl out of closets. Just like how my will to live falls every morning as I walk in the painful cold from the showers back to my room, the fruits of ginkgo trees have started falling, making every sidewalk stink like a neglected dog cafe. The stinging winds, the cold, the pain, the misery; winter is at our doorsteps. But within this icy hell, there is one thing that provides solace: ramen.
There is nothing that compares to a hot bowl of ramen on a cold winter day. That first spoonful of the rich and salty broth coats your mouth, while its warmth coats your body. Its comforting embrace grants you an extra layer of fat that protects you during the harsh winter and fills you with regret during the summer. Then you get your chopsticks ready and slurp down broth coated noodles and, for a moment, everything is okay — nothing else but the springy chew in your mouth matters. Ramen is wonderful, and it’s no wonder that I’m not the only one who swears by the dish.
Over the last four years, the popularity of ramen exploded in Korea and consequently, in Daejeon. During my freshman year, I remember looking for ramen in Daejeon and realizing that, if I wanted to enjoy ramen, a two-hour ride to Seoul would be a requirement. Now, we have so many options.
Even just a few steps away from our campus, there are a couple of restaurants that you can visit. In Eoeun-dong, there’s Matsumi, which, speaking harshly, only gets points for proximity. Their shio ramen, a type of ramen with a salt-based broth, could go on an instant ramen competition and end in the middle of the pack. My distaste, though, might be due to my preference for tonkotsu ramen, a type of ramen with a broth made from pork bones. Overall I would suggest that you only go there for their rice bowls, or if you are really, really, really craving ramen. Gung-dong also has its own subpar ramen shop: Menya Tomoru. I tried their ramen two years back, and the fact that I can’t remember much about it and haven’t gone back should say more than enough. Matsumi and Tomoru can temporarily satiate a ramen craving. But, when there is better, why go with mediocre?
If you want a safe option, go to one of the chains. Bongmyeong-dong has Subarashi and Himeno. Both try to imitate the widely renowned Ichiran Ramen and serve spicy tonkotsu ramen as their signature. While neither is stellar in any regard, the fact that they’ve been able to open shops around Daejeon and the whole peninsula shows that they are not at all bad either. Himeno, in my opinion, was enjoyable but not memorable. Taking a trip just to enjoy their ramen would be overkill. Subarashi, on the other hand, impressed me in my first few mouthfuls. However, the overly salty broth might have brought me closer to my death, instead of helping me regain hope in life.
Going further away from campus, you can find Menya Sandaime, one of the most famous ramen chains in the country, in Dunsan-dong. Having tried three different locales — two in Seoul and the one in Dunsan-dong — I can vouch for its quality. Unlike Subarashi, the broth is more balanced, rather than being just a jab of pure saltiness. And, unlike Himeno, you can tell that more time has been put into the rich meaty flavor of their broth, and that you are getting your money’s worth. If you do find yourself in Dunsan-dong and are not sure about where to grab a bite, I strongly recommend Menya Sandaime.
As a side note, while completely different to all the other ramen places on this list, if you want a different ramen experience, visit Kintoto Soba in Dunsan-dong. They serve mazesoba, a type of ramen with no broth, into which you mix the sauce and toppings. At 9,000 KRW, it can be a tad pricey; however, I still think it’s a worthwhile experience.
Finally, you can find the king of all Daejeon ramens in Sinseong-dong. Myeonhagdang is a small, unassuming shop in a neighborhood most KAIST students do not frequent. However, just by looking at the deep ivory of their broth, you know you’ve got something special. Born out of the owner’s own passion for ramen, each component clearly has a lot of personal dedication and time invested into it. So, if you really enjoy ramen, do yourself a favor and visit Myeonghagdang, where one spoonful brings more to the table than a whole bowl does in other places.