No need to order a side of pot stickers when they’re the basis for Ramen Zai’s signature ramen.

Ramen and gyoza are two of the most delicious things to eat in Japan, and thankfully they don’t usually present an either/or sort of dilemma, since many ramen restaurants also have gyoza on their menu as a side dish. Of course, even ordering both of them still leaves you with the question of which to start eating first, the ramen or the gyoza?

It’s a tough choice, since ideally we’d like both in our stomach as soon as possible, so imagine our joy when we discovered this elegant solution to our conundrum: gyoza ramen.

We came across this irresistibly intriguing culinary creation at Ramen Zai, a casual little restaurant in the town of Kiryu, Gunma Prefecture. Ramen Zai puts the 800-yen (US$6.20) gyoza ramen right at the top of menu page, so we could tell right away they have full confidence in it.

▼ ギョーザラメン = gyoza ramen

Obviously, after seeing “gyoza ramen” we didn’t need to read any more of the menu and promptly put in our order. After about a 10 minute wait, our server brought the bowl to our table.

Right away, we were impressed by the mountain of toppings, made up of the traditional fillings for pot stickers in Japan. The sight of the ground pork and diced leeks had our mouth watering, and the aroma did too, since it smelled just like a plate of piping hot gyoza.

▼ The are so many toppings that you can’t even see the noodles before you start digging in.

It’s not just the toppings that are gyoza-style, though, but the broth too. With a mix of sour, salty, and spicy notes, it seems to be a blend of soy sauce, rayu chili oil, and vinegar, the holy triumvirate of gyoza condiments into which the dumplings are often dipped before eating.

Since this is a combination of ramen and gyoza, though, we wanted to taste everything, the toppings, broth, and noodles, all at once. Grabbing a mouthful with our chopsticks, we took a bite, and the crisp crunch of the vegetables and perfectly chewy thick noodles delivered all of the flavors we wanted. It sort of felt like we had popped a gigantic gyoza into our mouth, but one wrapped in noodles, not dumpling skin.

You’ll probably finish the noodles before the toppings, simply by nature of them being bigger and easier to pick up. At that point, the gyoza ramen transforms into a gyoza soup, which is also extremely tasty.

We went into this meal half-expecting the gyoza ramen to be a quirky novelty, the kind of thing to eat just once for the unique experience. We came away fully satisfied, though, so for anyone who loves ramen and gyoza, Ramen Zai is definitely worth checking out.

Restaurant information
Ramem Zai / ラーメン在
Address: Gunma-ken, Kiryu-shi, Hirosawa-cho 2-3001
Open 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., 5 p.m.-9 p.m.
Closed Tuesdays

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