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A new ramen spot in Tustin brings plant-based ramen from Japan to Orange County

The garnet ramen bowl, with vegan noodles, at the District at Tustin Legacy location.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Orange County has its fair share of delicious ramen shops, but plant-based ramen is slightly harder to come by. Which makes Rakkan Ramen a welcome addition to O.C.'s ramen rotation.

The Japan-based ramen concept has locations in Downtown L.A. and Long Beach, but the District at Tustin Legacy is its first venture into Orange County. To mark the occasion, on opening day Aug. 29 Rakkan gave away 100 bowls of free ramen to the first 50 customers at 11 a.m. and the first 50 customers at 5 p.m.

A guest cools off a portion of fresh ramen during opening of Rakkan Ramen at the District at Tustin Legacy.
A guest cools off a portion of fresh ramen during opening of Rakkan Ramen at the District at Tustin Legacy on Monday. To celebrate its first O.C. location, Rakkan gave away 100 bowls of ramen to the first 50 customers.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Irvine resident Della Kadili was first in line at the opening.

“This is my first time having ramen. It’s delicious,” she said.

Kadili has been eating a planted-based diet for about a year and is among the many diners who have become more open to vegetarian items on menus.

“I eat chicken still,” she said, “but I like plant-based and the Beyond burger.”

Rakkan was launched in Toyko in 2011 by chef Ryohei Ito with a kombu-based vegetarian broth. Its most popular ramen flavors include pearl ramen, flavored with shio, and amber, a soy-based ramen. All the broths are made with a blend of mushrooms and kelp, making them lighter with roughly 40% less fat compared to traditional tonkotsu ramen. The miso-flavored garnet ramen is the restaurant’s signature bowl, served with vegetable broth, sesame paste, grilled pork, green onion, bamboo shoots and a seasoned egg. Vegan substitutes, like spinach noodles, shiitake mushrooms, corn and tofu toppings, are available too.

A sesame chicken plate is one of the more popular items at new Rakkan Ramen at the District.
A sesame chicken plate is one of the more popular items at new Rakkan Ramen in the District at Tustin Legacy on Monday.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Besides ramen, Rakkan’s menu features appetizers like takoyaki, a battered octopus dish, and shrimp shumai, steamed shrimp dumplings and rice bowls. Meatless appetizer options include the avocado rice bowl and vegan gyoza.

By 11:30 a.m. on opening day the restaurant was full, and the outside patio was filling up quickly despite the heat.

Rakkan Ramen joins other recently opened Asian concepts with a focus on healthy options at the District at Tustin Legacy. Just a few doors down, Filipino-inspired bakery Baked celebrated its grand opening last month and offers keto, gluten-free and vegan baked goods. Nearby, Yomie’s Rice x Yogurt is soft open, serving drinks made with probiotics and multigrain, which are being hailed as a healthier alternative to boba. The creamy flavored drinks, made with special purple rice grains from northwest China, have found popularity in Australia and offer a selection of unique flavors, like mango sago.

But Rakkan is the first of the new eateries to draw a line stretching through the center of the courtyard.

Guests wait in line for the opening of Rakkan Ramen, a Japanese ramen brand, at the District at Tustin Legacy on Monday.
Guests wait in line for the opening of Rakkan Ramen, a Japanese ramen brand, to its first Orange County location at the District at Tustin Legacy on Monday. To celebrate, Rakkan gave away bowls of ramen to 50 customers in the morning and another 50 that afternoon.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Huntington Beach residents John Nquyen and Joe Bargas waited patiently to be seated and to receive their free bowls of ramen.

“I heard about it through social media,” Bargas said. “I try to eat plant-based but not exclusively. I thought this would be a good opportunity to try it.”

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