Upon hearing the word ‘ramen’, one may think of those small, $1 packs of dry noodles you would normally buy from the grocery store because they’re within your $20 budget and they don’t taste half bad. Forget that. All of it.

Nestled inside the Central Market Mall in Downtown Lancaster stands one of the best hidden food gems in town. Issei Noodle completely transforms what it means to be a ramen noodle. At their two locations in Carlisle and Lancaster, Issei works to continue the “age-old tradition and art of cooking fresh forms of Ramen, Vietnamese Pho” and other styles of Asian cooking indigenous to the Pacific Rim.

Imagine a cold winter day in March. Spring is right around the corner, but not close enough. You’re freezing in bed, sulking after an exam you studied hours for but still think you may have done poorly on. You decide you need a pick-me-up that will not only lift your spirits, but your body temperature, because you can barely feel your fingertips. Issei Noodle is your answer.

photo courtesy of Issei Noodle Lancaster – Facebook

When I visit, I start simple. I usually order a seaweed salad but sometimes I’m feeling a hot appetizer like steamed dumplings. Either way, I’m pleased and ready to dive into all that ramen. Personally, my favorite dish is the wonton special.

The dish is comprised of perfectly cooked egg noodles creating a pillow for spicy pork and juicy shrimp mixed together with green, leafy bok choy and garnished with green onions and cilantro. If you want it spicier, no worries. There’s sriracha and chili paste on the side, along with an array of other flavor enhancers that you can use to give even more life to your dish.

The Wonton Special

The Wonton Special – photo courtesy of isseinoodle.com

The house favorite haru warm ramen is also not to be missed. Prepare yourself for a bed of warm ramen noodles dressed with pan-fried chicken topped with spicy pork and mixed together with fresh, green veggies.

Haru Warm Ramen

Haru Warm Ramen – photo courtesy of isseinoodle.com

If you’re not one for noodles, Issei has a pretty extensive list of delicious rice bowls that will grab your taste buds and never let them go. The beef pineapple curried fried rice is a great choice. In this dish, a layer of perfectly seasoned fried rice is adorned with juicy beef, baby spinach, green onions, and vibrant pineapple chunks sauteed in a sweet chili sauce, giving the dish an absolute heavenly balance between sweet and spicy.

Beef Pineapple Curry Fried Rice – photo courtesy of isseinoodle.com

No meat? No problem. Issei rounds out their menu with various vegetarian, but equally tasty dishes, that will make any meat-eater’s mouth water. Take the Veggie Yaki Udon for example: Japanese udon noodles sauteed with seasonal fresh veggies and tofu, complete with a sweet, creamy miso-ginger soy sauce.

Veggie Yaki Udon – photo courtesy of isseinoodle.com

Issei Noodle is a BYOB establishment, which means that each time you visit will probably be a great time with great people and with even better food. What’s more, all dishes on the menu are $13 or UNDER and are available for pick-up or delivery through Carryout Courier.

Issei Noodle revolutionizes ramen as the college student knows it. And there, under the roof of an intimate, dimly lit, zen atmosphere, ends the era of $1 instant ramen. It may be hard to find, but once you find your way there, you’ll never forget your way back.