Birria Ramen Offers Variations of a Stew

Birria ramen is apparently a thing.
Birria ramen is apparently a thing. Lauren Drewes Daniels
There’s an interesting culinary movement playing out in kitchens across the area that swings far and wide on a pendulum, both socioeconomically and culturally. It’s a combination of Japanese and Mexican staples, topped off with a bit of Texas. If this were Russell Crow in A Beautiful Mind, there’d be thumbtacks and yarn leading from tacos to ramen and it would, in fact, be beautiful.

Birria, which can translate to “junk," is a traditional goat stew from the Mexican state of Jalisco. Some restaurants call it “birria de res,” which SpanishDict.com says, without hesitation, is stew. While birria can be a meal on its own, it also has a side hustle for cheesy tacos, or tacos de birria.

click to enlarge Tacos de birria at Chilangos. - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Tacos de birria at Chilangos.
Lauren Drewes Daniels
At Chilangos, chef Joel Mendoza ladles birria broth over cheesy tacos, called la costra, as they’re heating on the grill. A small bowl is served with the taco for extra dipping.

We’ve also seen birria at 225 BBQ, which, as the name implies, is a barbecue trailer first and foremost. Pit maestro Rene Ramirez added birria to the menu one week, right about the time the price of brisket started to skyrocket. Customers loved it, and it was more affordable than slabs of meat.

click to enlarge Birria and ramen eyeing each other on one tray. - 225 BBQ
Birria and ramen eyeing each other on one tray.
225 BBQ
Ramirez, who is constantly experimenting, also added ramen to his menu by way of Nissin Hot & Spicy bowls — not a dish he created by any means. He uses the boiling broth to cook the noodles then adds brisket, cilantro, onions and lime.

click to enlarge Birria-inspired ramen - CALISCIENCE IG
Birria-inspired ramen
Caliscience IG
In Fort Worth, chef Jacqueline Anaya's food truck Caliscience has small menu that includes tacos dorados and ramen among just a few other items. Their Instagram feed is simply killer. Don’t look unless you have time to go to Fort Worth right now. (You were warned.)

It was Anaya who inspired Jesus García of Kintaro Ramen to take a dip in this cultural stew. García became fascinated with ramen after working at FiveSixty by Wolfgang Puck in Dallas. The thick bowls of broth reminded him of the soups he was raised on.

García founded Oni Ramen in Deep Ellum several years ago (he has a small ownership role now) and opened a ghost kitchen in Fort Worth this year. He uses the space to conjure up broth for a takeout business there and also for Kintaro Ramen in Arlington. The $10 bowls of thick and rich tonkotsu served with roasted pork belly are succulent.

click to enlarge Kintaro's birria ramen - LAUREN DREWES DANIELS
Kintaro's birria ramen
Lauren Drewes Daniels
So, it makes sense that García would create a lamb birria ramen made with a soy-seasoned lamb consomme, finished with herbs, topped with lamb, garbanzo beans, onion and cilantro. It’s lighter than the traditional Japanese broths he serves, which might be better during the hot months. One bowl is easily enough for two people, but it’s understandable if you’re not inclined to share.

Kintaro is open for both dine-in and takeout, and they have a small patio with two tables, socially distanced. Watch 225 BBQ’s Facebook for their days and hours, which fluctuate depending on if they're in Arlington or Balch Springs. Calisciene has a dedicated spot in Fort Worth at 3318 East Belknap Blvd. and is open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. (or sellout) Wednesday through Saturday.
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Lauren Drewes Daniels is the Dallas Observer's food editor. She started writing about local restaurants, chefs, beer and kouign-amanns in 2011. She's driven through two dirt devils and is certain they were both some type of cosmic force.