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Nishi Ramen: a balance between Japanese and Mexican cuisine

Claudia Flores

Among the various cuisines in the Sun City, Japanese is one of the most popular with the rise of ramen restaurants around El Paso. Nishi Ramen, located at 504 W. San Antonio Ave. in Downtown El Paso, finds a way to mix the flavors of Japanese and Mexican cuisine in every dish.

For Enrique Lozano, executive chef at Nishi, the journey of opening a ramen restaurant started six years ago.

“I came across ramen through a friend of mine, I was in the culinary institute when I was 19, and I was really into Italian cuisine, but then once I tried original ramen, I completely changed,” Lozano said. “I really liked the flavors and the fact that you can make mostly everything from scratch, that’s when I really started getting into the whole culture of ramen.”

In the beginning, while experimenting with ramen recipes, flavors and ingredients Lozano found a way to share his love for ramen with the community.

“I started by making my own broths and noodles and once I was happy with the recipes that I was making, I started doing ramen house to house, I would just put it on my social media and tell people that I was going to do ramen for people to put their orders in,” Lozano said.

After selling from house to house, Lozano started to sell ramen at a friend’s bar two years ago, but upon leaving El Paso to work next to chef Grant Achatz for seven months in Chicago, Lozano came back with new ideas for El Paso.

“Once I came back, nothing here was really up to the level that  I experienced in Chicago restaurant-wise, so I reached out to my business partner Jose Jimenez and I told him ‘You know, what if I come back here I don’t want to take a step back. I think the next logical step for me would be to open a restaurant, people are way more educated about ramen now, so I think it’s a perfect timing’,” Lozano said.

With different ramen restaurants in El Paso, Lozano found a way to mix the traditional flavors of ramen with some more familiar such as the nixtamal, used traditionally in the elaboration of tortillas, Lozano uses this ingredient to make noodles.

“We need to have the perfect mix of cultures and that’s basically what we do here, is just my interpretation of ramen through, I guess if you could say, a Mexican lens,” Lozano said.

Apart from serving traditional ramen, such as shoyu, miso and shio, Lozano changes the menu every three months by introducing new recipes to the menu such as mole ramen and al pastor ramen.

Focusing on serving everyone in the community, Nishi is also vegan and vegetarian-friendly.

“Our vegan broth has a lot of vegetables and we mix that with miso, we are focused a lot on vegan diets and about three-quarters of our menu is vegan,” Lozano said.

Lozano said that part of their goal is to showcase El Paso cultural diversity as he believes the city has the potential to be nationally recognized for its cuisine.

“The bigger cities in the world really are mainly focused in cuisines, obviously, they have trading and other stuff like that, but they are really well known for their cuisine, and I feel that if El Paso has more knowledge of what’s out there, we can definitely get to that step,” Lozano said.

Claudia Flores may be reached at [email protected]

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Nishi Ramen: a balance between Japanese and Mexican cuisine