Flavor-packed noodle soups, chicken karaage and other Japanese delights await your family at Hillsboro’s Ninja Ramen.

Photo courtesy Denise Castañon

While my two kids are generally good eaters, they can be picky when it comes to trying new things. But our COVID-inspired family tradition of a car picnic and a restaurant named after stealthy martial arts legends, got them on board with trying Japanese-style fried chicken and more. Recently, we ventured from Southeast Portland to Hillsboro to check out the savory soup and karaage, aka Japanese fried chicken, at Ninja Ramen, a small eatery tucked into an unassuming strip mall. We didn’t want to eat indoors since the kids weren’t vaccinated yet, so we opted to eat parked in the car while the food was hot. And we weren’t deterred by the location because some of our most memorable and enjoyable food experiences have taken place at strip malls. And that was the case with Ninja Ramen. 

Unsure if the restaurant was open for in-person takeout orders, I preordered online. Turns out they were open for indoor dining. The order was not quite ready when we arrived, but I only waited about five minutes. For families who feel comfortable with indoor dining, Ninja Ramen does cater to little ones. A stack of kids’ sippy cups sat near the water dispenser and a little handwritten note adorned a Ramune Japanese soda labeling it as a favorite kid flavor.

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Once it was ready, I took our food to the minivan and passed the containers around. (Be forewarned: to-go containers will tack on additional 50 cents to $1 for each item.) My husband tried the signature Deluxe Ninja Ramen, which came with chashu pork, a soft boiled egg, bean sprouts, corn, dried seaweed and green onion ($14.50). After he finished his bowl he said, “I never understood all the fuss about ramen. Now I do.”

I ordered a chicken karaage bento box to share with the kids ($15.95). Plus some sides I know they enjoy: potstickers ($3.50 for three) for my 6-year-old son, Cruz, spring rolls ($3.95 for three) for my 9-year-old daughter, Adela and edamame for them to split ($2.45). My bento came with five pieces of boneless fried chicken, two potstickers, a tempura fried shrimp, green salad, seaweed salad, spring roll, rice and a soft boiled egg. The chicken came tossed in a slightly sweet, ginger-soy sauce. I passed pieces back to my kids. Adela loved the chicken and asked for more. Cruz wasn’t as big a fan, but he finished off his potstickers and one of Adela’s spring rolls, plus rice and edamame. The chicken was so good I wish I had ordered more. But the bento meal’s sides were plentiful, tasty and more than adequate for sharing with slightly picky kids who might not eat too much. 

It was a successful fried-chicken — and ramen — car picnic that left all of our taste buds happy.

Looking for more restaurant recommendations? Read our Kid-Friendly Take-Out Guide.

IF YOU GO:  
Ninja Ramen, 2020 NE Cornell Rd., Suite D, Hillsboro
ninjaramen.square.site.

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Denise Castañon
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