Rynygyto Ouk is passionate about ramen, no matter if it’s gourmet or packaged.
As a lifelong ramen eater, Ouk has been making his own recipes for the past four years; he even spent two weeks in Tokyo in October eating ramen and perfecting his recipes.
Ouk, a Buda resident and Hays High alumnus, hopes to now bring what’s seen as an eastern delicacy to downtown Buda.
“Ramen is like the epitome of Japanese soul food. You take a bunch of parts that people don’t want for food, and after hours and hours of work you turn it into something really great and very comforting to eat – and delicious, obviously,” Ouk said.
Ouk emigrated to Buda from Cambodia in 1995 with his family. He grew up in Buda, attended Hays High, and is about to open his own ramen shop in downtown Buda. Ouk only graduated from Texas State University in 2016, but he is excited to be in the home stretch of opening up his own business.
The location for his noodle operation, Okami Ramen (Okami meaning wolf in Japanese), has already leased a place in the industrial and modern Buda Mill and Grain retail complex. Ouk recently received his construction permit from the city to start building the inside of the shop. He is estimating he will open in about three months.
“I don’t want to keep the people of Buda waiting any longer. They’ve been pretty antsy about it,” Ouk said.
Ouk says people often ask him, “Aren’t you in massive debt?” and Ouk jokes that his response is always, “Yeah, basically the answer is to just get into more debt.”
Ouk’s family has been helping him and he also has some investors, in addition to getting loans from a bank.
“The whole funding thing was kind of a surprise to me too, that I could muster up as much money as I did to start this whole thing. But I guess that’s what you do when you really believe in something – you find a way to make it happen,” Ouk said.
Ouk’s inspiration to open Okami Ramen not only came from his love of the noodle dish, but also from the experience of helping his parents run several small businesses, including a couple of donut shops in the area. Ouk says his mom has been a big help in giving him business advice and financial help. After Ouk sold her on the idea, she is now his business partner.
Ouk is also inspired by the success of Austin-area ramen establishments. But unlike many chefs who populate such businesses, Ouk’s skill comes from personal experience, rather than professional training.
“I didn’t go to cooking school or anything like that. Cooking food has just been a passion my entire life. I’m basically self-taught,” Ouk said.
Ouk designed an open kitchen so his customers can watch as he and his cooks do their thing.
“I really like building rapport with my customers after working for my parents for so many years. It’s really nice when you build a connection between you and your community that you’re serving,” Ouk said.
Ouk said he wants to “keep people guessing when it comes to the ramen.” One idea he already has stewing is a recipe to use Texas boar meat. Ouk also wants to incorporate some Cambodian flavors in the future from some of his grandmother’s recipes.
“A lot of people are calling me crazy for opening a ramen shop in Buda, but I think the people will gravitate toward something new being offered,” Ouk said.
He thinks Buda has already got a weird enough vibe that “it wouldn’t be very crazy to have a ramen shop right there too.”