In February 2021, Flushing resident Vincent Lim launched a tasty business from the comfort of his home kitchen. Armed with a recipe that he learned and perfected in 2020, he created KingPanda Ramen to sell his homemade tonkotsu, a ramen dish that originated in Japan.
During the evenings after his 9-to-5 job as a consultant for the Long Island Rail Road, the Flushing resident works on orders that he hand-delivers to customers in Queens, Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“Usually I hit the ramen at night, like 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. It depends how much time I have and what I need to do,” Lim said.
On the weekends, he heads to the market to buy ingredients, edits videos for his social media and researches ways to improve his product.
Prior to making ramen, Lim told QNS that his experience with cooking mostly consisted of following recipes from YouTube, but he wanted to elevate his skills and make something from scratch that he would be “proud of.”
“Ramen is a technique,” he said. “It’s just technical to me, all the little stuff, everything is measured, [the] noodles and broth. Everything has to be a certain way or it doesn’t taste good. It’s over 50 ingredients and you have to make it taste good.”
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Right before news of COVID-19 swept the nation, Lim was in Michigan for his cousin’s wedding in February of 2020. While in Michigan, another cousin taught him tonkotsu ramen-making techniques that he picked up and eventually began using when he returned to Queens.
“Then it was March and everything was closed, all the restaurants and everything [were] shut down. I was like, I have some time, so I’m going to make something good to eat on the weekend. I made it three or four times during COVID, then I took a break,” Lim said.
Around October 2020, Lim began testing ramen recipes that he could serve to his family for Thanksgiving and asked his parents for feedback on the dishes he created using his own homemade noodles and broth. After landing on a successful recipe, he continued refining the flavors over the next few months until he was ready for an official launch.
“In November [and] December, [my parents] tested it. Then from December to January, I was giving free ramen to my friends, just going to their places and testing it out,” he said. “So I made sure Feb. 1 was the first day I opened on Instagram.”
He set up an Instagram account using the name @KingPandaRamen, which he chose based on his love of the movie “Kung Fu Panda,” and started selling the dish to his family and friends. Lim recalled that the first two months were “easy” since his friends and family patronized his burgeoning business. But eventually, he knew he needed to advertise to a bigger market and started posting his homemade ramen on Facebook.
As part of his ramen recipe, Lim makes the noodles using a KitchenAid mixer. It takes about five hours to prepare enough noodles for 10 orders using this method. He invested in a Chinese noodle maker and plans to experiment with it for future ramen orders.
His broth is made with with pork and chicken bones simmered for 16 hours for optimal flavor. For now, Lim said that he has one type of ramen on the menu, which includes chashu pork, soft-boiled eggs, wood ear mushrooms, nori and fresh spring onions.
For toppings, patrons can order one of three oils — shallot, garlic and curry — which bring different depths of flavor to the ramen.
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While Lim handles most of the cooking, he said that his father helps him to make the soup and his sister helps him with his social media presence, mostly on Instagram.
Since his business is so new, Lim has talked to restaurant owners who told him that the first two years of running KingPanda would be “the most difficult.”
“You don’t make money; everything has to be invested back in [and] all your time is in there,” Lim said.
Despite the challenges, he hopes to find success and sell his ramen at expos like JAPANFes in Manhattan.
“I don’t think I’m gonna have a shop yet. It depends on my name and how the ghost kitchen works out,” Lim said. “You never know what can happen.”
Customers can place KingPanda Ramen orders by direct messaging Lim on Instagram or Facebook or texting him on WhatsApp at 718-559-2513. Delivery is free with three orders for Queens residents and four orders for Brooklyn and Manhattan residents.