Source : www.tourist-note.com
Originally imported from China, ramen is one of Japan’s most popular dishes, served throughout the country in countless regional variations. There are ramen-ya (ramen restaurants) on almost every city corner, serving up these affordable wheat noodles with a variety of soup bases and toppings.
The main types of ramen are shoyu (a clear brown broth flavored with soy sauce), shio (a clear broth seasoned with salt), miso (flavored using soybean paste), and tonkotsu (made from pork bones). The noodles can also vary, ranging from thin and straight to thick and wavy, with some restaurants giving you the option to select the thickness and how firmly your noodles are cooked. Toppings include sliced pork (roasted or braised), nenma (bamboo shoots), negi (shredded leeks), moyashi (bean sprouts), tamago (eggs), kamaboko (steamed fish cake), and dried seaweed.
Ramen-ya usually offer counter space and some tables to sit at, although smaller restaurants will just have a counter where you can sit alongside fellow diners and watch the chefs at work. Many use a vending machine for guests to place orders (which is sometimes only in Japanese) but staff are normally available to assist if you need.
If you want to sample some of the best ramen that Japan has to offer, then keep an eye out for these popular establishments:
Tsuta – Tokyo
The first ramen restaurant anywhere in the world to be awarded a Michelin star, Tsuta has become a household name in Tokyo for its mouthwatering ramen. It blends three premium soy sauces (sourced from small distilleries across the country) with noodles ground by stone from four different kinds of wheat. You can opt for either a shio soup or a shoyu soup and have a clear conscience that there are no chemical flavorings or additives. But Tsuta’s popularity (and reasonable price) means that you can’t just walk in and get a seat, but you need to arrive early to secure an allocated seating time for later that day.
Address: 1-14-1 Sugamo, Toshima, Tokyo
Tanaka Shouten – Tokyo
Located in the outskirts of Tokyo, Tanaka Shouten is renowned for having some of the best Nagahama-style tonkotsu ramen outside of Fukuoka. The pork bones are boiled at high heat to extract as much flavor as possible and combined with thin, firmly textured noodles, green onions, and an optional topping of spiced ground pork known as “red devil spice mix”. The lines can be long here but the wait is worth it and they stay open into the early morning hours.
Address: 2-14 Hitotsuya, Adachi-ku, Tokyo
Mengyo – Tokyo
Specializing in madai ramen which is based on a sea bream broth, Mengyo is situated near Kinshicho Station in eastern Tokyo. The popularity of this restaurant can be seen in the line of people which queue well before it opens at 11am, with the soup normally running out before dinner time. There are just eight counter seats to slurp on Mengyo’s incredibly tasty broth, with the sea bream sourced from Tsukiji Fish Market each morning and the ramen topped with mouth-watering roast pork.
Address: 2-5-3 Kōtōbashi, Sumida-ku, Tokyo
Mengekijo Genei – Fukuoka
If you want your ramen served with flair, then head to Mengekijo Genei in Fukuoka’s Yakuin district. It’s set up like a mini auditorium, with tiered seating facing a center stage where the chef prepares your ramen. The restaurant is renowned for being MSG-free (with its creator Hideki Irie studying dashi and making his own soy sauce to perfect the balance), as well as its springy noodles which are made fresh and in-house daily. There are just four menu items to select from – an original ramen, a shoyu version, a spicy tan tan noodles, and a seafood version.
Address: 2 Chome-16-3 Yakuin, Chuo Ward, Fukuoka, Fukuoka
Seino – Wakayama
If you’re visiting Wakayama in the Kansai region, head to Seino which came second in the Tabelog Japan Ramen Awards last year. This tiny restaurant has just two tables and ten seats at the counter, with delicious shio and shoyu ramen dished up. There are four different kinds of meat to choose from, including Iberian pork, as well as both plain and thick ramen available. If you’re coming by car, there is also a parking area available nearby.
Address: 696 No, Arida, Wakayama
Nagomi – Hyogo
Voted the number one ramen restaurant in Hyogo in 2016, Nagomi serves up reasonably priced shio ramen with both chicken and pork. There are only nine seats available at its counter, with the long line of customers a testament to just how good the ramen here is. But don’t worry, their friendly staff ensure the queuing is fair and your patience will be rewarded with some of Japan’s best ramen.
Address: 2-19-3 Mukogawacho, Amagasaki, Hyogo