Of course, you've at least once have heard of the word "ramen". Many people would surely agree that ramen can even be said as the hottest Japanese noodle dishes enjoyed worldwide. With this post, you will get to know not only about the ramen itself but also the best restaurants of each kind.
"Ramen" is a popular Japanese food not just only in Japan but nowadays worldwide. The origin of ramen seems to be Chinese noodles but recently ramen had evolved so much in Japan that similar kind of Chinese food doesn't exist anymore. There are so many varieties of ramen that it is so difficult to even for the experts to define clearly. This post will only be the touch to the deep and exciting world of "Ramen".
History of Ramen
Ramen came to Japan in the Edo period, with the development of Chinese town near the port city, such as Yokohama in Kanagawa, and Kobe in Hyogo. In 1910, the first ramen restaurant "Rairai-ken" was opened by Kichi Ozaki. Some ramen experts regard this year as the first year of the ramen history. With the achievement of Rairai-ken, many ramen restaurants were opened after WW2, and ramen spread as a common food among Japan.
Since then, with its history of about 100 years, ramen has been arranged in many ways and developed as a national food of Japan, independent on any other noodle dishes.
4 main basic kinds of Ramen
There are 4 basic kinds of Ramen in Japan. They are, shoyu(soy sauce), shio(salt), tonkotsu(pork bone broth), and miso. Each of the kind is very different from the other. There is more specific definition related to what kind of ingredients the broth is made out of but for this post, explaining each will take too much time so I would like to explain them in some other post.
Syoyu-Ramen(醤油ラーメン): Soy sauce based Ramen
Since syoyu-ramen is the most popular and wide spread, it will be really difficult to define very specifically. The Definition here is that the "kaeshi", which is the name for the sauce made for the ramen is soy sauce based. Usually, the broth is made from chicken bones, dried fish, or combination of the both with some vegetables or kelp to name a few else.
Tsuta(蔦): The first Michelin starred Ramen
Tsuta located in Sugamo is famous for the first Michelin starred ramen restaurant. They use truffle oil to add some western taste to their modern fixed ramen. Worth waiting in long lines.
The definition of shio-ramen is that the kaeshi is salt based. Speaking generally, shio-ramens are more light-tasting than other 3kinds of ramen and perfect for your first step to try some ramens.
MENSHO: The magnificent stylish Ramen
At MENSHO, you can enjoy the modernly styled shio ramen. Their broth is made from a mixture of severeal kinds of sea salt and has a very deep taste. Also, the noodles are home-made to perform a wonderful combination with the broth.
Tonkotsu-Ramen(豚骨ラーメン): Pork bone based Ramen
Guess what, among the 4kinds, tonkotsu-ramen is probably the most popular among foreign ramen-lovers! The soup is made from pork bones and it has very thick and heavy taste. Hakata, in Fukuoka is a place very famous for its regional tonkotsu-ramen, Hakata-tonkotsu.
Iciran(一蘭): Most popular Ramen among tourists
Ichiran is probably the most famous ramen restaurant among foreigners. The major feature is that you get to choose the thickness of flavor and they offer ramen based on your favorites. Most of the big cities in Tokyo, such as Shibuya, Shinjuku has branches and will surely be listed on one of your favorite places.
Ippudo has many branches worldwide from Asian countries to Western countries. Ippudo offers two different kinds of tonkotsu-ramen, Shiromaru, a light taste tonkotsu-ramen and Akamaru, a thick taste tonkotsu-ramen on the other side. By the way, my recommendation is Akamaru.
Last but not the least, miso-ramen is surely a kind of ramen with big fans. The sauce is miso, a Japanese fermented bean paste based.One of the popular tourist sites, Sapporo in Hokkaido is a place well known for where you can find great miso-ramens. They are often called Sapporo-miso.
Hanamichi(花道): The only one miso-ramen in Nogata
Hanamichi is located in Nogata. The only one thick taste of miso broth and original made thick noodles has big fans. Speaking personally, I've never eaten a better miso-ramen than Hanamichi's.
You a tranny person? Why don't you give it a try to some of the spicy ramens in Japan? Not only the basic 4kinds, but Japan also has many ramen restaurants which offer some spicy noodles. Below will be the 2most famous and popular restaurant, Nakiryu and Nakamoto.
Following Tsuta, Nakiryu is also a Michelin starred ramen restaurant. Their specialty is tantanmen, a spicy ramen with sesame-based broth. Located near Otsuka station. The astounding taste of Nakiryu is a ramen dish you have never experienced before. A very popular restaurant so better wait in line an hour before the opening.
Moko-tanmen Nakamoto(蒙古タンメン 中本): Their original Moko-tanmen(蒙古タンメン)
Moko-tanmen Nakamoto really has big fans. Once you try them, you will be totally addicted to Nakamoto. You can not find any kind of ramen similar to Nakamoto, super original. Many branches in Tokyo so you may find one at your nearest station.
Ie-kei Ramen(家系ラーメン): Yokohama original Ramen
Ie-kei ramen is a kind of ramen found in 1974 at Yokohama. The name "Ie-kei" came from The original ramen restaurant "Yoshimuraya" which first started this kind of ramen.
Its features are middle-thick straight noodles and thick tasty soup mainly made from pork broth. What is interesting about ie-kei ramen is that you get to choose how thick you want the soup is, how much you want your noodles to be boiled, and how much oil you want. Many people enjoy ramen with rice combo.
Yoshimuraya(吉村家): The starter of Ie-kei ramen(家系ラーメン)
Interested in ie-kei ramens, your only choice is to taste the original. 10minute walk from Yokohama station is where Yoshimuraya is located. People make astonishing long lines from hours before the restaurant opens. But they offer ramens very speedy so you probably won't have to wait long in line than it seems to be.
Jiro-kei Ramen(二郎系ラーメン): Very voluminous Ramen
Jiro-kei ramen is one of the deepest kind of ramens which has very core fans. The original "Ramen-Jiro" started in 1996, at Mita, where Keio University is located. As you notice, "jiro-kei" came from the name of the original restaurant.
The most outstanding feature of Jiro-kei is how voluminous it is and the addictive taste. On top of the noodle comes tons and tons of bean sprouts and cabbage with some thick sliced pork. Another interesting point is that you ask the employees for your favorite. You get to ask "yasai"(more vegetables please), "ninniku"(add some garlic), "abura"(add some pork fat), and "karame"(make the taste thicker).
The influence of jiro is even strong enough to create a new genre of ramen, "Jiro-inspire". Jiro-inspire ramens are kind of ramen inspired by the original Jiro brand.
Ramen-Jiro(ラーメン二郎): The origin of all Jiro-kei
Senrigan(千里眼): One of the most popular Jiro-inspires
Among the Jirorian(People who are addicted to Jiro-kei ramens), some even say that Senrigan is the best Jiro-inspire ramen restaurants. Needless to mention, Senrigan's normal ramen is very popular, but the seasonal ramen which they offer in summer is much more popular!
In addition to all the categories mentioned above, There are many kinds of regional ramens. It's almost impossible to list all of them so I will introduce 3most famous regional ramens from Kyoto, Fukushima, and Nagoya.
The feature of Kyoto-ramen is the black color of the broth. With the first sight, They look very thick tasting but it's actually not. Kujo-negi, Kyoto's regional green leek is also the outstanding feature of Kyoto-ramen.
Kitakata-Ramen(喜多方ラーメン): The first regional ramen
Fukushima's Kitakata-ramen is a pioneer of all regional ramens. Their tastes are soy sauce based on clear tonkotsu broth.
Taiwan-Ramen(台湾ラーメン): Not Taiwan, but from Nagoya
With the name "Taiwan", you might guess Taiwan-ramen is found in Taiwan, which is totally wrong. Taiwan-ramen is actually first made in Nagoya, Aichi by a small Chinese restaurant. It's now one of the most major regional ramens you can enjoy in many places.
Tukemen(つけ麺): Dipping style Ramen
Tukemen is more of a different style of ramen than a kind. The ramen soup and the noodles are separated from the first and you eat them by putting the noodles into the soup. Usually, the dipping soup is hot and the noodle is cold.
My recommendation is to first try only with the noodles. You can directly feel the flourish smell of the wheat. Not all of restaurants do offer a service of another bowl of dipping soup, but many do. After you've finished enjoying noodles, you can ask for "soup-wari"(adding some broth to your dipping soup).
Chukasoba Tomita(中華そば とみ田): One of the best tsukemen in Japan
Other unique Ramens
Until here, were only the most basic, categorized kinds of ramens. In this section, you will probably be surprised by how various a ramen is.(I hope you would also understand how difficult it is to define and categorize them).
Due Italian(ドゥエ イタリアン): Italian Ramen
Can you imagine a ramen with fromage cheese? A prosciutto instead of roasted pork fillet? That's what kind of ramen Due Italian offers. The most modern Italian ramen can be enjoyed in Ichigaya.
As mentioned first, recently culture of "Ramen" is not only a thing of Japan. It's a worldwide issue. Many famous ramen restaurants open branches worldwide and even some ramen restaurants abroad are imported to Japan in order to give some feedback to ramen culture.
MENSHO group(MENSHO グループ): The first end Ramen brand