Hey guys, Raina here. 99.5% of you reading this would probably be wondering who the hell I am. Don't worry, I didn't hack my way into this site to rave about my love for ramen. I'm Eugene's cousin who's been living in Japan for the last 10 years and his sometimes liaison for all things Japan. If there's one thing Eugene and I share in common (aside from our last name), is our love for Japanese culture and food. I thought ramen would make for a fitting first post given how often Eugene eats it but I'll be posting about food and culture live from Japan in the future, so stay tuned!
In the 1985 classic Tampopo (starring a very young Ken Watanabe), the movie was built around a bowl of ramen: that perfect bowl that is enough to sate the soul. The ubiquitous bowl of ramen which is readily available and well-loved has seen a large wave of success all across Japan and even worldwide. From its humble beginnings as a quick and easy meal, ramen now has been elevated to almost god-like status with secret ingredients and cooking techniques honed to perfection, some even good enough to earn Michelin stars (foodies: you know which ones I'm talking about).
For many living outside of Japan these days, hearing the word ramen brings to mind a dish made with tonkotsu pork broth and thin noodles, side garnishes of pickled bamboo shoots and an egg with a runny centre. But there are so many more varieties and variations of ramen in Japan; each region or area has its style, with some more famous than others. The three most famous styles of ramen are Sapporo ramen, which is typically miso-based and includes a pat of Hokkaido butter and corn; Hakata ramen, which is typically tonkotsu-based (pork bone broth); and Kitakata ramen, which can be either shoyu-based (soy sauce) or shio-based (salt broth).
Today, I'm going to be listing my personal top three bowls of ramen. My experience: traveler of Japan, all-round greedy pig and eater of delicious food (all of which I'm sure makes me highly qualified to have a personal top three). So here goes.
Number three: Jidori-ramen Hanamichi
This ramen shop will probably never make it on any international list of go-to ramen spots because it's in the middle of nowhere and incredibly difficult to get to. The broth here is a combination of salt and chicken, and the noodles slightly wider than the skinny Hakata-style ones. There is also an option to add a pat of butter to make the broth even smoother. A fun fact about this place: the owner is also a professional keirin cyclist!
Number two: Kitakata Ramen
Located in the Aizu Region of Fukushima Prefecture, Kitakata Ramen is also one of the top three most well known ramens in Japan. One of my favourite things about Kitakata Ramen is its popularity as a breakfast ramen, or asa-ra, as it's known in Japanese. The shoyu or shio based broth is not too heavy on the stomach in the morning and perfect for those ending their day or starting early at 7am.
Number one: Kagari in Ginza
The holy grail of ramen for me is this tiny 8-seater ramen store in Tokyo's Ginza. I was initially skeptical about having creamy chicken broth ramen but it changed my life. There's always a line, even before the restaurant opens, but it's definitely worth the wait. I mean, the first time I went, I turned up about 10 minutes before it opened only to find about 20 people waiting in line already. I got in about an hour later and inhaled the best ramen I've ever had in about 10 minutes. If you only have time for one bowl of ramen in your life, make it Kagari ramen. 'Nuff said.
Thanks for reading - RO.