Ramen is one of the ultimate comfort foods, with dozens of regional variations to choose from. Being time and preparation intensive, exceptional ramen really stands a whole level above its competition. Do not shy away from the many customizable options and the confusing Japanese-only vending machines. Lemi guide you through the process, and you'll be slurping up some of the best ramen bowls in no time. 𝗪𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗱𝗼𝗲𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗮𝘁 𝗺𝗲𝗮𝗻? 🔸 Dashi or Flavour Strength is the ratio of pork broth to dashi broth used, and your choice will dictate the saltiness of your soup. If you are not comfortable with a strong pork flavour, choose a stronger flavour (more dashi). Just note that the more dashi, the more salty your broth will be. 🔸 Richness or Thickness controls how much fat will be added to your broth. While it does not usually affect the overall flavour that much, a richer soup will be more creamy and pack more calories. こってり (𝘬𝘰𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘪) or まみれ (𝘮𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘳𝘦) will coat the noodles and infuse them with the full broth flavour, but are best ordered when you have no intention of slurping up that soup.
When it comes to 𝙩𝙤𝙣𝙠𝙤𝙩𝙨𝙪 (pork-bone broth) ramen, 𝗭𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗼-𝘆𝗮 is the king. I have brought numerous people to this hidden alley down Kiyamachi street, with the promise they would be served “the best 𝘵𝘰𝘯𝘬𝘰𝘵𝘴𝘶 they will ever eat”, and every time their skepticism melted away after the first slurp. Founder Tatsuya Hashimoto was only 23 when he opened the doors to the first Zundo-ya in Himeji city, after an inspiring meeting with one of Japan’s most renowned ramen chefs, Shigetoshi Nakamura. His dream was to “leave a lasting impression on our customers as well as bring happiness into their lives through our ramen”. And happiness indeed did he bring, with a rich, creamy and comforting broth I have found nowhere else. 𝗧𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗳𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝗭𝘂𝗻𝗱𝗼-𝘆𝗮 𝗲𝘅𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗶𝗲𝗻𝗰𝗲: 🔸 To get the full experience, order the 全部のせら－めん (𝘻𝘦𝘯𝘣𝘶𝘯𝘰𝘴𝘦 𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘯), which includes Zundo-ya's whole range of Kyushu toppings: chashu, soft-boiled egg, nori seaweed, fresh chives, garlic chips, bean sprouts, sesame seeds, chili and their signature 𝘵𝘢𝘬𝘢𝘯𝘢 pickle (which is absolutely delicious and you can even take home as a souvenir). 🔸 Order the soup こってり (𝘬𝘰𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘪), and receive the full power of Zundo-ya’s secret weapon 𝘴𝘦𝘢𝘣𝘶𝘳𝘢, creamy globes of pork back fat. You can go all the way to まみれ (𝘮𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘳𝘦), but I personally find it a bit too much. 🔸 Noodles are offered straight or wavy, with straight being the original version. 🔸 Ask for some 生にんにく (𝘯𝘢𝘮𝘢 𝘯𝘪𝘯𝘯𝘪𝘬𝘶), crushed raw garlic, to elevate your bowl to ramen heaven. Zundo-ya has now many branches all across Japan, and is launching itself into the international scene. My fingers are crossed they may come to Taiwan next.
121 Ishiyachō, Nakagyō-ku, Kyoto, 604-8002, Japan
For a different kind of rich, creamy broth head to 𝗡𝗼 𝗡𝗮𝗺𝗲 𝗥𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗻. It might take you a couple of tries to find it, since as the name suggests this shop has no name, no signboard and is located in the basement of a nondescript building. Once you descend into the zen-like garden, you will be first presented with a vending machine through which you can select the size and the toppings of your ramen. All the broths are made from a thick, gritty 𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗸𝗲𝗻 𝗯𝗿𝗼𝘁𝗵 that makes No Name Ramen stand out from the competition. 𝗡𝗮𝘃𝗶𝗴𝗮𝘁𝗶𝗻𝗴 𝘆𝗼𝘂𝗿 𝗼𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿: 🔸 No ramen bowl is complete for me without a good soft-boiled egg, so I always order 味玉らめ－ん (𝘢𝘫𝘪𝘥𝘢𝘮𝘢 𝘳𝘢𝘮𝘦𝘯). 🔸 The portions are as minimalistic as the decor, so if you are a big eater I recommend getting 大盛 (𝘰𝘰𝘮𝘰𝘳𝘪), the larger version. 🔸 Next up choose between the four toppings: 1) チャ－シュ－, classic chashu 2) 牛すじ煮, boiled beef slices 3) 鶏もも焼, grilled chicken thigh chunks 4) 野菜, roasted seasonal vegetables (or get them all!) and you’re ready to dig in. Once you are seated, serve yourself to water from the water coolers. And if you are wondering where the cutlery and spices are at, there is a secret drawer fitted under the table 😉.
Japan, 〒604-8005 Kyoto, Nakagyō-ku, Ebisuchō, 534−３１ CEO木屋町ビルB1" B1
𝗜𝗰𝗵𝗶𝗿𝗮𝗻 is the ramen I go to when I’m feeling particularly unsociable. You will not see or speak to any staff, aside from the one leading you to your seat. And your small booth will be screened from the servers and other patrons on all sides. In the dark and hushed interiors, the spotlight streaming down onto your bowl of golden soup will draw you into a magical ramen heaven. Do not speak, just savour. Ichiran stands beside Zundo-ya as my favourite 𝘁𝗼𝗻𝗸𝗼𝘁𝘀𝘂 ramen, offering a different take on this rich, addicting broth. While Zundo-ya’s is fat and creamy, Ichiran’s ramen is more mellow and refreshing and will have you gulping down the soup to the last drop (something you might want to avoid at Zundo-ya). I usually go for the simple Ichiran ramen, with the addition of a half-boiled egg of course. The broth is the star, and I don’t want to muddle it with too many competing flavours. At Ichiran you can customize every detail of your bowl, so it might take a little trial and error to find your sweet spot. The order sheet comes with their recommended version, so you can start with that. 𝗠𝘆 𝗳𝗮𝘃𝗼𝘂𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗲 𝗼𝗿𝗱𝗲𝗿: 🔸 strength - medium 🔸 richness - こってり (𝘬𝘰𝘵𝘵𝘦𝘳𝘪), thick 🔸 garlic - 1 clove (it will be perfectly blended into the soup), 🔸 green onion and chashu 🔸 spiciness - medium 🔸 noodles - かため (𝘬𝘢𝘵𝘢𝘮𝘦), al dente
Japan, 〒812-0011 Fukuoka, Hakata-ku, Hakata Ekimae, 2-chōme−2−１ 福岡センタービル B2F
Hidden within a shopping mall, sitting at the end of a bookstore, small and unassuming with some 10 counter seats, Morito Omiya’s 𝗔𝗷𝗶 𝗡𝗼 𝗦𝗮𝗺𝗽𝗲𝗶 is the originator of the iconic 𝗦𝗮𝗽𝗽𝗼𝗿𝗼 𝗠𝗶𝘀𝗼 𝗥𝗮𝗺𝗲𝗻. For 70 years, it has been serving up this nutritious fare, the traditional flavour (butter-free and devoid of any fad twists) a hit with the locals, who return again and again to savour the taste they grew up with. After a long day of sightseeing in cold and windy Sapporo, the rich hot soup is a joy to the senses. The secret of this soul-warming broth lies, of course, in its miso paste base. While miso does not create a thick or fatty broth the way 𝘵𝘰𝘯𝘬𝘰𝘵𝘴𝘶 does, it’s extremely rich in umami, a flavour that slowly spreads in your mouth, getting tastier and tastier with every spoonful. The thick curly noodles, specially created together with Nishiyama Seimen to best complement this dish, are cooked to perfection. A generous portion of vegetables and minced meat completes the dish. This ramen does not come with chashu, and the owner recommended to not add it as a topping. Chili paste is available for those who want an extra rush of heat.
Japan, 〒060-0061 Hokkaido, Sapporo, Chūō-ku, Minami 1 Jōnishi, 3-chōme−２ 大丸藤井セントラル4F