All You Need to Know about Ramen in Japan!

ramen Food & Drinks

Ramen is known as a typical Japanese meal, ramen could be appeared in many Japanese anime and movies, and many international travelers add eating ramen to their to-do list when they come to Japan. Nowadays an increase in the number of Japanese restaurants allows you to have some ramen even outside of Japan. But you can get more delicious ramen at much cheaper prices in Japan with various flavors and style. Ramen is really a cheap and quick option for lunch/dinner for Japanese, and by that reason, many businessmen/women in suits love to go to ramen restaurants for lunch. In this article, we explain all you need to know about Japanese ramen including the introduction to the different taste of ramen, both classic flavors and unique ones!

Most popular ramen flavors

Ramen generally has four basic tastes, including Shoyu (醤油), Miso(味噌), Sio(塩) and Tonkotsu(とんこつ), and these are also the most popular ramen flavors. In many ramen restaurants, you can order any of them depending on your preference. In the meantime, you will occasionally encounter some ramen restaurants which serve only limited tastes. Here is a helpful guide to understand the differences among these tastes and famous ramen restaurants specialized in each flavor!

1. Shoyu(醤油)

Shoyu refers to a traditional Japanese liquid seasoning widely known as soy sauce. Japanese people often use it for a range of dishes such as Sashimi, as the strong taste goes well with fresh fish and white rice. Shoyu ramen is made with soup based on Shoyu, but the taste is relatively mild and easy to try even for those who have never tried ramen before!

Among the popular ramen tastes, Shoyu ramen has the longest history which dates back to the early 20th century. The first one is said to be served at a local ramen restaurant located in the Asakusa area, Tokyo in 1910. The simple and gentle taste has been loved by people of all ages. It is probably much easier to find ramen restaurants serving Shoyu ramen than other tastes because of the incomparable popularity!
Popular Shoyu Ramen Spot in Tokyo: Tsuta

2. Miso (味噌)

Miso is a fermented soybean paste which is often used for traditional Japanese dishes. The name may remind you of Miso soup, which is basically made from miso paste and stock as well as healthy ingredients such as seaweed and Tofu.  

Miso Ramen was originally developed in Hokkaido, which is now widely known as home to a number of popular miso ramen restaurants. The thick taste brings totally different ramen experience with unique ingredients such as corn and butter known as local specialties in Hokkaido. When butter melts into the rich soup, it produces a mild taste which stimulates your appetite and makes you order extra noodles!  
Popular Miso Ramen Spot in Tokyo: Mendokoro Hanada

3. Sio (塩)

Sio Ramen is salt flavored ramen which also originates from Hokkaido. The plain taste and clear soup are made from broth based on chicken or pork bones. In some regions, they enjoy it with unique ingredients, including seafood such as boiled clams and shrimps. Even when you are not in the mood for ramen with rich taste but still hungry, Sio ramen can be a perfect option which allows you to enjoy the simple flavor!

It might seem that Sio ramen is relatively healthy compared to other popular tastes, but you should be aware of the fact that it contains a lot of salt especially in the soup. It’s probably not a very good idea to drink a whole soup after you finished noodles!
Popular Sio Ramen Spot in Tokyo: Hirugao

4. Tonkotsu (とんこつ)

Tonkotsu Ramen originated in Fukuoka prefecture which is located in the northern part of Kyushu region. Tonkotsu literally means “Pork Bones” in Japanese, which clearly indicates the broth is mainly based on pork bones. The white creamy soup is made from carefully boiled pork bones which create the rich taste. Thin curly noodles are often used as they easily get coated with the rich soup! However, currently Iekei Ramen is getting popular too, which is shoyu and tonkotsu based ramen originated in Yokohama.

You will be able to find a number of Tonkotsu Ramen restaurants across Japan. They offer unique services such as Kaedama(替え玉), a unique culture which refers to ordering extra noodles to enjoy the soup twice! 
Popular Tonkotsu Ramen Spot in Tokyo: Ichiran

Unique Ramen flavors

Besides classic flavors we introduced above, there are a variety of unique ramen that attract people in recent years. Here are some popular unique ramen that are worth trying in Japan.

5. Lemon Ramen

Refreshing taste with slices of fresh lemons, it’s especially good to have some during hot summer.
If you are not fan of thick heavy ramen, this will be light and easy option.
Where to eat: Rinsuzu Shokudo

6. Spicy Ramen

There are various different type of spicy ramen, but the popular restaurant offering dandan noodles is Nakamoto. You can choose the level of spiciness, but don’t underestimate their spiciness. Be careful of the level you choose for the first time, otherwise you will regret to order it.

7. Tsukemen

Tsukemen refers to a unique style of ramen consisting of noodles and soup served separately in a different bowl. Pick some noodles and dip them in the soup, and slurp. And yes, it’s okay to slurp in Japan! Where to eat: Rokurinsha

8. Mazesoba

Mazesoba is ramen featuring a range of toppings such as raw egg, spicy minced meat, bamboo shoots and dried seaweed. Mix the ingredients well before you eat, and add some spices if you like to change the flavor in the middle such as pepper powder, vinegar and garlic.
Where to eat: Taiwan Mazesoba Akashiya

9. Tomato Ramen

You might think Tomato Ramen tastes more like pasta with cheese toppings and vegetables rather than ramen, Taiyo no Tomatomen is the start of tomato ramen boom in Japan. This ramen will be another eye-opening ramen experience for you!

10. Shrimp Ramen

Japan offers many seafood meals, and ramen is not the exception. Ichigen is one of the most popular shrimp ramen restaurants in Tokyo. It’s originally from Hokkaido, which is home to fresh seafoods and miso ramen. If you love shrimps, this is a must-try!

There are also some places offering vegan/vegetarian ramen in Tokyo.

How to buy and useful phrases at ramen restaurant

When you go eat ramen in Japan, generally you will buy a ticket from the ticket machine to order. Choose what you want to order on the machine and hand it to the staff. If you have any preference for the noodle (hard or soft) and ingredients, let them know.

Useful Japanese phrases at ramen restaurant:

  • Omori (big portion)/ Futsu mori (regular portion)
  • Men wa Katame de Onegaishimasu (I want my ramen noodle hard)
  • Men wa Yawarakame de Onegaishimasu (I want my ramen noodle soft)
  • Nori/Tamago nuki de Onegaishimasu (without seaweed/egg, please)

Recommended tours

There are several tours which allow you to have the best ramen with a friendly guide. Walking around the town with a knowledgeable guide and enjoying the local’s favorite ramen!
The best way to learn the Japanese culture is learning from the locals. Find the interesting culinary culture through the tour!

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Happy traveling!

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