An Introduction to Ramen (In Fukuoka Prefecture) (福岡県の)拉麺入門

This is an article I’ve been working on for FukuokaJET.com, a resource website made for JETs living in Fukuoka prefecture, especially new recruits. The information here focuses on Fukuoka, but I think it’s a fairly good survey of the major ramen styles for anybody who’s interested.

Tonkotsu (Pork Bone) 豚骨・とんこつ

Tonkotsu ramen is the richest of the four main ramen broth varieties, and the ramen for which Fukuoka is famous. The greyish white soup is made by boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen over high heat for hours on end, suffusing the broth with a hearty pork flavor and a creamy consistency that rivals milk or melted butter or gravy (depending on the shop). Most shops, but not all, blend this pork broth with a small amount of chicken and vegetable stock and/or soy sauce. The original tonkotsu ramen, from Kurume, actually has a small amount of powdered bone and marrow in the broth, giving it an even stronger pork taste, chalky texture, and characteristic “stink.” Hakata-style tonkotsu generally does not contain bone and is characterized by thin, straight noodles that can be ordered to the firmness of your choice. Another characteristic of tonkotsu ramen shops in the Fukuoka area is kaedama 替玉, an extra helping of noodles that customers can order after they’ve slurped away the original serving. Typical tonkotsu toppings include red pickled ginger, green onions, and tree ears, along with the standard chāshū (sliced pork). Some shops also provide customers with minced garlic or even whole garlic cloves and garlic presses so they can give their soup the freshest garlic flavor possible. Currently the latest trend in tonkotsu toppings is māyu マー油, a blackish, aromatic oil made from charred crushed garlic. As ingredients and methods vary from shop to shop, it is said that no two bowls of Hakata ramen are alike, so try as many as you can!

Many of Hakata’s ubiquitous yatai 屋台 (street stalls) sell tonkotsu ramen, often with side dishes like gyoza and fried rice. Yatai advertising Nagahama 長浜 ramen are some of the most popular, as the Nagahama style – named for the working-class area northwest of Tenjin – is a bit lighter than basic Hakata ramen.

Where to try it in Fukuoka:

Ippūdō (Original Daimyō Shop) 一風堂大名本店
Fukuoka City Chūō-ku Daimyō 1-13-14
092-771-0880
11:00-02:00, Sundays and holidays 11:00-24:00
Recommended ramen: Akamaru Kasane-aji 赤丸かさね味 (¥800), Kiwami Shin’aji 極新味 (¥1300)

Isshin Furan 一心不乱
(Original Shop)
Fukuoka City Chūō-ku Daimyō 2-6-5
Tenjin Nishi-dōri-kan 1F
092-733-3768
11:00-02:00, Sundays and holidays 11:00-24:00
(Canal City Shop)
Fukuoka City Hakata-ku Sumiyoshi 1-2
Hakata Canal City 5F, Ramen Stadium
092-271-5166
11:00-23:00
Recommended ramen: Kuro no Koku Tonkotsu Ramen 黒のコクとんこつラーメン (¥600)

Taihō 大砲
(Original Shop)
Kurume City Tōrihoka-machi 11-8
0942-33-6695
11:00-21:00; closed every second and fourth Thursday of the month
(Tenjin Imaizumi Shop)
Fukuoka City Chūō-ku Imaizumi 1-23-8
093-738-3277
11:00-23:00
Recommended ramen: Ramen ラーメン (¥480), Mukashi Ramen 昔ラーメン (¥500)

Tōyōken 東洋軒
Kitakyushu City Kokurakita-ku Kogane-machi 1-4-30
093-931-0095
11:00-15:00, 16:00-21:30; closed Wednesday
Recommended ramen: Wantan-men ワンタンメン (¥700)

Ajisen 味千拉麺
Fukuoka City Higashi-ku Hakozaki 5-1-8
Rakuichi Kaidō Shopping Center
092-632-6212
11:00-02:00; Friday and Saturday 11:00-03:00
Recommended ramen: Paikū-men パイクー麺 (¥850)

Tonkotsu-based wantanmen from Toyoken.

Shōyu (Soy Sauce) 醤油・正油・しょうゆ

Shōyu ramen is the most traditional variety, with its roots in the Chinese immigrant community of Yokohama. The broth is typically brown and clear, based on a chicken and vegetable (or sometimes fish or beef) stock with plenty of soy sauce added for a soup that’s tangy, salty, and savory yet still fairly light on the palate. Shōyu ramen usually has curly noodles rather than straight ones, but this is not always the case. It is often adorned with marinated bamboo shoots (menma 麺媽), green onions, kamaboko (fish cakes), nori (seaweed), boiled eggs, bean sprouts and/or black pepper; occasionally the soup will also contain chili oil or Chinese spices, and some shops serve sliced beef instead of the usual chāshū. Shōyu ramen is ubiquitous around Tokyo and Yokohama, but in Fukuoka it is not as popular as the hometown favorite, tonkotsu. Still, there are several shops across the prefecture that serve a good bowl of shōyu ramen – some richer than usual to cater to local tastes.

Where to try it in Fukuoka:

Fujiō 藤王
Kitakyushu City Kokurakita-ku Uo-machi 2-4-18
New Fukusuke Building 2F
093-511-2800
11:00-20:00 (last order 19:30); closed every third Wednesday of the month
Recommended ramen: Chūka Soba 中華そば (¥530)

Ranshū 蘭州
Kitakyushu City Kokurakita-ku Furusenba-machi 5-21-103
093-531-6999
11:30-14:00, 19:00-24:00; closed Sunday and closed for lunch on Wednesday
Recommended ramen: Yakuzen Ramen 薬膳ラーメン (¥500)

Chūka Soba Gōya 中華そば郷家
(Original Shop)
Fukuoka City Minami-ku Terazuka 1-26-7
092-541-0266
11:00-20:30 or until the soup is gone, Sundays and holidays 11:00-20:00; closed Wednesday or the following day if Wednesday is a holiday
(Tenjin Shop)
Fukuoka City Chūō-ku Watanabe-dōri 5-25-11
092-713-1333
11:00-23:00, Sundays and holidays 11:00-22:00; closed Wednesday
Recommended ramen: Karanegi Ramen 辛ねぎらーめん (¥650)

Mengekijō Gen’ei 麺劇場 玄瑛
Fukuoka City Chūō-ku Yakuin 2-16-3
092-732-6100
11:30-14:30, 18:00-24:30, Sundays and holidays 11:30-22:00
Recommended ramen: (Ushio-kaori) Shōyu Ramen (潮薫)醤油拉麺 (¥800)

Shoyu ramen with spinach and egg from Fujio.

Miso 味噌・みそ

Miso is a fairly recent development in ramen soup, a specialty of Hokkaido and northern Honshu that originated in the 1970s. Those familiar with miso soup from instant soup packets or sushi bars may expect miso ramen to be fairly light and healthy, but actually miso is second only to tonkotsu in terms of richness. Copious amounts of miso are blended with oily chicken or fish broth – and sometimes with tonkotsu or lard – to create a thick, nutty, slightly sweet and very hearty soup. Miso ramen broth tends to have a robust, tangy flavor, so it stands up to a variety flavorful toppings: spicy bean paste (tōbanjan 豆板醤), butter and corn, leeks, onions, bean sprouts, ground pork, cabbage, sesame seeds, white pepper, and chopped garlic are common. Noodles are typically thick, curly, and slightly chewy.

Where to try it in Fukuoka:

Sumire すみれ
Fukuoka City Chūō-ku Imaizumi 1-3-1
TY Building Imaizumi 2F
092-741-4685
11:30-23:00; closed Tuesday
Recommended ramen: Miso Ramen 味噌ラーメン (¥780)

Hakata Mendokoro Takadaya 博多麺処 高田家
Fukuoka City Chūō-ku Yakuin 2-2-28
092-716-0670
11:00-02:00 (last order 1:30), Sundays and holidays 11:00-23:00
Recommended ramen: Kogashi Miso Ramen 焦がし味噌ラーメン (¥800), Miso Butter Corn Men 味噌バターコーン麺 (¥850)

Kawabata Dosanko 川端どさんこ
Fukuoka City Hakata-ku Kamikawabata-machi 4-229
092-271-5255
11:15-19:55; closed Tuesday and every third Monday of the month
Recommended ramen: Tokusei Miso Ramen 特製味噌ラーメン (¥600)

Miso ramen with tripe.

Shio (Salt) 塩・しお

Ubiquitous in southern Hokkaido and Niigata but rare in Fukuoka, shio is the lightest ramen out there, a pale, clear, yellowish broth made from plenty of salt and any combination of chicken, vegetables, fish, and seaweed. Occasionally pork bones are also used, but they are not boiled as long as they are for tonkotsu ramen, so the soup remains light and clear. Shio is generally the healthiest kind of ramen; fat content tends to be low, and fresh vegetables like cabbage, leeks, onions, and bamboo shoots typically adorn the simple soup and curly noodles. Chāshū is sometimes swapped out for lean chicken meatballs, and pickled plums and kamaboko are popular toppings as well. However, some shops do add lard or oil to make the broth richer or offer a topping of butter and corn for a popular and similarly bad-for-you variation. Noodle texture and thickness varies among shio ramen, but they are usually straight rather than curly.

Where to try it in Fukuoka:

Shionoya 汐のや
Fukuoka City Hakata-ku Hakata Station Chūōgai 6-12
Yodobashi Camera 4
092-432-8171
11:00-22:30
Recommended ramen: Shio Ramen 塩ラーメン (¥600), Tokusei Shio Ramen 特製塩ラーメン (¥850)

Menya-sanshi 麺8−34
Kitakyushu City Kokurakita-ku Muromachi 2-11-5
093-571-6634
11:30-16:00, 18:00-21:00; closed Tuesday
Recommended ramen: Shio Ramen 塩ラーメン (¥500), Tori Paitan 鶏白湯 (¥500)

Neo-Ramen ネオラーメン

Recently, chefs across the country have been getting increasingly creative with ramen. Some chefs play around with different kinds of broth, some employ unusual ingredients or cooking methods, and some simply push the limits of richness, flavor, and volume. These new ramen experiments are often called “neo-ramen” and include innovations such as: curry ramen, burnt ramen, black miso ramen, motsu ramen, chanpon-style ramen, yakisoba-style ramen, tonkotsu-fish stock blends, chili-infused noodles, and toppings like fried chicken, gelled pork broth, grilled chāshū, pork cutlets, pork collagen, shellfish, shark fin, yuzu peel, chawan mushi, and cheese. Some neo-ramen offerings are simply weird, but many are pleasantly surprising and genuinely delicious.

Where to try it in Fukuoka:

Gogyō 五行
Fukuoka City Chūō-ku Imaizumi 1-18-26
092-735-4152
11:30-02:00; Sundays and holidays 11:30-01:00
Recommended ramen: Kogashi Miso Men 焦がし味噌麺, Kogashi Shōyu Men 焦がし醤油麺 (¥850 each, ¥1000 during dinner hours)

Chururu Chu-ra ちゅるるちゅーら
Kitakyushu City Yahatanishi-ku Satonaka 1-6-10
093-611-2666
11:30-22:00, Tuesday until 15:00
Recommended ramen: Tonkotsu Otoko-aji Chā-churu Hige-jī 豚骨男味チャーちゅるヒゲじい (¥950), Gyokai Tonkotsu Aka-māyu Churu-chura 魚介豚骨赤マー油ちゅるチュラ (¥600), Gyokai Tonkotsu Churu-chura 魚介豚骨ちゅるチュラ (¥600)

Fūgen 風玄
Kitakyushu City Yahatanishi-ku Yatsue 5-3-18
093-691-1141
11:00-23:00
Recommended ramen: Tomato Ramen with Garlic Toast とまとラーメンガーリックトースト付 (¥750), Yahata Red 八幡レッド (¥700)

Menmi 麺美
Kitakyushu City Moji-ku Minato-machi 5-1
Kaikyō Plaza East Building 1F
093-321-3020
11:00-20:00
Recommended ramen: Crab Ramen かにラーメン (¥1000), Mentaiko Ramen 明太子ラーメン (¥1000)

La-men House Shōmaru LA-麺HOUSE 将丸
Fukuoka City Chūō-ku Maizuru 1-8-2-1
092-714-3939
11:30-14:00, 19:00-03:00
Recommended ramen: Kuro La-men 黒LA-麺 (¥550), Wa La-men 和LA-麺 (¥550), Shōmaru SP 将丸SP (¥950)

Burnt shoyu ramen at Gogyo.

Hiyashi Chūka, Reimen, and Tsukemen 冷やし中華、冷麺、つけ麺・つけめん

To attract more customers during the sweltering summer months, many ramen shops offer chilled noodle dishes called hiyashi chūka, reimen, or tsukemen. Hiyashi chūka and reimen (literally “chilled Chinese” and “cold noodles,” respectively) are blanket terms for any cold noodle dish, but they usually refer to a ramen-like cold soup of noodles and fresh vegetables in a thin, usually soy sauce-based broth. Tsukemen specifically refers to a salad-like dish inspired by zaru soba (cold buckwheat noodles) consisting of cooked, cold noodles, julienned chāshū, vegetables, and egg that customers dip in a cold sauce, often based on the shop’s ramen stock. Cold noodles are usually available starting in May or June until the end of September, but some ramen shops sell them year round; many Korean restaurants are also reliable sources for tasty, refreshing reimen.

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