Craving the ultimate ramen experience? The journey to savoring the best ramen noodles begins with figuring out how to order the best ramen in Japan. From bustling city streets to hidden local gems, this famous dish awaits those ready to explore its secrets! But where do you start? Fear not; we’ve got you covered!
Ramen is a Japanese noodle soup that has become a go-to option for budget-conscious travelers across Japan (although there are expensive bowls out there too!). Ramen-ya, or ramen restaurants, offer many variations. Noodles are made from wheat and can range from thin and straight to thick and wavy. These noodles are generally made to match the soup base that the restaurant serves.
First, shoyu ramen has a clear broth flavored with soy sauce and uses chicken broth and various meats. Shio ramen has a light, clear broth seasoned with salt, typically made from chicken, although pork is sometimes added. Miso ramen has a thick, brown soup and is a hearty option born from cold Hokkaido. Tonkotsu ramen is especially loved in Kyushu and has a smooth white broth from simmering pork bones.
The ideal spot to eat a bowl of ramen is at specialized restaurants in busy areas like train stations, entertainment districts, and side streets. These establishments, often with just a sit-down setting with counters and tables, may range in size, with smaller ones opting for just a single counter. Some restaurants may also provide standing counter space in high-traffic locations for a quick and casual dining experience.
Apart from dedicated restaurants, ramen dishes are common on the menus of other places, including those at tourist attractions, izakaya (Japanese pubs), family restaurants, and food stalls. Additionally, hot ramen options are available 24/7 at convenience stores and some vending machines, ensuring this beloved Japanese comfort food is accessible to all.
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In Japan, ramen stores come in two styles: restaurants where you order from staff and those using a vending machine system. These vending machines allow customers to choose their dishes, pay, and receive tickets. Some machines have touch panels with English options, while others display pictures for easy selection. After getting a ticket, customers bring it to the counter, where chefs prepare their chosen bowl of ramen.
Regions in Japan boast many ramen broths, each offering unique flavors. While there is a “Big Four” of Shio, Shoyu, Miso, and Tonkotsu, many other types of ramen exist. Recently, seafood ramen has become popular. Niboshi ramen uses a fish-based stock made with dried sardines. There is also curry ramen, combining two Japanese favorites, and tsukemen, a dipping ramen where the broth and noodles are separate.
Japanese ramen offers various broths like soy sauce, miso, and salt, but for tonkotsu ramen, noodle firmness holds special significance. Tonkotsu ramen features thin, straight noodles; you can change their firmness. Determined by boiling time, it ranges from “Bari-yawa” (extra soft) to “harigane” (extra-extra firm). While “futsuu” (medium) is the average firmness, those seeking chewier noodles can opt for “bari-kata” and “harigane.”
You can customize your broth and noodle portions. Broth thickness options include thick/creamy (koime), regular (futsu), and thin/watery (usume), and oil content from high (ome) to low (sukuname). If one serving isn’t enough, requesting “Oomori” adds more noodles to your order, with some places offering this upgrade for free. Some shops have a “Kaedama” system where you can get a noodle refill.
Toppings play a crucial role in ramen. While toppings usually come with a bowl of ramen, some may choose to add more. Standard toppings include seaweed, green spring onion, chashu, ajitama tamago, bamboo shoots, mustard greens, and red pickled ginger. Condiments like shichimi tougarashi, vinegar, and chili oil offer opportunities to customize flavors. Each ramen shop may have unique recipes showcasing its distinctive features.
Many people order ramen without any customization, which works for them, but wouldn’t you want to try something new? Everyone eats their ramen a little differently, whether by the firmness or thickness of their noodles or the thickness of their broth. Every store will have recommendations, but finding something you enjoy matters!
Once you understand your preferences and know how to order it accurately, you’ll always have a great time whenever you’re out for ramen! Some restaurants may even offer heated stones to keep the soup warm or allow you to customize their soup bases with a special oil found only at their restaurant!
There’s just so much to explore, and we hope that this guide will be helpful in your journey! How do you customize your ramen? How do you like your noodles? Let us know in the comments below!
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