Tonkotsu ramen is arguably the most popular style of ramen in Japan. From mass market chains like Ippudo and Ichiran, to smaller and more local ones like Ikaruga, there are countless shops competing to feed the nation-wide addiction to thin noodles in creamy pork bone broth.
One well-known chain of tonkotsu ramen shops in Tokyo is Kyushu Jangara Ramen (九州じゃんがら). Perhaps the most popular branch of Jangara in Tokyo is in Harajuku, just down the street from Meiji Shrine. There always seems to be a line coming out of the place on weekends.
A couple of days ago, I went to the local Ippudo for the first time in months and discovered that they are offering a “Miso Akamaru” ramen as their autumn special. So obviously, I had to give it a try.
One of the first things that stand out about the special ramen is the soup — unlike the usual white tonkotsu (pork bone) stock, this version is a brownish combination of miso and tonkotsu that was very delicious. It also includes seasoned ground pork and fresh cabbage topped with a red spicy sauce, to go along with two pieces of roast pork and black garlic oil.
Furthermore, Ippudo uses a thicker, softer, and curlier egg noodle than the white, thin and straight kind that normally goes into their and other Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen. I liked how well the thicker ramen noodle soaked up the soup. However, when you ask for kaedama (extra noodles), they give you the normal thin noodle with pad of butter on top. A little odd, but I still enjoyed trying both kinds with the soup (the thicker ones go better, though)
Ippudo is only offering the seasonal special until November 30. So if you’re in Japan and want to check it out, you better move quickly.
By the way, if you happen to be interested in tsukemen (dipping noodles) and are unsure about how to eat it, Ippudo has posted an easy illustrated guide.
Whenever I take friends and family from out of town for ramen, I often go to my old standby: Ippudo. It’s great, reliable tonkotsu ramen that is validated by my local Japanese friends, and their various branches are nice places to hang out. But my friend and big time foodie BT has always been a big advocate for one of Ippudo’s rivals – Ichiran (一蘭). Ichiran provides one of the most unusual ramen experiences you could have in Japan.
A couple of weeks ago, several of my friends and I went for some breakfast ramen at Tokyo Station’s Ramen Street. When we arrived, we found out that the Street was undergoing some major renovations and that most of the eight stores were either closed for the next few weeks or had shut down completely. Posters around the station with the tagline “We Love Ramen” heralded the opening of brand new ramen joints and the reopening of popular old ones by September 20.
For most Americans and other Westerners, “ramen” probably means those bricks of dried noodles and powdered soup packets that you cooked for a cheap meal back in college, along with some random pieces of meat and vegetables if you were really fancy. Or, it might conjure up images of Cup O’ Noodles in a Styrofoam cup – just add water, wait three minutes, and voila. But to think that this is all there is to ramen is like thinking that the epitome of Italian cuisine is a can of Beefaroni from Chef Boyardee. Continue reading