Fukuoka, Japan Feb. 28 Wed 12:07PM
Among world cuisine, Japan is one of the most famous for its many unique and distinct dishes. In fact, more and more people all over the world are enjoying Japanese food as it continues to gain popularity. Of course, when someone mentions Japanese food, almost everyone thinks immediately of sushi. But did you know ramen is much more commonly eaten and an equally huge favorite among most Japanese?
Ramen, which originated in China, first appeared in Japan in the early 1900s. The instant version most westerners think of when hearing the word wasn’t created in the 1950s and is still popular today among students and busy folks alike. However, it’s the fresh-made, local variety that people are willing to line up for every day and in every city across the country.
Although you can get ramen virtually anywhere in Japan, each region does have it’s own distinct version with specific ingredients and type of broth.
Sapporo, for example, is famous for miso ramen, which uses a miso-based broth and is commonly served with corn, butter, garlic, and varieties of seafood. The western ingredients are indeed indicative of Hokkaido’s history.
Yet in Tokyo, it’s shoyu ramen that is the favorite. It’s served with a shoyu (soy) broth, thin curly noodles, and is usually topped with chashu (sliced pork), kamaboko (fishcake), negi (scallion), and nori (sea laver).
But the most popular style these days (and my personal favorite) is hakata ramen. Born on the island of Kyushu, hakata ramen is often also called tonkotsu ramen, as its broth consists of pork bones and collagen cooked over many hours.
Because of the heavy use of pork, it’s perhaps the strongest-tasting of all the ramen styles. The pork bone broth has a rich, milky, and flavorful texture to it. Common toppings include beni shoga (pickled ginger), goma (sesame seeds), or goma abura (sesame oil), as well as many others.
Where to go for Ramen in Kyushu
Since Hakara is in Fukuoka, I made the trip there to sample first-hand this legendary favorite. But where does one go to find the best ramen in Fukuoka?
After asking around among the local residents, the consensus was that the best ramen to be found is in a certain area of the city known for having many yatai (food stands). A common way to eat ramen in general (and in Kyushu in particular) is at a yatai. Aside from someone’s home, this is the next best place to find authentic, hakata-style ramen, according to locals.
I figured that the stands with the longest lines would be the safest bet. One friendly word of advice regarding etiquette if you choose to eat at a popular yatai with a long line behind you: Enjoy and move on! A yatai is not a place for leisurely eating and chatting, so try to be mindful of the other folks waiting if you can. It’s fine, of course, to order a second portion of noodles (ask for kaedama), but remember to eat quickly!
Besides food stands, another fun option for ramen in Fukuoka is to visit the famous ‘Ramen Stadium’. Just a ten-minute walk from JR Hakata station, here you can sample the many variations of hakata ramen, as well as any style from all over Japan. It’s like taking a ramen tour of the whole country without ever having to leave the building! Ramen Stadium is open 7 days a week, from 11am to 11pm and is lot of fun for all ages.
The Final piece of advice is this. Whether it’s at a yatai, Ramen Stadium, or wherever you decide to go to sample ramen in Kyushu, be sure to bring along your appetite!