I have a confession to make – I’m a ramen addict.
Yeah it’s a hard infliction eating away at delicious noodles drenched in different types of broth and covered with pork, chicken, vegetables.
But eating ramen in Tokyo, or Japan for that matter can also be fun, with systems you will most likely not be used to. It’s a melting pot of different ramen styles.
Many areas of Japan have their own way way of making ramen, with their own style broth soup and noodles. It’s one of the joys of travelling in Japan trying all the variation in the food by region.
Here we go!
Ok, I’ve used the picture above in a few posts now, but that was one of the first ramen’s on this trip, and undeniably one of the best ever.
It was in a local neighbourhood and a place that had no English translation on the menu on the wall, but by the smell drifting out of the small joint it was a pull that is hard to resist.
You will generally find good places to be small affairs, sometimes with just several people lined up sitting at a small bar. That just adds to the ambience.
There is something that can be a little confusing for the first timer at some ramen places and that’s when you come across the electronic ordering system.
You will see the electronic ordering machine at the entrance to the “restaurant” where you insert money and then choose the ramen of your choice. If you’re lucky some of them will also have English translation like the one below, but most don’t.
After you’ve chosen what you want (often just guessing what you’re ordering and waiting for the surprise) it doesn’t stop there as you’ll often be asked what texture you’ll like the noodles to be, and how strong the soup broth.
You will mostly be asked your preference, but some places even have cards to fill out, such as Ichiran.
Then you take your seat where what you ordered will be placed in front of you. You can always ask for a noodle refill and extra meat, for more money naturally.
Nom nom nom!
The perfect accompaniment’s to a ramen are a good Japanese beer and a side order of gyoza (very tasty Japanese dumplings).
The prices generally range from a cheap 400 bowl (like in the photo below) at chain restaurants, going up to 1000 for mind-blowing tastiness at local popular joints.
So for around $4 you can be happy, or spend $7-10 and be stuffed in ramen heaven. The more you spend the bowls and portion sizes can increase.
It’s easy to have one massive bowl of ramen and be full for 20 hours!
Another electronic ordering machine but with no English translation. This is where guessing work comes in. But just look at the pictures and try and figure out what looks the best for you. Sometimes play it safe and order the first one on the display as that might be the standard favourite.
You can try asking the people working there, as even in many cases they won’t speak English, they can try and give a rough idea. use sign language for spicy etc. You may look a bit foolish but you’ll more than likely get what you want, and it’s all a laugh.
The other main trick that is true everywhere in the world is to look for a place that is busy. Always a good sign of quality. Waiting in line for 10 minutes to get a ramen you’ll at least be satisfied with a very good one.
Also it’s good to check down side alleys and streets as this is often where some of the best local joints are tucked away.
You can eat ramen everyday in Tokyo/Japan and never get bored due to all the different types. As I explore more of the different regions in Japan I’ll be showing you the local specialities from those locations.
Writing this post at lunchtime has just made me super hungry so I will leave you now and to find a ramen place to munch away!