This is the start of what I hope to be a series of posts that highlight an aspect of Japanese culture that we love, just learned about, or think is unique!
Today’s feature: RAMEN!
Who hasn’t had Top Ramen a time or two (or every day for awhile) in their life? Creamy chicken was my favorite, and it is good in it’s own right, but it is a completely different animal than true Japanese Ramen. I am no expert in Ramen- but I have heard it said that there are individuals who dedicate their lives to perfecting their special Ramen dish. For example, in Tachikawa Square, there is a building that houses seven Ramen shops on the third floor- each shop serves its own specialty Ramen dish.
I have tried Ramen from 4 different places so far- and each is distinct in flavor, even if the appearance is similar. But my FAVORITE by far is the Ramen Shop right up the street from our house. The first time we walked in we had no Idea what we were getting ourselves into! There is no English or picture menu. You order by selecting a button from a vending machine in the back of the restaurant and bringing it forward to the chefs. We stood at the machine for a few minutes, looking at the different colored buttons with Japanese letters on them- trying to decide which ones were the Ramen! Luckily, another customer was kind enough to walk up- point to some of the top left buttons and say “good!” So that’s what we picked!
This was my first ramen experience outside of Top Ramen… and it was amazing! The broth is rich, salty and has a slightly smoky flavor – there is a tender meat on top (turns out to be pork belly… we think 🙂 ) and some sort of green onions tossed in what tastes like toasted sesame oil. The best part is, it is soooo warm! Steaming and delicious!
There are several different “Styles” of Ramen – but we have mostly experienced Tokyo Style Ramen. This website describes the different styles of Ramen throughout Japan.
Here is a fun video I found about the proper Reamen eating technique.
I also found this book that tells the story of how Ramen became popular in the U.S. – It’s called “The Untold History of Ramen” by George Solt and looks super interesting!
If you get a chance to experience fresh Ramen, I hope you love it as much as we do! I hear there is a great place in D.C. called ‘Toki Underground‘ if you’re on the East coast.
Happy Ramen eating!