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【Fukuoka】Top 3 Shops in the Ramen Grand Prix

The Ramen Walker Grand Prix is a ranking of delicious ramen shops that is carried out by the ramen information magazine, Ramen Walker (KADOKAWA). Targeting shops that have remained open until December 31, 2016, the ranking process divides them into three divisions: Fukuoka Overall, Kyushu 6 Prefectures Overall, and New Shops in Fukuoka. After tallying the votes of readers and ramen connoisseurs, the most delicious shop in all of Japan is chosen and presented to the world! With that, here are the three best ramen shops in Fukuoka. <※This information is from Ramen Walker Kyushu 2018 (issued October 6, 2017)>

【1st Place】Nankin Ramen Kuromon (8,967 points)

The taste that Hisato Kawauchi, owner of Nankin Ramen Kuromon, continues to create is the taste of the legendary shop, Kuroki, that does not exist anymore. Kuroki is the nickname of Nankin Ramen, which has long been loved at Yahata. Kawauchi – someone who used to be called a ramen freak for going on ramen tours where he would dig into 500 bowls of ramen in a year – is committed to what he does, knowing that there is no successor for his ultimate passion – the Kuroki taste. He has set his mark on succession and declared his intentions, saying that, “I will make sure that this unique taste never ends.” His passion moved the shop owner of Kuroki, who “did not take in apprentices”, which was how he kept working there for 2.5 years. After watching and hammering everything into his head – from how the bones were prepared, up to how to actually cook it, the amount of water needed, and the right conduct at work – he finally opened Nankin Ramen Kuromon in June, 2003.

The soup that he learned from Kuroki is a semi-translucent tanrei tonkotsu (light pork-based soup). The pork bones are cooked for a relatively short time (around 6 hours), which allows the soup to be completely consumed each day. Delicate fat oozing from the bone marrow covers the surface of the soup, and the fine chives, bean sprouts with both the roots and sprouts cut off, and other toppings set neatly on top are also sights to behold. Your nose will be tickled by the rich aroma, which isn’t smelly at all. If you take a bite, your mouth will be flooded with the mild yet savory goodness of the ramen. There is no intense impact. However, the more you drink the soup, the more you will be inundated by this ramen’s delicious taste, sweetness, and deep, rich body. This is definitely the kind of dish that will echo to the core of your heart.

The only item on the side menu is onigiri (rice balls). The simple salt-flavored onigiri that is made with organic rice goes really well with the ramen soup.

It has been nearly 17 years since Kawauchi was invited by the father of Kuroki to come and see how the ramen at his shop was made, but he is still training to this day. “While protecting the taste of Kuroki, I also want to pursue my own specialty. Even on my own, I will do my best to create a bowl of ramen that will give happiness to a lot of people,” he claimed.

【Recommended Ramen!】
The Ramen (600 JPY) here is recommended. The noodles, which are made upon receiving an order, are not too hard. The chewy and mild texture of the noodles perfectly matches the soup. There are two types of char siu (roasted pork) on top. The rib meat will melt in your tongue, while the leg meat gives off a delicious meaty taste. Adding Saga Hatsuzumi Nori (a kind of edible seaweed) from Ariake Sea will bring out the refreshing smell of the ocean, adding another layer of goodness to the ramen.

【Ramen Data】
<Noodles> Thin, Square, Straight (120g)
<Soup> Sauce, Soy sauce
<Finishing oil> None
<Type> Maru-dori (whole chicken)

[Nankin Ramen Kuromon]
093-777-4688, 11:00 am – 4:30 pm (last order at 4:00 pm), Closed on Mondays and every fourth Tuesday of the month, 14 seats (10 counter seats and 4 table seats), Approx. 26 minutes from the Kyushu Expressway Kurate IC by car

Nankin Ramen Kuromon

3-1-5 Aobadai Minami, Wakamatsu-ku, Kita Kyushu-shi, Fukuoka

【2nd Place】Ramen Unari Nakasu Shop (6,741 points)

Okubo, the owner of this shop, has been touting the idea of a “truly delicious bowl of ramen that can only be found in Unari”. This ramen turned out to be Gyokai Tonkotsu Ramen, which combines seafood and pork bones. To make the ramen soup, the secret soup cooked from pig skulls is mixed with seafood broth, which has the delicious flavors of two types of niboshi (dried sardines), three types of bushi (dried bonito and mackerel), and kombu (kelp). As you eat the ramen, its taste will change from the bushi to the pork bones, and then finally to the taste of the niboshi. The overlapping layers of taste was what Okubo pursued. They have two types of homemade noodles available that differ on chewiness, texture, and the feeling of going down the throat. They can be used for each type of soup – the Hitonkotsu with salty miso, and the Genova with a basil aroma.

Unari does not scrimp on food preparation time. 1.2kg of niboshi – the main ingredient for the soup stock – is used. All the dried sardines have their heads and entrails removed by hand.

“I am glad that our special ramen that accepts no compromises in everything – from the selection of ingredients, up to the food preparation and finishing – has been evaluated. However, Unari’s ramen is not yet complete. We will continue to refine our ramen, so please wait for what’s in store to come!” Okubo enthusiastically said.

【Recommended Ramen!】
The Gyokai Tonkotsu Ramen (720 JPY) is recommended at this shop. The soup that condenses the flavors of seafood and pork bones tastes light and pleasant. It goes well with the homemade noodles, which will go smoothly down your throat. Your appetite will be stimulated by the lightly roasted, fragrant char siu. There are also green onion slices for texture, giving the ramen a refined finish in terms of taste and appearance.

【Ramen Data】
<Noodles> Medium-fine, Square, Straight (100g)
<Soup> Sauce, Soy sauce
<Finishing oil> None
<Type>Tonkotsu and Gyokai (Niboshi and Bushi-type)

[Ramen Unari Nakasu Shop]
092-281-8278, 6:00 pm – following 6:00 am (last order at 5:50 am), Closed on Sundays, 11 seats (4 counter seats and 7 table seats), 3-minute walk from subway’s Nakasu-Kawabata Station

Ramen Unari Nakasu Shop

3-6-23 Nakasu, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka

【3rd Place】Fukuchan Ramen Honten (6,420 points)

Fukuchan Ramen Honten is a veteran tonkotsu ramen shop that has been in business for 42 years, continuously preserving its flavors over three generations. The soup that is poured to the brim of the bowl has the perfect blend of “koku” (richness) from slow-cooking pig skulls for two full days, and “kire” (sharpness) that is created on the day that it is served.

The slightly sweet soup is mixed with medium-thick, straight noodles. The resulting simple and unassuming taste is so popular that every day, the shop is almost always packed with customers as soon as it opens! The thick char siu also has favorable reviews. It tastes great even when rolled with homemade nira kimchi (leek kimchi). You also need to see the so-called “men kamasabaki”, wherein the noodles almost seem to be flowing, that was created by the third-generation shop owner, who assumes an imposing stance in front of the pot.

"It is because of you that we have managed to rank and get an award again. I wish to thank our customers, as well as everyone who voted for us out of many other contesting ramen restaurants. We will keep on serving delicious ramen in the Taguma area, so we ask for your continued support,” said Sakaki, the owner of the shop.

【Recommended Ramen!】
The Ramen (600 JPY) is recommended at this shop. It is an old-fashioned bowl of ramen filled with soup that has the perfect blend of richness and sharpness from pork bones, as well as chewy noodles, and char siu with different thicknesses depending on the part. Enhance the taste of the ramen by adding fresh garlic that has been mashed using the garlic crusher developed by Fukuchan.

【Ramen Data】
<Noodles> Medium-thick, Square, Straight (100g)
<Soup> Sauce, Soy sauce
<Finishing oil> Not disclosed
<Type> Tonkotsu

[Fukuchan Ramen]
092-863-5355, 11:00 am – 9:00 pm (shop closes as soon as the dishes are sold out), Closed on Tuesdays, 21 seats (9 counter seats and 12 table seats), 5-minute walk from subway’s Kamo Station, right next to the Taguma Shinmachi stop on the Nishitetsu bus

Fukuchan Ramen

2-24-2 Taguma, Sawara-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka

[This article was originally published in Walkerplus on 11.01.2017]

*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.

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