Hakata in Fukuoka Prefecture is full of great food - one of the most popular being Hakata ramen made with tonkotsu (pork bone) soup. This article introduces 10 Hakata ramen spots that are highly recommended.
- What Is Hakata Ramen?
- 1. ShinShin Tenjin Main Store
- 2. Ramen Unari (Kiyokawa Branch)
- 3. Hakata Ikkousha Hakata Main Store
- 4. Ganso Nagahamaya
- 5. Hakata Daruma Main Store
- 6. Issou Hakataeki Higashi Main Store
- 7. Gen'ei
- 8. Nagahama Number One Gion Branch
- 9. Hakata Ramen Genkotsu
- 10. Akanoren Secchan Ramen Tenjin Main Store
What Is Hakata Ramen?
Ramen - a national dish of Japan - is actually Chinese noodles that evolved into a uniquely Japanese dish. Today, there is a wide variety of different ramen available depending on the region and restaurant. So, before introducing the recommended restaurants, here are some distinguishing characteristics of Hakata Ramen.
The main feature of Hakata Ramen is the cloudy tonkotsu (pork bone) soup. It is made by boiling pork bones over a long time so that the umami (savory taste) and gelatin seep out, creating a viscous soup.
・Although some ramen are made with thick or curly noodles, straight, super-thin noodles are the standard in Hakata. At many restaurants, you can select the firmness of the noodles (how long they are cooked), and there is the option to order kaedama*.
*Once you've finished eating all the noodles, you can order kaedama, which is essentially a ball of replacement noodles to be added to the bowl. The soup is not replenished, so if you are planning to order kaedama, be sure to leave some.
Another characteristic of Hakata ramen is that many restaurants have beni shoga (ginger pickled in an acidic liquid) and karashi takana (a leafy vegetable called takana pickled with chili pepper) on the tables. You can add them to the ramen as you like, but it is recommended to add a little bit at a time as you eat.
Some famous and popular restaurants sell ramen sets with noodles and soup packaged to bring home as souvenirs. They can be purchased at souvenir shops in the city as well as stations and airports.
1. ShinShin Tenjin Main Store
ShinShin is a Hakata ramen shop that is popular among locals and tourists, with lines forming out the door. Its signature dish, the Hakata ShinShin Ramen (600 JPY (incl. tax)), has a rich soup created to be "so pleasant that everyone will drink it to the last drop". It has a concentrated umami but without any unpleasant or distracting odors remaining from the pork bones. The soup combines wonderfully with the thin noodles. The char siu (roast pork) that is patiently cooked in a secret sauce is an outstanding item that is so soft it seems to melt in the mouth. You may find yourself eating up the noodles before you know it and drinking the soup... but wait a second! Although they don't have an option to order a large portion of noodles, they have the kaedama system so you can get more noodles for 120 JPY (incl. tax). You can order as many kaedama as you want so you can eat until you are full. In addition to the main store, there are locations in Sumiyoshi, Hakata DEITOS, and KITTE Hakata.
2. Ramen Unari (Kiyokawa Branch)
The secret to the popularity of Ramen Unari is its unique Seafood Tonkotsu (720 JPY (incl. tax)). The soup is made with an unusual mixture of rich tonkotsu stock and fish stock. It is highly rated as a soup that does not feel fatty and hardly has any odor from the pork bone, so it is one for those who don't like the smell of pork bone. If you want to try even more unusual flavors, try the Ramen Genova at the sister restaurants, Unari Shokudo and Nakasu Branch. It is a "Genovese-style" tonkotsu ramen distinguished by a green soup with the aroma of basil that goes great with pork bone. If the idea of pesto ramen piques your interest, be sure to try this fantastic fusion of tonkotsu ramen and Italian flavors.
3. Hakata Ikkousha Hakata Main Store
Hakata Ikkousha is a ramen chain with popular overseas locations, such as in Indonesia, China, and the US. The creamy soup of its ramen has a wonderful combination of viscosity, umami and sweetness, and is perfect for those trying tonkotsu ramen for the first time. The foam on the surface of the soup is a sign of a good soup with the fat and the air mixed together. The house specialty char siu made by marinating pork shoulder in a secret sauce has the perfect balance between the fat and the meat, and goes wonderfully with the soup. The popular standard is the Ikkousha Ramen (700 JPY (incl. tax)), but why not get the Ajitama Char Siu Ramen (1,000 JPY (incl. tax)) that comes with a flavored boiled egg and char siu so you can enjoy the specialty meat?
4. Ganso Nagahamaya
Nagahama Ramen, which originated in the Nagahama area of Fukuoka City, is one of the original Hakata ramen. It is characterized by thin noodles and tonkotsu soup that tends to have strong flavors, and it is said that the system of kaedama originated with it. Ganso Nagahamaya is the most famous of the restaurants that serve Nagahama ramen. The only item on the menu at Ganso Nagahamaya is Ramen, offered at the low price of 500 JPY (incl. tax) a bowl. The customer specifies the amount of fat (plenty, regular or none), the firmness of the noodles (raw, firm, regular, soft), and the amount of green onion (plenty, some, none) to created ramen that suits their tastes. If you want the soup fatty, the noodles raw and plenty of scallions, ask for "beta, nama, negi oome". If you want the standard flavors, ask for "futsuu".
5. Hakata Daruma Main Store
Hakata Daruma is a famous ramen shop that opened in 1963, but has retained the secrecy of its recipes with no franchises. The restaurant has the feel of a yatai (food stall) with signatures of famous people covering the walls as testament to its popularity. The soup is rich, and has a strong aroma that epitomizes tonkotsu soup. It is made by adding freshly cooked soup to a base every day. When you put the soup in your mouth, the umami spreads through your mouth so you can enjoy the rich and vivid flavors. The recommended dish is the Ramen (700 JPY (incl. tax)) that represents the flavors that have been cherished since the time the shop opened. The Aburi Toro-Niku Char Siu Men (1,030 (incl. tax)) is also an outstanding dish that is only available at the main branch, and contains char siu made with pork cheek, a rare cut of pork.
6. Issou Hakataeki Higashi Main Store
The Ramen (600 JPY (incl. tax)) made by a young chefs who trained at famous Hakata ramen shops is so popular it is said to have "flavors that you will never forget". The chefs created "the golden ratio of tonkotsu" based on the skills they learned at the restaurants they trained at and the knowledge they gained from eating at numerous famous ramen shops around the country, with an aim to create a rich tonkotsu soup with concentrated flavors and a pleasant aftertaste. The soup that is made by cooking the bones of the head, back and knuckles of pork until they fall apart has a rich yet sweet and mild flavor with a light aftertaste. There is no odor that usually characterizes tonkotsu. The soup is further mixed with a sauce flavored with soy sauce and umami of seafood to create even deeper flavors. The specially made flat, thin noodles are supple and slippery, and have a pleasant texture designed specifically to compliment the soup.
Gen'ei, which has been featured in the Michelin Guide, is a unique restaurant that aims to enchant their customers. It is designed like a theater with the kitchen as the stage so that customers can enjoy watching the food being prepared from their seats. They serve tonkotsu ramen typical of Hakata ramen, but the recommended item here is the Ebi-Kaoru Shoyu Ramen (900 JPY (incl. tax)) with a soy sauce based soup with an aroma of shrimp. Enjoy the sophisticated soup with the rich umami and aroma of shrimp that is complimented by the flavors of the Japanese-style dashi (stock) made with seaweed and seafood. The homemade noodles are thin and curly, and have a texture that is chewy yet light.
8. Nagahama Number One Gion Branch
This is a restaurant opened by Nagahama Number One, a popular yatai that was in operation in Nagahama for more than 40 years. The soup is rich but does not have the particular smell of tonkotsu, and has a light aftertaste. The 100% pork bone cloudy soup, made by cooking the bones from the head and thighs of pigs for hours, mixes well with the super thin noodles. There are 11 choices on the menu including the Nagahama Ramen (550 JPY) and Special Ramen (1,000 JPY) that has all the toppings, such as flavored boiled egg and mustard greens. The popular firmness to have the noodles cooked is "kata", or al dente, with a firm center.
9. Hakata Ramen Genkotsu
Hakata Ramen Genkotsu in Taguma, Sawara Ward is also recommended. Their rich and creamy tonkotsu soup has a smooth, silky texture that goes perfectly with the chewy noodles that are on the thick side for Hakata Ramen. You can enjoy the exquisiteness of both the soup and the noodles. The char siu on the Ramen (550 JPY) is amazingly soft, so much so that it will fall apart when you pick it up with your chopsticks. There are condiments such as beni shoga and karashi takana on the table.
10. Akanoren Secchan Ramen Tenjin Main Store
This is a restaurant that opened 70 years ago, and has been popular among locals ever since. The secret behind the popularity of its signature Ramen (550 JPY) is the flavors of the soup, which is a reddish brown color that is unusual in Hakata. It is made by cooking bones from all parts of a pig - from head to feet and spine - and even the skin for over 16 hours. There is a high ratio of soy sauce that is added to adjust the flavors so that it has a light and elegant finish with clear umami from the pork bones. Their unique super thin, flat noodles also go perfectly with the soup.
All these restaurants serve Hakata ramen, but the flavors differ from place to place. When you go to Fukuoka, refer to this article and compare the ramen from the above restaurants.
*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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