Ramen

Picking a restaurant

Do not go places that shows big pictures with crappy English outside. They're usually not good. You can check RamenDB, over 85+ is decent or on Tabelog for 3.60+ (Because Ramen shop usually got a bit score boost due to cheaper price). Usually ramen places do not take reservation.

Before you go

Check the shop's twitter / SNS, they usually announce a sudden off time. Check their official off dates and opening time. Best ones usually off irregularly, only do lunch time, or if they still have broth. I tend to go either 30 minutes before open for a good one or very late like lunch time like 2pm.

Notices & Etiquette

  • Bring cash

  • Everyone must be there for their own lineup

  • Only take photos of your own food

  • Slurp is awesome, no slurp is ok

  • Add spices after ate half bowl of Ramen

    It's rude to change their perfectly crafted ramen without trying it first

Lastly, watch this video on the right way to eat Ramen ; )

Procedure

You go to the shop. Buy tickets for Ramens from vending machines.

けんばいき
Vending machine

しょっけん
meal ticket

The machine usually only take ¥‎10/100/500 coins and ¥‎1000 bills. If you only have large bill like ¥5000 or ¥‎10000, you can ask the staff to change for smaller bills:

両替(りょうがえ)お願いします
I want to change bills please.

Choose your Ramen and Toppings and get your change (お釣り)!

Size

This differs from shop to shop, usually they show you how many grams, normally a 並盛 is 200g.

Q: Staff may ask: (りょう)はどうしますか?
How about the size of your noodle?

大盛でお願いします。
Large please.

Richness


Staff may ask:

濃さはどうしますか?
How rich would you want?

Noodles

じかせいめん
Home made noodle

硬さ

  • やわめ
    Soft
  • やわらかめ
    Soft
  • ふつう
    Normal
  • かため
    Hard

硬さはどうしますか?
How would you want your noodle cooked?

かためでお願いします。
Hard please.

トッピング Toppings

Usually the machine also sells toppings if you particularly like some of its items.

  • 替え玉
    One more noodle

  • 焼豚
    Grilled pork

  • チャーシュー
    Pork slice

  • ローストチャーシュー
    Roasted pork slice

  • メンマ
    Bamboo

  • 白ネギ
    White onion

  • ねぎ
    Green onions

  • 玉ねぎ
    Onion

  • キャベツ
    Cabbage

  • 高菜
    Japanese giant red mustard

  • 紅しょうが
    Red ginger

  • 玉子
    Egg

  • 月見
    A egg on top of noodle like a moon

  • 味玉 or 味付け玉子
    Flavored Egg

  • 半熟味玉
    Flavored half-boiled Egg

  • ゆでたまご
    Boiled egg

  • 温泉卵
    Hot Spring Egg

  • のり
    Seaweed

  • コーン
    Corn

  • バター
    Butter

  • もやし
    Soy beans

  • にんにく
    Garlic

  • 若布
    Wakame

  • ナルト
    Naruto

  • きざみ
    Shredded

  • 刻みチャーシュー
    shredded chashu (japanese braised pork belly)

  • 刻みネギ
    shredded spring onions

  • 刻み柚子
    shredded yuzu

_______をトッピングしてください。

Soup/broth Base

だし (soup stock)

とんこつ
Pork bone.

魚介

煮干し / いりこ
dry sardines


Salty

しょうゆ
Soy sauce

みそ
Miso

豚白湯
White pork soup

鶏白湯
White chicken soup

Usually 豚骨 / 味噌 is too intense if you're coming from overseas.

Types of Ramen

Introduce types of Ramen with few typical shops.

ラーメン

Classic. Soup with noodle

つけ麺

Cold / Hot noodle in another bowl + dipping sauce.

You may be able to chose if you want cold / hot noodle.

Cold Noodle: つめもり   Hot Noodle: あつもり

あぶらそば

Soupless. Noodle with saucey toppings sitting on top of hot oil.

まぜそば

Soupless. Noodle with saucey toppings. Originated from Nagoya. They usually called 台湾まぜそば because of the cooking style of the minced meat.

中華そば

Black soup.

醤油らーめん

らぁ麺 飯田商店
https://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1303/A130302/14038776/

Japanese Soba Noodles 蔦
https://tabelog.com/tokyo/A1323/A132301/13136231/

インスタラーメン

Flavors from regions

北海道旭川
Soup is usually 豚骨 based with dry fishes.

北海道札幌
Rich miso with garlic flavors. 

福島喜多方
Clear soy sauce with

東京
soy sauce.

橫濱家系
Rich 豚骨 + 鶏油 + 豚骨

京都
Rich soy sauce, sticky like glue

博多
豚骨 with garlic

沖繩
豚骨 & 塩

Chains to get started

Here is a list of names they are everywhere, and decent shops to try:

  • 横浜家系
  • AFURI
  • 一風堂
  • 麵屋武藏
  • 天下一品
  • 喜多方ラーメン

A lot of these places expanded internationally, so I recommend to try something that is not available where you're from. 一蘭 is also very famous but it's just me that do not really like the seating setup, and their line is way too long for what you get.

Yokohama Ramen Meseum

You can learn the whole history of Ramen here. They select all kinds of Ramens from Japan to here. Inside decorated well. They serve mini size Ramen, so you can try more options. But the taste of ramen there is fine (3.5-ish).

Ramen Street in Tokyo station

They're fine but filled with too many tourists. Not worth the wait.

The Jiro challenge

It is super heavy. It literally is a challenge. Do not try it unless you know what you're getting into. Also the line is always super long as there are too many hardcore Jiro fans (Jirorian). Learn more about it on the Jirorian post.

My recommendations in Tokyo

Go if you happen to be around that area.

These are not very hard to visit and very good:

Name Station What to order Waiting
はやし 渋谷 チャーシュー麺 OKi
恵比寿  油そば+チャーシュー N
麺屋ひょっと 有楽町 和風柚子柳麺 OK
麺尊 RAGE 西荻窪 特製軍鶏そば
中華蕎麦 とみ田 つけ麺 VL
麦苗 VL
麺屋一燈 つけ麺 VL

OK: < 30 minutes
OKi: OK if you come before open.
Long: 30+ minutes
VL: 1hr+
N: Usually no need to wait, but avoid rush hour
Reserve: Get Reservation ticket then come back.

For Enthusiasts

中華蕎麦 とみ田, it's far in Chiba. It is the best つけ麺 (by ranking) in Japan. You must go there before 9am. 7am you will probably eat around 11am, 9am you will be close to the last batch (16.30). You go there, pay first and get a time, then come back. Read this article.

More adventures available on Tabelog Top 100 Ramen awards, divided by regions:

More on Ramen

山岸一雄 & 田代浩二

山岸一雄: The god of Ramen, the originator of Tsukemen. 田代浩二 is his student, who now is the teacher of all the Ramen masters.

佐野実

The oni of Ramen, the originator of shop 支那そばや, a person he ever respect in life is 山岸一雄.


The Best Ramen

Is the one you ate after a karaoke night out with friends.

No Ramen, No Life.

A movie about Ramen: タンポポ