Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Guest post: Jacob Ritari on ... Ramen

I had to laugh when I opened up the attachment and read the guest post that Jacob has written for us this week, in which he shares with us his love, or maybe that should read, his obsession, with one of the most revered foods in Japan. Ramen. I have to admit that I don't share this passion but I live with someone who does, my husband. He finds a way to have ramen at least two or three times a week. And it was the Japanese food that he missed the absolute most when we were living in England. But here is Jacob to tell you more about it.


I am a sick man. I have an addiction. At alarmingly frequent intervals I find myself slipping onto the train to Shin-Yokohama, to sate my dark lusts at the Ramen Museum.
Most Americans know of ramen in its “cup noodles” derivative, ninety-nine cents a bushel at the grocery, that inflicts scurvy on Japanese and American college students alike. The genuine article is harder to come by in the States, but enjoys tremendous popularity in Japan. Derivative of Chinese noodle soups, a proper bowl of ramen consists of rich, delicately flavored broth, choice cuts of meat (usually pork, though beef is in vogue now) and extras like eggs, seaweed, garlic, cabbage and leek. The clip below from Juzo Itami’s classic film Tampopo should convey the attitude with which said bowl is properly regarded:


Shoyu ramen
Ramen was one of many dishes I enjoyed when I first came to Japan; I dedicated myself to the path only recently. Sadly, while the taste of genuine ramen is incomparable with cup noodles, the nutritional value is about the same, and it’s a matter of time before my hair falls out and I succumb painfully to scurvy. Accordingly I entrust you with the fruits of my research.

Ramen is most basically differentiated by the type of broth: Shio, or salt broth, is typically light, and more of a Chinese style, often heavy on vegetables. Shoyu, or soy sauce broth, is popular in the Tokyo region and often seen overseas. Like shio broth the taste is lighter, more like what one thinks of as soup. The fun begins with tonkotsu ramen, especially popular in Kyushu though it has since spread throughout Japan; a much richer broth made from ever available ounce of marrow in a pork bone. To this, some entrepreneur in Hokkaido added miso paste, which makes it thicker still and more savory and why am I writing this guest posting when I could be having some well the shops are all closed no helping it sorry about that. Anyway, I’m going out on a limb here, but I suspect that if a Ramen restaurant (outside of Japan) doesn’t mention the type of broth, or offer a selection among them, they may be less than the genuine article. I lived in New York for years, but for every shop serving some kind of Ramen (there were a few good ones) there were ten sushi bars. For some reason, Japanese cuisine has taken on this hyper-refined, hyper-expensive image abroad, and I find that regrettable.

Miso ramen
On the other hand, Ramen enjoys strong popularity with the expat community in Japan. I suspect this is because, quite apart from its objective deliciousness, it’s the most American food you can really get in Japan. I mean in spirit. When you look at the Japanese take on, say, for two examples, pasta and curry, the rule seems to be microscopic particles of meat, and a dusting of sauce. You go to bars and get served an accumulation of particles around a stick. Only with ramen do chefs seem to dare to be bigger, heartier, more fattening than the competition.
Now if anyone knows the number for an intervention hotline, please send it to me through this site before I suffer a heart attack.

Ramen Museum photo courtesy of bento.com. For many more photos and information about the museum, please visit bento.com's Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum page, as well as the official Shin-Yokohama Ramen Museum website.
Ramen photos courtesy of Wikipedia. For more information on the different types of ramen, check out the Wikipedia Ramen page.

What's your favourite kind of ramen?

For more on Jacob and his writing, visit Jacob Ritari's website.  You can also follow him on Twitter.

If you missed them, please check out his short stories:
The Sound of the Train
Maintaining Radio Silence
Fukkatsu no Jumon
City of Dreams

Read more about Jacob's debut novel, Taroko Gorge, including an excerpt, at the Unbridled Books website.

Buy Taroko Gorge at: Amazon.com | BookDepository | via IndieBound

The small print: Links in this post to Amazon, or The Book Depository contain my Associates or Affiliates ID respectively. Purchases made via these links earn me a very small commission. For more information please visit my About Page.


  1. Great post! Though I enjoy ramen, I'm more of a udon person (especially inaniwa udon!). ;)

  2. I love ramen too, but unfortunately it's difficult to find really good ramenya's in London. Boo. I hear there's a ramen revolution/revival going on in Japan right now. One ramen I really want to try when I next visit Tokyo is the green curry ramen at Bassanova. Check out Keizo's blog Go Ramen http://www.goramen.com/.

  3. One of the best parts of living in Hawaii was real ramen. Not to be had in central Pennsylvania.

  4. One of the things I miss most about Japan...along with okonomiyaki LOL! Also? I have those same bowls, love that pattern! Got 'em at Seiyu in the mid-90s.

  5. My own special Japanese snack: Miso Ramen from a packet with carrots and tuna! It breaks all rules of dining (and taste), but it is damned oishii yo :)


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