Japanese ramen is one of the most popular and famous dishes eaten in Japan. It’s a deliciously warming meal that’s made up of noodles, a rich broth, and a range of traditional toppings.
The perfect mix of flavours and ingredients within one bowl is absolute bliss for noodle fans and fast moving salarymen alike.
In this post we outline the 4 main types of Japanese ramen, and take a closer look at 10 regional types of Japanese ramen you really need to try.
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10 Regional Types of Japanese Ramen You Need To Try
There are many types of Japanese ramen. Distinguished by different flavours, regional styles, and local or seasonal ingredients, various flavour and ingredient combinations can create so many options that make this dish so diverse.
Ramen in Japan is easily accessible and notoriously cheap, available from all sorts of places like fast food chain restaurants, small family-run restaurants, convenience stores, and even Michelin-starred establishments in Japan.
When you order a bowl of ramen, you’ll get an enormous meal, often with an extra serving of noodles at no extra cost when you ask for “kaedama.”
Keep reading to learn all about the main types of Japanese ramen, plus a range of regional ramen dishes you should try.
The 4 main types of Japanese ramen broth
The concept of ramen was first introduced to Japan from China in the late 19th or early 20th century.
Since then, key flavours and regional styles have evolved to become distinguished over time. When it comes to types of Japanese ramen, the typical broth flavours that you’ll find come under 4 main flavour categories:
“Shio” in Japanese is the word for “salt”, so shio ramen is ramen with a salt-based broth. Salt-flavored ramen is one of the most popular types of Japanese ramen for its savory and satisfying salty flavour.
“Shoyu” in Japanese means “soy sauce,” so this type of ramen is made with a soy sauce base. Both light and rich, shoyu is also a popular type of broth used for Japanese ramen.
With “miso” meaning “fermented soybean paste” in Japanese, miso ramen is ramen flavored with miso in the broth. Miso ramen usually has a full flavour with an extra umami kick.
“Tonkotsu” ramen broth is made from pork bone broth. The pork bones are boiled down to give a fatty and milky or cloudy appearance. Tonkotsu is a rich style of Japanese ramen that is known for being moreish and hearty.
Visiting Japan soon and want to try them all?
If you want to get an authentic taste of some different types of Japanese ramen, you can join a ramen tasting food tour in Tokyo to try different ramen dishes with the expertise of an experienced English-speaking guide at local restaurants.
This ramen tasting tour with ramen expert Frank is a great opportunity to explore different ramen shops and learn about noodles, broths, toppings and specialties from different prefectures throughout Japan.
10 regional types of Japanese ramen you need to try
1. Hakata Ramen
Hakata Ramen hails from the Fukuoka region of southern Japan, formerly known as Hakata, a major port city.
This type of Japanese ramen combines a milky tonkotsu pork bone broth with seafood broth to create its signature flavour. Tonkotsu style ramen is especially famous in Fukuoka, with a thick and creamy broth teamed with thin Hakata style ramen noodles. You’ll normally enjoy it topped with pickled ginger, chashu pork, sesame seeds and scallions.
2. Sapporo Ramen
Sapporo, the capital city of Japan’s northernmost island of Hokkaido, other than being a foodie paradise, is known for its famous Sapporo Miso Ramen.
With a broth featuring miso and tonkotsu, it’s one of Japan’s most famous regional ramen dishes. Corn is a common topping that goes perfectly with the miso and is enhanced with a knob of locally made butter melted in the broth. Enjoy with a topping of chashu pork and bamboo shoots.
3. Taiwan Ramen
Contrary to the name, Taiwan Ramen is famous in Nagoya, a city in the Aichi prefecture of Japan.
Nagoya is one of Japan’s biggest port cities, and throughout the years has had lots of interaction with imports and immigrants in the area. Taiwan Ramen is one of Nagoya’s famous internationally inspired dishes, as a hybridized Japanese and Taiwanese take on ramen that packs a spicy punch. This ramen features doubanjiang (Chinese chili paste), bean sprouts, scallions and spicy ground pork in a soy-sauce and chicken broth with a healthy dose of miso (miso is big in Nagoya!)
4. Hakodate Ramen
A port city on the southern side of Hokkaido island, Hakodate is famous for its shio ramen.
Making the most of some of the best produce on both land and sea in Japan, Hakodate Ramen is characterized by its clear salty broth, made from a mix of chicken, pork, kelp and seafood combined to develop its signature flavour. The result is a clean, light flavour, perfect with some locally grown vegetables as the toppings.
5. Kitakata Ramen
This is another type of Japanese ramen from the Fukuoka area, but it’s famous in the northern region.
Kitakata Ramen features a shoyu soy sauce base, and is known for its signature egg noodles which are fat and wavy. Common toppings include chashu pork slices, bamboo shoots, and a slice of pink naturo (a fish cake with a pink and white swirl design).
6. Onomichi Ramen
Maximizing the fresh seafood coming from the Seto Inland Sea that Onomichi looks out onto, Onomichi’s famous ramen is known for its rich broth. The soy sauce based broth is made from both pork and chicken, and it creates a rich layer of fat floating on the top. The flavour is so famous, people travel to the city just to try it!
7. Nagasaki Champon
It’s a fusion dish with Chinese influences, made with thick egg noodles and toppings cooked together with meat, seafood and vegetables. It’s a unique but delicious take on ramen!
8. Kagoshima Ramen
Hailing from Kagoshima in the south of Japan, Kagoshima Ramen makes the most of ingredients from the local (almost tropical) area.
The broth uses a unique blend of pork, chicken, and vegetables, plus sardines and dried shiitake mushrooms. The soup is cloudy and has a mild yet delicious flavour.
SEE ALSO: Discover Kyushu
9. Wakayama Ramen
Wakayama Ramen comes from the Wakayama Prefecture. It’s common for locals to order “chuka soba,” which actually means “Chinese style noodles.”
Topped generously with scallions and fish cake, Wakayama Ramen features a blend of tonkotsu broth and soy sauce and noodles that are thin, straight and satisfying.
10. Okinawa Soba
Although it’s called “soba” which is the term for buckwheat noodles, Okinawa Soba is a special type of Japanese ramen from Japan’s southernmost area of Okinawa.
You’ll find that Okinawa Soba noodles are thicker than most ramen noodles, although not quite as thick as a standard string of plump udon noodles. Okinawan-style ramen usually has a clear based broth, and is topped with stewed pork or slices of chashu made from local specialty, black pig.
Conclusion: which ramen is best for you?
No matter what style of noodles you like, flavour of broth, or your favorite toppings, there are many types of Japanese ramen that you’ll love. Which ramen is best for you? Only you can say!
With a range of different local variants throughout Japan, you can spend a lifetime visiting different prefectures in Japan and tasting the local specialty ramen!
So, having read this guide to the best regional types of Japanese ramen, the question is: which ramen is at the top of your must try list? Let us know by leaving a comment below...
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