While living south of Tokyo for a couple of years, I found that I really enjoyed a good bowl of ramen.
Ramen comes in so many variations I doubt you can do more than classify it in general terms. Each cook tends to do it a little differently. There are different regional styles in Japan and different meats or vegetibles.
Find one that catches your pallet and enjoy!
While traveling I always look for a few great little places to eat. And comfort food is always high on my list of things to find.
You could think of it as trying to find the perfect Pizza or the best Cheeseburger. Everywhere I go I try to find a place to enjoy one of the above. It is usually a tough search, especially when you don’t speak the language, have a car, or a lot of time.
Some background links on an excellent dish.
Types of Ramen
Asahikawa Ramen (Soy sauce based broth)
Kitakata Ramen (Thick noodles)
Hiyashi Ramen (Chilled)
Miso Ramen (Fermented soybean paste based broth)
Tonkostu Ramen (Pork-bone)
Tori Ramen (Chicken stock)
Most varieties are based on pork or chicken. Historically Japan never had a lot of beef. However, this meal is now international and you can find variations in every country.
I would suggest starting with the Miso Ramen with Pork. Then experiment on different lunch excursions.
The Ramen Girl
This was a cute little movie starring Brittany Murphy. The title was “The Ramen Girl”. It was released in 2009 and I doubt it made a very big splash.
The director, writers or both made some poor decisions in this movie along with some good choices. One of the best aspects of this movie was they allowed the Japanese characters to actually speak natively and subtitled their dialog. That was refreshing. It added to the stress Abby, the lead character, was feeling as she tried to communicate with her teacher chef Maezumi.
Two poor choices were the introduction of the character Gretchen who is killed by the Japanese Mafia (The Yakuza). The other part was the lead romantic part was cast for a Korean instead of a Japanese male. It didn’t add to the narrative and left me a little flat on the story. This was a story on Japanese culture and the stereotypes we both share. The writers tried to do too much by adding a Korean aspect to the story.
This movie tried to be a love story, and a story about finding yourself in life. It was meant to be very light hearted. The director went from being serious, to fantasy when they added several magical elements to the story. Abby was called to the shop by the light of a lantern and the happy cat. When they messaged her she found a new direction in life. The alternate ending also had that Fairy Godmother touch in it as well.
Please don’t watch this expecting a serious drama. Keep it light Which is why I hated when the writers adding Gretchen’s character to the story. It broke with the feel of the movie.
Ms. Murphy was a wonderful actress. Her movies were usually well delivered and with several positive moments. She also had a wonderful singing voice. You probably heard her singing Somebody To Love and Boogieland in the movie Happy Feet. She was the voice of Gloria in the movie. Her career was cut far too short with her death in 2009. What a terrible loss for her family and fans.
Here is a scene from the movie where she is being taught by her sensei on how to cook ramen.
The real message wasn’t how to cook ramen, it was to put your heart and passion into your work. To move beyond being self-centered and to put everything into your work as an expression of who you are. To give of yourself and provide a service to those around you.
The constant battle between Abby and Maezumi showed our inability to communicate on so many levels. What started as a complete lack of understanding grew over the year into respect between both characters.
Here is a picture of Ms. Murphy with co-star Toshiyuki Nishida.
Another movie that touches on Japanese Ramen is the 1985 film called Tampopo. It is about a truck driver who starts helping in a family run diner. Since it is not on iTunes, I am unable to download a copy. This one will have to wait until my walkabout comes to an end.
The Best Ramen
I tried a couple of Ramen shops here. Mostly they either served it as a side dish, or it was a chain.
Runner up was in Bangkok, Thailand. A very well run restaurant that served a great bowl of Ramen. Their other entries were excellent as well.
19/5-6 Sukhumvit soi 19
+66 (0)2 255 2057
You are paying for the service here and not a cheap meal. There are a lot of cheap places to eat, this is a restaurant run Japanese style. The majority of their clientele are Japanese businessmen working in Thailand. The staff are either Japanese or Thai who are fluent in Japanese. I was the only Gaijin in the place except for the staff.
Here is another blogger’s review:
A Few Hurried Days in Bangkok
Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
The best I have had was in Vancouver. I tried almost a dozen Japanese restaurants while I was there. However, I kept coming back to Kintaro Ramen. The food was excellent. Get there early before the lunch crowd. There is a line down the block when peak hour hits. People stand in the rain to get a bowl of ramen here.
788 Denman Street, Vancouver, BC V6G 2L5, Canada
This is a very small shop. You will be ushered out after your meal so people can get in off of the street. A very fast turn over. Don’t bring a large party, anything more than two people and you will be hard pressed to sit together.
One very nice meal!