Written by Jasmine O
A Taste Of Local Ramen - Tour Tokyo's Hidden Restaurants With An Expert
Eat at Tokyo's best ramen shops guided by a local passionate about all things ramen. Participants will learn about this soul food and eat at local spots in Asakusa, Ikebukuro, Shibuya, and other areas. This tour can also include vegetarian and vegan options (inquire about private tours).
Ramen Tour - A Tasty Lesson on Japan's Soul Food
Ramen is undoubtedly a favorite food of everyone in Japan and on the must-try list of nearly all travelers. With ramen shops in every nearly every city and town in Japan around five thousand ramen restaurants in Tokyo alone, it can seem daunting to choose where to go.
byFood offers tours of everything Japanese cuisine-related, including this mouthwatering dish. Tours offer foodies and those looking for a special experience a great chance to learn and eat more good food in Japan. This article covers a tour of ramen restaurants with Frank, a guide native to Tokyo working with byFood.
1. Meet Up for Coffee and a Ramen Quiz
This ramen tour given by Frank is around two hours long and consists of two parts: education and eating.
Head first to the pre-arranged meeting place (mine was right outside of Nakameguro Station) to meet Frank and find a coffee shop to chat at. After introductions and ordering your beverage, Frank will go into detail about the tour.
With a strong love for ramen since a young age, Frank's passion and knowledge about all things ramen comes through when you first speak. He has ramen on a regular basis and actively seeks out new menus and restaurants cooking this noodle dish well, visiting restaurants all over Tokyo and Japan.
The first hour starts off with a short--but difficult--quiz on ramen. Don't worry about getting any questions wrong. After going over the correct answers, you will get an adorable sticker to show that you participated.
2. Learn All About Ramen
Next, you will learn in-depth about ramen, from its basic ingredients and the types of dashi broth used, to the many types of ramen you can try in Japan. Be sure to converse freely with Frank; he is more than happy to answer any questions you have.
The explanation of ingredients and types of ramen noodles is particularly interesting. Kansui, or lye water used for the noodles, a compound of sodium carbonate and potassium carbonate, helps bind them and make them stretchy and is the main component makes ramen noodles so springy. This is different than Japanese soba and udon, two other popular styles of noodles.
Even for those with some familiarity with ramen, Frank has a lot of great perspectives and insight. His passion shines throughout the conversation and presentation.
The last portion of the talk covers local restaurants and reviews of each, which includes everything from the taste of the soup to the noodles and creativity. You'll feel hungry and be ready for a fresh bowl of ramen at the end!
3. Decide on a Ramen Restaurant
For the dining experience, tour participants will decide on one restaurant to visit and order from out of Frank's suggestions. After deciding on a restaurant, you will be guided to the restaurant's location. We walked through Shibuya's famous scramble crossing to Shinbu Sakiya, a highly-regarded ramen shop a few minutes away from Shibuya Station.
Shinbu Sakiya is a few minutes walking from Shibuya Station. Shinbu Sakiya is a ramen shop with multiple locations in Japan and overseas, popular for its unique broiled miso ramen with a smoky, hearty flavor. The restaurant is recommended by Frank and a favorite of many locals.
Shinbu Sakiya is also known for providing a lot of options for diners. There are vegetarian and vegan-friendly options on the menu: miso, shoyu (soy sauce), and shio (salt). There is also non-pork ramen and also gluten-free noodles. In addition, when you order you can donate a small extra amount for charity helping improve education conditions in southeast Asia.
4. Order and Eat Your Ramen
Order from a digital menu with English support. Picture courtesy of Shinbu Sakiya.
Shinbu Sakiya has a digital vending machine right by the front door. Place your order first here (the menu is available in multiple languages, including English); we ordered the vegan miso ramen and vegan shoyu ramen to try their plant-based options. Take your order ticket inside and hand it to the staff.
There are two floors of the restaurant. The upper floor (pictured above) has tables and plenty of seating, comfortable for larger parties.
Both orders came out quickly; pictured above is the vegan miso ramen. The soup has a hearty miso flavor with hints of smokiness and a deep flavor. The toppings of vegetables, ginger, and sesame complement the broth.
Pickled menma (bamboo shoots) laid on the soup are cut thick and taste delicious, and the bright corn, common in miso ramen, adds the right amount of sweetness and flavor. The noodles we enjoyed were flavorful, made from brown rice.
The other ramen ordered was the vegan shoyu ramen. Despite its similar appearance to the miso ramen, the taste is noticeably different. The soy sauce flavor and smokiness was much more pronounced, and spices add an extra kick to the soy sauce flavor. Topped with the same fresh, crispy vegetables and thick menma, the bowl has a lot of variety of flavors. Brown rice noodles are used in this dish too, providing extra depth and interest to the dish.
Both bowls were large and satisfying portions; you'll be wanting to visit the shop again.
How to Join the Tour
Frank's two-hour tours through byFood are generally offered on Mondays and Fridays. On Monday mornings (10:30 to 12:30), Frank gives tours in the Nakameguro, Shibuya, and Ebisu areas of Tokyo. On Fridays, he offers them twice a day; 10:00 to 12:00 in Shinjuku, and 18:30 to 20:30 in Asakusa. He can also guide people around Ginza and Ikebukuro upon request.
Diners wanting to try vegetarian and vegan options should inquire about private tours.
Book a byFood tour to learn in-depth about ramen; Frank's tour provides a valuable chance to visit hidden ramen shops most travelers and even locals don't know about.
byFood - Discover Ramen and Japan's Deep Food Culture
byFood offers food tours, cooking classes, and food-related activities in Tokyo, Kyoto, Osaka, Sendai, Ishikawa, and other prefectures in Japan. All experiences are international traveler and participant-friendly, providing instruction, education, and delicious entertainment all can enjoy.
Tours can be customized and are available for those on all types of budgets, making it easy to find an experience right for you. There are also several dietary preferences that tours can accommodate, such as vegetarian and vegan, halal, kosher, and gluten-free.
In addition, a portion of the proceeds from byFood go to a charity (varies each month), so you can feel good that your purchase is going back to the community.
For a tasty, firsthand experience of Japanese cuisine, be sure to try a tour. See more information on the official byFood website.
In cooperation with byFood