Japan's beloved noodle dish, ramen, no longer taking a back seat to sushi, has also become a Japanese food famous around the world.
The secret to its popularity isn't just its delicious taste but also the countless variations of ramen found in each region of Japan. In today's article, from the many kinds of ramen found throughout the country, we introduce local varieties found in Miyagi, Okinawa, Yamagata and Tottori prefectures with mouth-watering videos to go along with each one of them.
1. Yamagata Prefecture - Ramen Variations Galore!
Located in the Tohoku region, Yamagata prefecture is known as the ramen capital of Japan. According to a survey (Statistics Bureau of Japan, NTT Town page), Yamagata prefecture is tops in Japan when it comes to the number of ramen shops per population and ramen consumption per household.
As a result, within the prefecture there are characteristic types of ramen differing from area to area and from shop to shop. In the next section we'll introduce some of them to you.
Sakata city is a municipality facing the ocean. For this reason, the ramen in Sakata city is characterized by a soup made from tobio (flying fish) and other kinds of fish, and also seafood. As many as 80% of the ramen shops here serve home made noodles, so sampling the different kinds might be a fun way to spend your day!
Tori Motsu Ramen
Shinjo city's tori motsu ramen is a local dish that's made from chicken stock and topped with chicken offal meat. The lightly seasoned soup goes together well with the slightly chewy texture of the chicken offal.
Hiyashi ramen made its debut in 1952 in Yamagata city. This is a cold ramen containing ice cubes in the soup! Due to the popularity of hiyashi ramen, ramen consumption here in Yamagata maintains an even keel even during the hot months of summer.
Akayu Karamiso Ramen
A famous dish in Nan-yo city, akayu karamiso ramen is topped with aonori seaweed and spicy miso. For those of you who like a spicy flavor, by all means savor this delicious local ramen.
Yonezawa ramen with its uniquely thin and curly noodles is a local favorite in Yonezawa city. The soup is perfect for those customers who like a simple and lightly seasoned taste.
2. Tottori Prefecture - Get Hooked on Gyukotsu Ramen
For the last 60 years, quietly and without attracting notice or attention, the residents of Tottori prefecture have been eating their favorite local dish, gyukotsu ramen. Made from beef bones, the clear soup has an exquisite golden color to it. This ramen, with the aroma and sweetness that only beef can provide, has a gentle and simple flavor. First timers might be surprised when they eat gyukotsu ramen, because curiously, it has a somewhat familiar and nostalgic kind of taste.
3. Miyagi Prefecture - Long Lineups at Menbu Suginoya
Menbu Suginoya is a ramen shop in Miyagi prefecture's Natori city. This is a hugely popular shop, with lineups of 40-50 people on Saturdays and Sundays.
Owner Yoshitoshi Sugiyama, who trained at both a kappo-style restaurant and a noodle making shop, says that even nowadays about 2 or 3 times a week, he goes around sampling ramen at various shops in Miyagi prefecture.
The soup stock is made from tai (sea bream), dried sardines and other kinds of fish. He uses an additional ten varieties of ingredients, all which help to enhance the flavor of the sea bream which by itself tends to have a slightly weak taste. The sea bream dashi shoyu (stock with soy sauce) and the home made noodles are a good match for each other, bringing out all the flavors and making this a first rate dish.
Address: Miyagi, Nanori city, Tako Shinmei 180-1
4. Okinawa Prefecture - More Than Just Okinawan Soba!
Okinawan soba is a famous local speciality and often comes to mind when someone mentions Okinawa, but actually we'd also like to recommend the area's ramen.
Ramen in Okinawa has continued to evolve and develop over the years, showcasing variations not usually found in other regions of the country, such as ramen topped with mabo dofu*. Savor the unique flavors and ingredients of Okinawa ramen.
*Mabo dofu is a dish originally from China, in which tofu, ground pork, green onions and other ingredients are simmered in a spicy sauce.
Throughout Japan, each region has its own distinct brand of ramen. There are so many kinds that it's highly unusual to find someone who has tasted them all, even among Japanese people.
If you plan on eating ramen in Japan, we recommend postponing the famous tourist spots like Tokyo and Kyoto, and instead venturing out to the different regions where you're bound to find a delicious ramen that suits your own individual taste!
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