I swear by Japanese food, and I do not even think I am exaggerating. I just had a 10 days long pilgrimage in Kyushu, Japan which I can’t wait to share some of the best food I tried on my trip. Food aside, the travel experience is fantastic as well, partially because I am fond of understated regions and cities in a country. I like the fact that Kyushu is less popular compared to Kanto or Kansai regions, yet I think it offers an equally, if not more enriching experience than the other two regions which I have been before.
To kick start the awesome Kyushu food experience, I tried two of the best ramen in Fukuoka in my opinion.
We had some difficulty locating Ichiran Ramen outlet in Tenjin, Fukuoka which is the main shopping district around Hakata. It is located in a small alley with the signature red Ichiran signboard. The experience of ordering the ramen at Ichiran is extremely seamless. There is a vending machine lookalike counter where you select your choice of ramen, additional toppings and drinks. A coupon is issued once you have made payment at the machine. We were directed to our seats by a staff, and I was surprised by how private the set up of the restaurant is. We were each seated at a cubicle style table where there is a wooden partition between each customer. The best thing is that you can choose to unfold the partition if you choose to have eye contact with your friend, or you can simply choose to dine in a recluse style which is quite refreshing as well.
It’s customisation at its best at Ichiran Ramen. Once seated, I had to fill up a form which I can further customise my ramen, such as the firmness of the noodle texture, option to add spring onions (thin or thick), thickness of the broth as well as the Ichiran red sauce.
The staff then collects my form through an opening in front of me, which within minutes, my ramen is served through the same opening and a wooden curtain is drawn down. I thought that it is extremely cool in the whole ordering process, which is efficient and it does not even occur to me that the service is slipshod. If you need to re-order or ask for any refill, simply press a button on the desk and the curtain will be drawn up by the staff to attend to your needs. I totally love how private the whole dining experience is.
Of course, the most important question comes now. Is the ramen really that good?
A big yes from me and there are a few reasons which I concluded from my first bowl of Ichiran Ramen. The tonkotsu (pork bone) broth is the main winning formula here, as I sip every bit of it. It is so tasty that it feels like the broth has been boiled for ages. Next is the noodle texture, which I think is perfect, not too firm yet chewy enough to stomach effortlessly. The sliced pork is to-die-for as well, as it melts in the mouth with the broth. The unique red sauce is the final ingredient which seals the quality of the ramen at Ichiran. It has a tinge of spiciness yet not too overbearing, and the best part is that it actually compliments the overall taste of the ramen.
My only wish now is for Ichiran Ramen to open in Singapore soon, since it has already made its debut in Hong Kong. Till then, I can’t wait!
Where: 1-10-15 Tenjin Chuo-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken 810-0001
2 minute walk from Tenjin Subway Station (Higashi Exit E6)
When: 10am to 12am daily
How Much: S$10-15
I am fully aware that we have Ippudo Ramen in Singapore and it is probably not something new to most Singaporeans. But do you know that the first Ippudo Ramen outlet is in Hakata since 1985? I was really excited to check out the original Ippudo outlet in Hakata that it is right at the top of my checklist.
This outlet near Tenjin subway is much easier to locate than Ichiran Ramen, just be sure to remember the map of Tenjin in your mind. The shop is located in one of the small roads and it looks quite small from the outside. The ordering process is much more like Singapore, where you just browse the menu and inform the staff of your orders.
I had the original ramen (700 Yen) as this is probably the most authentic taste. Similar to Ichiran Ramen, it is tonkotsu broth which has a strong flavour to it. The sliced pork is very tasty as well, though it does not quite melt in the mouth as the Ichiran version. The noodle texture is chewy and I think the serving is just right as well for the price I am paying.
Where: 1 Chome-13-14 Daimyō, Chūō-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Fukuoka-ken
When: 11am to 11pm daily
How Much: S$9-15
If I were to choose which Ramen is better, my vote goes to Ichiran Ramen. The overall experience surpasses that of Ippudo, and I also prefer the customisation and the tonkotsu broth of Ichiran better.