Fukuoka, Japan might lose the popularity contest to the likes of Tokyo and Kyoto, but when it comes to Japanese ramen, this beautiful, quiet prefecture more than holds its own. The gem of Fukuoka cuisine is, without a doubt, its famous Hakata ramen dish, which takes its name from the ward (district) where it originated. Hakata ramen has been well known throughout Japan for decades and more recently has been gaining popularity worldwide.
The hallmark of Hakata ramen is its rich, flavorful tonkotsu broth, or pork bone broth. This soup base is made using carefully selected ingredients including cuts of pork bone and cartilage, which are cleaned and then boiled for many hours. The result is a thick, creamy broth with a consistency very similar to milk, despite containing no dairy whatsoever.
The tonkotsu broth typically has a frothy appearance — the bubbles are formed by the air being trapped by the collagen content of the broth. Flavors are strong yet complex: a very subtle sweetness underneath saltiness.
The actual ramen noodles are typically thin and straight. The thin noodles let you get more of the soup broth with each mouthful, while the texture of the noodles perfectly complements the rich broth.
Often, Hakata ramen comes topped by slices of cha-shu, or braised pork (usually either belly or shoulder). These delicately seasoned slices will be tender and full of fat, adding yet another element of texture to the experience.
Soft Boiled Egg
You can also choose to add some ajitama, or seasoned soft-boiled egg, to your meal, to make it even more satisfying. Other common toppings are chives, green onion, scallions, sliced kikurage (wood ear mushrooms), and nori (seaweed sheets); some restaurants will let you customize your toppings. Those who like things spicy will be happy to find that many shops either allow you to set your spice level or at least have a spicy variant on the menu.
Where to find Hakata Ramen
You will always be able to find a ramen shop across Hakata and the rest of Fukuoka. However, if you wish to stick with the tried and true, you have some options, the most famous Hakata ramen restaurant is Ichiran. The iconic Ichiran building towers over downtown Hakata and draws tourists not only from Japan but also from around the world. Other well-known Hakata ramen franchises that make Hakata-style ramen are Ikkousha and Ippudo.