Roam’n For Ramen

We are sitting at the “bar” of a tiny restaurant in Ramen Alley watching the proud owner/chef prepare our chosen feast of ramen noodles.  While we wait we sip our cold, crisp Hokkaido beer and watch Japan’s favourite sport (baseball) on a tiny TV mounted in the corner. Outside, the busy alleyway is full of prospective diners and gawking tourists – this little area of Sapporo is a must see/must eat at place.

Ramen noodles are made from fresh wheat and they are usually served in a steaming bowl of broth and topped with a variety of tasty toppings.  The broth can be salt based (shio), soy based (shouyu) and even pork bone (tonkotsu).  Hokkaido’s miso-based broth is unique to the island and it can be described as hearty, garlicky and slightly nutty – perfect in the harsh Hokkaido winters.

Our smiling chef hands over the huge bowls of hot ramen and we thank him in our best Japanese (“Doumo arigatou“).  We wait a while for the temperature of the broth to drop before we start savouring this chef’s unique dish – it seems that every chef has his own secret blend.

The history of ramen in Sapporo dates back to the 1920′s.  Apparently “lo mein” noodles were served at a Chinese cafe located in front of the Hokkaido University.  After World War II more and more ramen shops opened up around Sapporo as Japanese troops familiar with Chinese cuisine returned from the war.

Ramen is now a Japanese cultural icon and many of them win international awards.  However, if you ask around town which ramen shop is the best you will get hundreds of different answers – each person has their favourite.

Tonight, we think we have picked the best ramen restaurant in town.  The noodles and Japanese dumplings are outstanding and the locally brewed ale compliments the servings perfectly.

After finishing our noodles we compliment the chef with: “totomo oishi” (very good), bow our heads in thanks and slip between the flapping linen door covers out into the mid-summer evening air.  Like two sated ducks we waddle off in the direction of our hotel, licking our lips as we go.

Thanks to Suzanne Yonesaka (Hokkai-Gakuen University) for some of content of this article.  Suzanne’s excellent article appeared in a JR Hokkaido publication we read whilst travelling around Hokkaido.

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