(Read the full ramen guide here)
Hakata Ramen is widely known as the best tonkotsu (pork bone broth) ramen in Japan, and it is easily Fukuoka’s most famous food (with mentaiko likely coming in as a close second). Handmade noodles, rich-and-oily broth, savory slabs of chashu pork and ingredients arranged with simple refinement define this delicious dish. Here on Finding Fukuoka, I will introduce you to some of the best ramen joints in town, three shops at a time — that way you try them as I post them, and you won’t be overwhelmed by an overabundance of choices. Of course I only recommend top-quality shops that I have eaten at myself.
A note to readers: I will sometimes use the terms assari and kotteri to describe the taste of the ramen’s broth. Assari means light and simple, easy to eat, while kotteri means heavy, rich, oily or filling. Ramen is often described in reference to how assari or kotteri it is, with much of Fukuoka’s ramen landing on the kotteri end of the spectrum.
I mentioned the low-cost ramen shop Hakata Ramen Zen in my first installation of The Best of Fukuoka’s Ramen, and this time I want to follow up with another budget option: Toraya. Like most shops in town, Toraya specializes in tonkotsu (pork bone) base ramen, but with a catch: a bowl of ramen only costs 300 yen! Although this is 20 yen more expensive than Hakata Ramen Zen, I think you get more for your money. Again, this is mainly a budget option, and it may not be up to the standards of the top ramen shops in town, but it’s perfect for a quick bite at lunch or after a night out. Additional side dishes are also inexpensive, and lunchtime discounts (11:30 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.) are offered, as well.
Access: The Watanabe-dori shop is 5 min. on foot from Yakuin Station (Nishitetsu Omuta Line, Nanakuma Subway Line) and Watanabe-dori Station (Nanakuma Subway Line). The Hirao shop is 7-10 min. on foot from Hirao Station (Nishitetsu Omuta Line).
Hours: 11:30 a.m. (morning) to 12:30 a.m. (night)
Click here to see locations on Google Maps for the Watanabe-dori shop and Hirao shop
Ramen Stadium (ラーメンスタジアム)
This isn’t a ramen shop, but rather a collection of ramen shops located in a special section of the Canal City shopping complex. Ramen from different regions of Japan can be enjoyed here, with four of the nine current shops serving Hakata ramen and others offering ramen from other parts of Kyushu and beyond. Of particular interest are the popular Karadaruma (辛だるま), which uses seafood or tonkotsu soup combined with spicy miso and thin Hakata-style noodles; Toyama Black Menya Iroha (富山ブラック 面家いろは) featuring whole wheat flour noodles swimming in a deep-black soy-sauce-base soup with a surprisingly light (assari) flavor; and Kagoshima Ramen Tontoro (鹿児島ラーメン 豚とろ), a Kagoshima-based shop with flavorful tonkotsu soup and (not surprisingly) extremely tasty chashu pork slices. The best part about ramen stadium is the opportunity it provides to compare widely varying ramen flavors from different regions all in one place. Note that shops change from time to time.
Access: 3 min. on foot from Canal City Hakata-mae bus stop on the 100-yen “Green” loop bus (5 min. ride from Hakata Station, 7 min. ride from Tenjin), 7-10 min. on foot from exit 5 of Nakasu-Kawabata Station or exit 3 of Gion Station (Kuko Subway Line), and 15 min. on foot from the Hakata-guchi exit (“Hakata Gate”) of Hakata Station
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. (may vary by shop)
Click here to see location on Google Maps
Kurume Ramen Ippo (久留米ラーメン 一砲)
This shop’s owner gained valuable experience working in the famous Taiho Ramen (大砲ラーメン) chain from Kurume and opened Ippo after receiving permission from Taiho’s owner. Rich, meaty, garlicky broth, combined with noodles made to match and just the right balance of ingredients makes for some delicious eats at Ippo. With Kurume origins (a place some consider to be the ramen mecca of Fukuoka Prefecture), the soup is particularly kotteri and flavorful. Furthermore, Ippo’s ramen is absolutely perfect after you’ve had a few too many drinks and, like most Fukuokans, crave a hot bowl of savory ramen — its location in Haruyoshi, near both Tenjin and Nakasu, makes it convenient for this purpose.
Access: 3-5 min. on foot from Tenjin-minami Station (Nanakuma Subway Line), and 7-10 min. on foot from Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station (Nishitetsu Omuta Line) and Tenjin Station (Kuko Subway Line)
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m.
Click here to see location on Google Maps