Kyushu Ramen: A Comparison of Fukuoka, Kumamoto and Kagoshima

Kagoshima-style ramen

Kagoshima-style ramen

Hakata ramen, also known Nagahama ramen, comes from Fukuoka and is by far the most famous style ramen from Kyushu. However, within the island of Kyushu itself, Fukuoka’s ramen is only one of the three major varieties, the other two being Kumamoto ramen and Kagoshima ramen. Although all three are forms of tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen, they have various defining characteristics that set them apart. The following is a quick summary of the characteristics of each style.

Fukuoka ramen (known as “Hakata ramen” and “Nagahama ramen”):

  • Hakata ramen has its origins in Kurume ramen, a style with a strong and rich taste (kotteri) — Kurume ramen is considered to be the original ramen of Kyushu
  • Has an oily, milky broth made by boiling pork bones at high temperatures to liquefy the innards to produce an incredibly rich taste and strong stench that can make Hakata ramen a bit difficult at first for inexperienced diners
  • Uses ultra-thin, straight, firm noodles
  • The concept of kaedama, which involves paying a small fee to get a refill of noodles to put in your remaining soup after finishing the first serving, is a unique concept originating from Fukuoka
  • Few or no additional ingredients are used in addition to soup, noodles, chashu pork and green onions, as shops rely on the quality of these basic ingredients to showcase the talents of the chef

Kumamoto ramen:

  • Like Hakata ramen, Kumamoto ramen also has its origins in Kurume ramen, the original Kyushu ramen
  • This ramen style features a strong flavor similar to its Kurume predecessor, but without the oily taste that characterizes Hakata ramen, making it a bit easier to eat for diners who are not used to strong-tasting ramen broth
  • Seasoned with garlic chips and sesame oil to give it a pleasing fragrance and make potential customers hungry
  • Uses rather thick, straight, firm (sometimes even chewy) noodles
  • Most Kumamoto ramen shops do not utilize the kaedama noodle-refill system found in Fukuoka

Kagoshima ramen:

  • Kagoshima ramen is the only Kyushu ramen that did not originate from Kurume, and it was not influenced by Kurume ramen during the course of its development
  • Rather than pure pork-bone (tonkotsu) soup, pork bones are used together with chicken bones, vegetables, kelp and/or other ingredients to make a mixed soup, resulting in a lighter and less greasy taste than the other styles of Kyushu ramen
  • Kurobuta (Berkshire pork), a famous product of Kagoshima, is often used (bones for making broth, chashu pork added to the finished dish, etc.)
  • The noodles are often medium-thick and resemble Okinawa-style soba, and they are usually made without using kansui (a type of alkaline mineral water that gives most ramen noodles their yellowish hue)
  • Pickles (tsukemono) are usually served alongside ramen in Kagoshima
  • Many shops in Kagoshima have traditionally included miso ramen (a style rarely seen in Kyushu) on their menus in addition to tonkatsu-base ramens
  • Although ramen shops in Fukuoka and Kumamoto are differentiated by subtle variations in the same basic styles of ramen, shops in Kagoshima are unique in the wide variety of ramen types available overall

Check out the Finding Fukuoka ramen guide for a list of recommended ramen shops in Fukuoka City.

Image provided by Wikimedia Commons
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