Fukuoka Ramen Guide

Ramen

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. In this section, I will introduce you to some of the best ramen shops in town.

The following is a list of recommended ramen shops in Fukuoka that have appeared in previous posts. I have also included a “ramen tutorial” for people who are unfamiliar with the dish. Shops are listed in alphabetical order, not by preference.

Ramen Tutorial

Real ramen is a meal in itself, and unlike instant noodles, there is an art to making it. It is a hard dish to prepare well, and the combinations of ingredients and flavors are almost endless. Ramen varies greatly by region as well as by cook.

  • Broth: The soup is the foundation of the ramen, and a ramen with bad broth cannot be considered good ramen. The four most common types of soup bases are shoyu (soy sauce), miso, shio (salt), and tonkotsu (pork-bone soup), with most shops in Fukuoka serving tonkotsu or combinations of tonkotsu and other broth types (chicken, sesame, shoyu, etc.).
  • Noodles: Noodles are another factor that can make or break a bowl of ramen, although average-tasting noodles can sometimes be partially compensated for by good soup and chashu pork. Noodles shipped in from a mass supplier tend to be the least impressive, while noodles hand-made in the shop (almost never the case with chain shops) are obviously the tastiest. Noodle thickness varies by shop and region. When you order, you can request hard, soft or regular noodles. Note that a second order of noodles only can be ordered if you have eaten everything but the broth and are still feeling hungry (this is called kaedama, and it is a unique Fukuoka tradition not found in some parts of Japan).
  • Toppings: The most common toppings for ramen are nori (dried seaweed), chashu (thick, fatty pork slices), kamaboko (slices of fish cake), moyashi (bean sprouts), onions, green onions, shinachiku (seasoned bamboo shoots), mushrooms, beni shoga (red ginger strips pickled in umezu), and boiled eggs. Corn is occasionally added, and unexpected ingredients appear at less conventional shops—with ramen, anything goes. The quality of ingredients can drastically change the overall quality of the dish: a bad balance, poor-quality meat, or piles of cheap vegetables used to hide cheap noodles and bad broth can result in an unbearably awful bowl of ramen. On the other hand, a perfect blend of fine ingredients in the right amounts makes for some of the best food you’ve ever tasted. Fukuoka tends to have only a minimal selection of toppings, emphasizing instead the quality of the broth and the noodles to complete the dish.
  • Assari and Kotteri: The following descriptions make use of the terms assari (あっさり) and kotteri (こってり) 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.

  • Hot or cold (and tsukemen): Ramen is often served hot, but there is also the option of eating reimen, which is very similar but served with cold noodles and cold soup in two separate dishes. Cold noodles really hit the spot during the hot, humid summer months, when hot ramen may be too much to bear. When the noodles are separate from the soup, it is called tsukemen, in which case you dip the noodles in the soup before eating them.
  • How to eat: Your ramen will come with a spoon and chopsticks, and there will be condiments such as garlic, ginger, beni shoga, sauces and spices on the counter in front of you. Add whatever you like, and sample the soup first if you want to by using the spoon. When you eat the noodles, use your chopsticks to bring them to your mouth, and then suck them in using your throat, rather than your lips—this is important, as using your throat (using lung power) will move the noodles down quickly and cool them as a result. It’s perfectly normal to make slurping sounds when you eat ramen in Japan, and the abovementioned method usually produces such noises. After eating the noodles and toppings, it’s also fine to pick up the bowl and drink the remaining soup directly from it. While many countries don’t have such eating customs, there is no reason to feel self-conscious or nervous when doing these things in a Japan. People may even be impressed that you know how to eat like a local!

Recommended Ramen Shops

Ganso Nagahamaya (元祖 長浜屋)

A long-established (1952) and much-loved ramen shop in Nagahama, one of Fukuoka’s most famous ramen districts, Ganso Nagahamaya serves simple, straightforward tonkotsu ramen that will leave your tummy feeling happy. It’s the kind of the shop that everyone in town knows, and many of Fukuoka’s long-time residents (taxi drivers, for instance) will have a story or two to tell about Nagahamaya. This shop also has a unique order system — in that you will be asked for your order the second you walk in the door (the basic, 400-yen “ramen” is a safe bet if you don’t have an immediate answer ready).

Access: Near Minato 1-chome bus stop, which can be reached using bus 61 or 68 from Tenjin (8–12 min.) or bus 68 from Hakata Station (25 min.). You can also walk from Akasaka Station (Kuko Subway Line, 10 min. on foot from exit 1). It is located near the yatai food stands in Nagahama.
Hours: generally from 4:00 a.m. to 1:45 a.m. the next day (sometimes later)
Click here to see location on Google Maps

Ganso Pikaichi (元祖 ぴかいち)

Despite the lack of restaurants in the vicinity of the Hakata Station complex and its underground shopping arcades, Pikaichi truly shines as not only one of the neighborhood’s best places to eat, but as one of the best ramen shops in Fukuoka City. Their wonton ramen features a rich taste, soft and savory Chinese wonton dumplings and delicious slices of chashu pork for a unique fusion of Chinese and Japanese flavors. Their sara-udonchampon and super-spicy tantanmen Chinese-style noodle dishes are also popular among people living and working nearby (bring a towel if you order the tantanmen). Like most local ramen shops, the noodles are handmade — a major difference if you are used to eating the mass-produced noodles used by large ramen chains.

Access: 5 min. walk from Hakata Station (JR lines, Kuko Subway Line)
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. (last order at 7:45 p.m.), closed on Sundays
Click here to see location on Google Maps

Hakata Ramen Zen (博多ラーメン 膳)

With its Fukuoka City branch conveniently located in central Tenjin, this shop is famous for one thing: it’s absurdly low prices. At Hakata Ramen Zen, you can enjoy a bowl of tonkotsu ramen for a mere 280 yen! I had doubts about the quality of the ramen when I first heard about this shop, and while it’s not up to the standards of the top shops in town, Zen’s flavorful, genuine Hakata-ramen taste won’t disappoint even locals. The shop is particularly good for students and expats on a budget. Have a visit for yourself — you’ll be surprised at just how good 280 ramen can taste in Fukuoka!

Access: 2-3 min. walk from Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station (Nishitetsu Omuta Line) and Tenjin Station (Kuko Subway Line)
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to midnight
Click here to see location on Google Maps

Kurume Taiho Ramen (久留米 大砲ラーメン)

In response to popular demand from Fukuoka City residents, Taiho opened a Tenjin/Imaizumi branch of this ultra-famous Kurume ramen shop in 2007, and the restaurant has seen no shortage of customers since. The creamy, rich tonkotsu soup provides what many customers describe as a classic (even nostalgic) ramen taste. Taiho is likely Fukuoka’s most well-known shop from Kurume (a southern suburb of Fukuoka), and considering how famous Kurume ramen is, that says something about the impact their food has made on hungry customers throughout the prefecture.

Access: 2-3 min. on foot from Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station (Nishitetsu Tenjin-Omuta Line) and Tenjin-minami Station (Nanakuma Subway Line), and 7-10 min. on foot from Tenjin Station (Kuko Subway Line)
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to midnight
Click here to see location on Google Maps

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

Toraya (とらや)

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

Shin Shin (シンシン)

Without a doubt, this is one of of the best ramen shops you will ever visit. Shin Shin is Hakata ramen that anyone can eat — a soup that is just heavy enough to be popular among kotteri-loving Fukuokans and light enough to make it highly accessible to out-of-towners who are used to lighter (more assari) soups. The noodles are superb, and the ingredients placed on top perfectly complement the ramen’s taste. The shop’s goma (sesame) ramen provides something a little different: its thick, black broth has an almost overpowering sesame fragrance and an equally taste, so even heavy eaters will find it challenging to finish an entire bowl. Shin Shin is located near Oyafukodori and open late, so you can pop in after a night out in Tenjin.

Access: 3 min. walk from from Tenjin Station (Kuko Subway Line) and a 5 min. walk from Nishitetsu Fukuoka (Tenjin) Station (Nishitetsu Omuta Line)
Hours: 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 a.m., closed on Sundays
Click here to see location on Google Maps

(Top photo provided by Wikimedia Commons)

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