Tonkotsu Ramen at Ichiran

ichiran-tonkotsu-ramen

Japan is a land of many things, but the reason I’ve come here is for the food. The goal is too eat as much and as often as possible. Once I landed, it came as no surprise that I started with ramen. This quintessential staple meal in Japanese cuisine, may be one of its best. In the U.S ramen is not much more nuanced than a few flavors and different types of noodles, but in Japan, there are too many to count.

While staying in Shibuya, I made my way to one of the most popular ramen restaurants, Ichiran. Maybe a tourist spot too. Ichiran will soon, if it hasn’t already begun to break ground in New York City. Many ramen restaurants like Ichiran are run by vending machines and minimal staff. For foreigners, it’s not the easiest way to eat, but it’s the most efficient.

ichiran-vending-machine

I went to one of the two locations in Shibuya, and once you get there, you’re met by the vending machine. The way it works is you put your money in (No credit cards), pick your food, then hit the “change” button, grab your ticket, then change. At Ichiran, they have a sheet to fill out for the exact specs of your ramen. Some of the options are: spiciness, doneness of the noodles, heavy broth or light, and etc. I ordered the Tonkotsu Ramen with half boiled egg which came to under ¥1,000 or $8.

ichiran-dining-table

Once you have your ticket from the vending machine and have filled out the sheet, you’re ushered to the dining area. This looks more like a SAT test site than a place to eat, but works. Everyone has their own cubby and on the other side is someone bringing you your food. They even have a water fountain in your cubby. Efficient, if not lonely. We’ll see if this system works outside of Japan.

The ramen at Ichiran is Tonkotsu style which is a pork bone based broth. Ichiran uses homemade noodles, makes their own red spicy sauce, and carefully selects their water. This isn’t Instant Ramen. The smell of the broth is intoxicating, it’s not salty or “heavy” that is often too intense to stand for a while. The broth (Mine was medium richness) was not oily at all, but light and airy. In the states, ramen places make either too rich or not rich enough broth. The noodles (I ordered “Firm”) were right around al dente and didn’t wilt in time. Every bite was a mix of salty, spicy, and buttery. I can’t tell you if this is the best ramen, but it’s way, way better than anything you can get in the states. Duh. Also, 8 bucks and no tipping culture, make this a really great cheap eats – even if this isn’t considered “Cheap Eats” here (7-11 and Family Mart own that moniker).

Source: Ichiran

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