TOKYO | Ramen is one of Japan’s most recognisable dishes, loved by people around the world. It’s a very simple dish – a bowl of soy and/or miso flavoured meat or fish stock broth filled with wheat noodles and toppings. Common toppings include sliced chasu pork, nori (dried seaweed), scallions, and a poached egg.
Ramen is one of the most popular comfort foods in Japan and the flexibility in what ramen can be beyond the basic definition means that there’s a lot of variety. The 4 main types of ramen are:
- Shio (salt). A pale, clear broth seasoned with salt. Chicken, vegetables, fish and seaweed are most commonly used. Noodles are of varying thickness.
- Tonkotsu (pork bone). A thick, cloudy broth. Pork bones are left to simmer for several hours which allows the fat and collagen to break down and give the broth a strong pork flavour and a silky texture. Thin noodles are used.
- Shōyu (soy sauce). A clear brown vegetable and/or chicken based broth that is heavily flavoured with soy sauce. Generally curly noodles or thin noodles are used.
- Miso. Miso is added to an oily chicken/fish broth (and sometimes pork bones) which gives it a thick consistency and nutty, tangy flavour. Thick, curly noodles are typically used.
In Tokyo you can find good versions of all of the above. Selecting “the best” ramen in Tokyo when there are so many good versions of it available is no easy task. A lot of it comes down to personal preference. We’re not going to try and give you an exhaustive list of the best ramen in Tokyo, but rather a focused list of favourites. They’ve been selected both for the quality of their ramen, and for the fact that visiting all four will expose you ramen’s true diversity and brilliance. From Usagi‘s spicy tantanmen to the light yuzu infused creation at AFURI, and more, here’s our pick of the lot.
AFURI have several branches across Japan, and even a few internationally. There are several options on the menu, but when you come to AFURI you should order what they are famous for – yuzu based shio (salt) and shōyu (soy sauce) ramen.
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka
Hokkaido Ramen Santouka is a ramen chain with several locations across Japan. The Shibuya store is open until 4:00am every morning (except Mondays), perfect for a late night feed. There are a variety of Hokkaido style ramen dishes on the menu. Try the Tokusen Toroniku Ramen (Choice Pork Ramen) for one of the best ramens you’ve ever eaten.
Ramen Marutama Ryogoku Honten
Ramen Marutama Ryogoku Honten have outlets across Japan, famous for their unique broth. Unlike the more common pork based broths popular in Tokyo, Marutama’s ramen uses a white, chicken-based broth. It’s light and delicate, the result of six hours of slow simmering.
A light shoyu (soy sauce) based broth forms the base of the outstanding ramen at Usagi. The basic ramen comes with thin springy noodles, mizuna (Japanese mustard greens), and the usual options of chasu pork and onsen egg. It’s a great way to taste just how good the ramen here is. Also try their tantanmen.
Check out my Tokyo City Guide for more tips on where to eat and drink, and what to do in Japan’s capital.