My Favorite Ramen in FukuokaFood & Drink
Brian MacDuckston of Ramen Adventure brings to you exclusive articles for Noctive. He goes for the BEST ramens out there, and have eaten over 1,000 bows! This time, he will report ramens in Fukuoka.
Fukuoka is Japan’s southernmost island’s main city. Easily accessible by bullet train, ferry, or air travel, the city has become very popular with overseas guests. A major draw of Fukuoka is its bustling food scene. Local delicacies like Hakata-style motsu nabe give offal fans one of the country’s most revered hot pot dishes. Gyoza fans flock to the shops serving garlicky, bite-sized gyoza in iron pots. Some of Japan’s hardest to reserve sushi restaurants are in Fukuoka.
And there is ramen. In Kyushu, tonkotsu ramen is king. You can’t walk more than a hundred meters before the smell hits you; tonkotsu ramen is akin to a very ripe cheese. While shops outside of Kyushu try to minimize the smell, in Fukuoka they embrace it.
Hakata-style tonkotsu ramen is a simple dish with thin noodles and sometimes only a small piece of chashu topping. Shops balance the simplicity with a plethora of condiments. Sesame seeds, slivers of red pickled ginger, and spicy takana mustard greens make customizing your bowl easy. Kaedama, an order of extra noodles, is another common thread in Fukuoka; no one leaves a tonkotsu ramen shop hungry.
If you only have one tonkotsu ramen experience in Fukuoka, you had better make it count. Shinshin hits all the marks and then some.
Apart from the ramen, they offer a large menu of side dishes. Go for the true Hakata experience and get a side of spicy mentaiko cod roe, some gyoza, and a beer.
The ramen at Shinshin isn’t as heavy as other tonkotsu ramen shops. The master blends in local Saga chicken with the Japanese pork to make a balanced bowl. This more approachable balance has made Shinshin a huge hit with both locals and visitors alike and you’ll find the walls covered with famous celebrity’s autographs.
Shinshin has a few branches around town, but the head shop in Tenjin is the one to hit.
Hakata Issou, opened in 2012, became one of Hakata’s most loved shops. They developed a technique called “tonkotsu cappuccino” where they are constantly blending the soup from different pots to achieve the desired thickness and taste. As the broth is ladelled from pot to pot, it foams up a bit. The end product is creamy, smooth, and has that intense pork flavor that shops outside of Fukuoka strive to replicate.
Hakata Issou uses as many local ingredients, with local soy sauce, pork, and green onions.
This shop stays open late, until midnight, with no days off, meaning you can come in for a bowl just about anytime you are in town.
Genii Ippai is somewhat of an undiscovered gem. This is due, in part, to the shop’s strange, clandestine nature. There is no sign outside welcoming guests. There is no noren curtain indicating that they are open. The only way to find this shop is to look for a blue bucket. If there is a blue bucket hanging outside, then they are open for business.
Many ramen shops in Japan have rules, with Genki Ippai being no exception. They may just be the most strict in that regard. A few of the posted rules are no photos, no loud talking, no talking about other ramen shops, you must eat half of your noodles before adding the shop’s spicy takana mustard leaf condiment. The master only wants you to focus on your ramen and to let other customers do the same.
If you follow the rules, you’ll enjoy a truly great bowl of tonkotsu ramen made by a strict, but loving chef. And be careful with the homemade takana, it really is one of the spiciest in town.
In Fukuoka, and all of Kyushu for that matter, tonkotsu ramen is king. Variations exist but are still along the same lines; Kagoshima does a lighter tonkotsu and Kumamoto infuses their tonkotsu with heavy amounts of garlic. You wouldn’t be faulted for wanting a break from heavy pork soup and heading over to Hanamokoshi.
Hanamokoshi’s master studied the art of noodle making, not just ramen. Using techniques borrowed from the udon scene, he wanted to create a hybrid bowl, something that is more of a cross between ramen and niku udon, udon in a simple broth topped with meat. The broth uses dried seabream and sardines from the nearby Seto Inland Sea. It’s a bowl of ramen that is simple and refreshing. The shop also serves ramen made with chicken broth, keeping with the theme of less pork than the average Hakata shop.
Guests wishing to try a bowl here should note the shop’s odd hours. They only open for a few hours at lunch and a paltry one hour at dinner. This is compounded with the shop’s tendency to serve until they run out of soup, meaning your choice might not be around when you arrive. Despite the hassle, this top-notch bowl should be on any ramen hunter’s list.
No trip to Fukuoka is complete without a visit to the city’s famous yatai food stalls. The highest concentration is along the Naka River in the heart of Nakasu. Tourists and locals alike flock to these six or seven-seat stalls for a dose of local street food.
Oden, yakitori, and ramen are all commonplace. Although some people have their favorites, just pick one that looks welcoming, sit down, and start the fun. Yatai aren’t just about the food, they are social places for strangers to eat and drink side by side. If you make some nice friends, you just might end up yatai-hopping into the early hours of the morning, Hakata style.