Stepping into an ICHIRAN Ramen store will not only change the way you think about tonkotsu ramen, but also the entire way you look at Japan’s beloved noodle dish. Started about 60 years ago in a small street of Fukuoka Prefecture, ICHIRAN now has more than 75 stores in Japan (in major cities and regions such as Tokyo, Osaka, Hokkaido and Okinawa), the US, Hong Kong and Taiwan. And eating ramen here is serious business.
Instead of the regular open-counter seating with views of sweat-browed staff swinging bunches of noodles, you get Ramen Focus Booths in an almost hushed atmosphere. It’s not unlike the study cubicles in a library (but with a lot more sense of anticipation). This means minimal interaction with staff (bamboo curtains ensure no eye contact when the steaming bowls arrive at your booth).
There’s an order sheet to customize every single detail: How al dente would you like your noodles? Welsh onions? Extra chili sauce? Richer or lighter broth? If you just want an extra helping of noodles (cooked softer or harder according to your taste), simply place your plate on a special buzzer to order your Kae-Dama (extra noodles).
The whole experience is set up to let you savor every drop of ICHIRAN’s trademark “rich and sophisticated” tonkotsu broth, made naturally from pig bones. Thanks to years of research, ICHIRAN says its experts have brought out all the deliciousness of tonkotsu without the heavy smell usually related to pork-based broth.
Everything is based on trial and error (by a professional team of more than 40), including finding the best flour composition under different weather conditions to ensure the best match of its noodle with the soup. Their Original Spicy Red Sauce – made from top-notch quality ingredients sourced from around the world and using a unique technology that involves repeated blending and adjusting – adds a distinct kick that leaves you wanting more.
Pick Up an ICHIRAN Souvenir
For those who can’t get enough, go for the take-home options such as the ICHIRAN Ramen Curly Noodles and Hakata-Style Thin Straight Noodles. Both come complete with the Original Spicy Red Seasoning which is made using ICHIRAN’s original technology, balancing a blend of high quality ingredients from around the world.
ICHIRAN’s curly noodles come in two versions – regular and Fukuoka specific – and have a delicate yet profound taste. They were developed through a vast amount of trial and error to ensure their shape, thickness, flavor and wheat composition is perfectly matched with the soup.
The Hakata-Style Thin Straight Noodles are smooth and chewy, made with a rare wheat flour. They release less starch when boiled, creating a clearer, less cloudy water that brings out the rich, umami flavors of the soup while suppressing the strong tonkotsu scent. ICHIRAN describes this meal as rich and flavorful restaurant-quality ramen made by the “premier researchers of tonkotsu ramen.”
Note: Both take-home sets are available throughout Japan, including in Tokyo, although the curly noodles (regular version) are not sold in Fukuoka.
More info at ichiran.com