Tonkotsu ramen is one of the most famous foods of Fukuoka city, the pride and joy of its residents, and how could it not be? They have mastered this recipe to the point that several of its ramen shops have turn into international chains, taking this delicious meal far beyond the borders of Japan.
For lovers of thick and flavourful ramen broths, this is a dish that must be tried while in the city; not once or twice, but several times in order to get a good taste of the different variations available.
① Ippudo Ramen
Founded in 1985 in Fukuoka’s Daimyo district, Ippudo is one of the two top ramen chains in town. This shop became famous for its Shiromaru Motoaji ramen which is cooked for over 18 hours to give its broth a rich and deep flavour. It also offers other boldier dishes like the Akamaru ramen (homemade flavoured oil and spices) while keeping tradition as its base.
Ippudo is constantly innovating and expanding within Japan and abroad, and it can now be found in 12 countries around the world including locations in America, Europe and other parts of Asia. If you are a fan of the chain, then make the experience extra special by visiting Ippudo Daimyo, its original store. A new concept has also been launched in Fukuoka, Ippudo Stand. Besides the standard menu, here you can try a selection of Fukuoka and Kyushu’s best nihonshu (Japanese sake) at 500 yen per cup.
② Hakata Daruma
Hakata Daruma is one of the most famous old ramen shops in Hakata. They started their business in 1963 and have been popular among local people for a long time but are now becoming more and more popular throughout the country.
Hakata Daruma only uses select pork, seafood, and other ingredients, which are certified as being of a high quality. They spend a lot of time and effort in cooking their ingredients, so it’s no wonder how delicious their ramen is! Their tonkotsu soup is very rich and has a strong flavor, with melting chashu (pork slices) and plenty of scallions. If you want to try the hardcore Hakata ramen, this is the place to go!
③ Ichiran Ramen
If you ask the locals in Fukuoka which one is their favourite ramen shop, many will be divided between the big two, Ichiran and Ippudo. Ichiran is actually the older of the two chains, being founded in the 60s, and as such claims the title of being the birthplace of several ramen-related intricacies; the first to place spicy red sauce in the centre of its ramen, the first to offer an aromatic tonkotsu soup, the first to offer flavour concentration booths, and the first with a customizable ordering system. Whichever is your favorite, Ichiran and its Nakasu location are without a doubt a must for ramen lovers in Fukuoka.
In the land of Ichiran and Ippudo, the two big ramen chains in town, Unari Ramen is a unique proposition both because of the shop size and the ramen on its menu. Located in Nakasu Island, Unari has been increasing its local fan base thanks to its tonkotsu (pork) and seafood broth combination, something of a rarity in the land of pure tonkotsu broth. Technically speaking, it is not the city’s traditional recipe but this particular combination is deeper in flavour and as such, can be more pleasing than the original. Open from 6pm to 6am from Monday to Saturday, and closed on Sunday, Unari is also a great option after a late night out in the town.
Danbo is a growing ramen chain based in the outskirts of Fukuoka City. As with the bigger chains, it specializes in classic tonkotsu ramen but also offers a wider menu including miso ramen and negi-goma ramen (topped with green onions and sesame). It’s claim to fame is being awarded top spot by a Kyushu TV poll a few years back. It’s small size also means a more familiar service. Danbo has a location a short walk away from Dazaifu Station and is a perfect complement to a trip to Tenmangu Shrine.
⑥ Hide-chan Ramen
Hide-chan Ramen was established by the son of Hakata Daruma’s owner, so you can imagine that it has an unquestionably great taste! Their ramen has a rich taste but doesn’t have a strong tonkotsu smell. You will love it once you start sipping their soup and will never be able to stop sipping!
At Hide-chan Ramen, you can choose the thickness of your noodles from super thick, middle thick, and super thin. Also, you can add chashu and scallions as your toppings. Very simple, but enough to be absolute Hakata. Their ramen is popular among Japanese celebrities too and you will see many autographs of famous people inside the shop!
⑦ Hakata Ramen ShinShin Tenjin branch
You might have to wait in line to eat this ramen, as the shop is always crowded during lunchtime. But you won’t wait too long, as people leave quickly…so don’t give up!
Their tonkotsu ramen, with soft chashu that melts in your mouth, is delicious. The chashu has been soaked in their original sauce for a long time and you can taste it right after you put it in your mouth. Besides their tonkotsu ramen, you can try champon noodles (thick noodles with various toppings and soup), and sara udon (udon noodles on a plate without soup), both of which originated in Nagasaki prefecture. They also make a fried rice with chashu that’s pretty popular.
Hakata Ramen ShinShin
If you are interested in eating ramen in Hakata but are not such a big fan of tonkotsu, this is the place for you! Genei offers a shoyu (soy sauce) flavored ramen. It is popular even among Hakata’s local people who usually love tonkotsu ramen. They do have tonkotsu ramen but their number one menu item is shrimp shoyu ramen. They use Japanese dashi (fish broth) and special soy sauce with shrimp oil. This soup has a full flavor. You can add chashu, finely stripped leeks, dried shrimp, and Japanese parsley. The inside of the shop is stylish and great for lunch on your date too!
- 麺劇場 玄瑛
Komugi is a stylish ramen shop that looks like a cozy café. It’s relatively new but already has lots of fans! Their most popular menu items are: Toriboni (Chinese noodles with a combination of chicken broth and dried fish broth), Mazesoba (noodles with various toppings but without soup), Gomtang (tahini flavored soup with a pinch of Sichuan pepper). These favorites have been enticing people back to Komugi once they try their first taste!
The most popular item on the menu, Toriboni is light and slightly sweet. Their handmade, thin noodles and the way they put chashu on top is also the reason why it’s so popular. This place is perfect for those who follow current trends too!
⑩ Ramen HAYAKAWA
Ramen Hayakawa is a ramen shop with non-tonkotsu ramen! So you can visit when you want to try something different. Their specialty is chicken broth with shoyu (soy sauce) flavor. They use strictly selected chicken, including Hakata local chicken to make their broth. You can smell their distinctive soup as soon as it is placed in front of you. The soup is clear and beautiful. You might think it has a light taste but it’s actually quite rich. You will experience the taste of umami with this soup. The pork and chicken chashu on top melt in your mouth and they match perfectly with the shoyu soup!
⑪ Ramen Stadium
If you can’t decide which ramen you want, you should visit Ramen Stadium! Ramen Stadium was established in 2001 and has hosted over 87 ramen shops to date. They host eight different ramen shops from all over Japan at the same time. These shops are all famous and popular, so you can enjoy many trendy ramen dishes all in the one place! They rotate shops, which allows you to enjoy going there over and over again to taste different ramen! It’s on the 5th floor of the Canal City shopping center, which is only a 10-minute walk from Nakasu-Kawabata Station.