Burnt Miso Ramen? Because it’s Japan!

Good to be back here.  Business school and travel have taken over my life these past few months.  People from back home have been visiting and it’s just been a blast touring them all over Japan. This could be work if they paid me! But it was a lot of fun.

Being a ramen fan, I am always on the lookout for my next bowl.  I was with my girlfriend’s dad and brother when we stumbled upon Kyoto Gogyo (https://www.ramendining-gogyo.com/kyoto-menu), just off a turn from Nishiki Market.  Having talked to people there, Gogyo is owned by the same company that holds Ippudo, another fantastic ramen chain.

Gogyo’s specialty is their Burnt Miso ramen.  They have an English menu where they will show a “special” and a regular.  In addition, they also have a free upsize on the servings which was truly awesome.  We opted for the Burnt Miso in regular (which meant fewer toppings) and an upsize.  We were expecting fewer toppings but when it came in a large black bowl, we were surprised at how adequate they were.  But the upsize was so big so beware if you are not that hungry.  The Japanese hate wasted food.  It was topped with nori, 2 thick slices of chashu, salted egg, and squid.  The highlight here was the really, really thick and black soup.  It oozed with umami and the thickness meant that cholesterol levels were going to shoot up immediately upon taste.  I could literally taste that the soup was burnt but in a salty, umami-ish kind if way.  It was sort of sweet at the beginning and then it was all umami after that.  The chashu slices were really tender and complemented the broth well.  ¥890 that was well spent.  

The ambience of the place was surprisingly fantastic as well.  When I entered the place, it felt more like a hotel lounge than a ramen place. It had subdued lighting and the seats were comfortable and wide.  It could even easily pass for a romantic ramen date or something.  The place also has a bar in sight for the thirsty ones.  

I highly recommend this place if you want a different kind of ramen experience from the usual shio and tonkotsu ramen variants that are abundant in Japan.  Gogyo has them as well, but you have to try the Burnt Miso one.  It is worth it.  

Burnt Miso Ramen! Look at how thick the broth is!
Get counter seats for a more Japanese experience.

Karainya: The Best Curry in Kyoto

Indian food is amazing.  Of all the places in the world, I never thought I’d find amazing Indian food here in Japan.

Karainya is one of the best Indian restaurants near my school.  It is located on Imadegawa dori just before Horikawa dori.  You cannot miss it as it is situated on a busy intersection.  Going in, you will see a happy Indian chap who amazingly speaks 3 languages.  I’ve heard him speak English, Japanese, and Chinese.  I bet he knows Indian, too!

The menu is simple.  There are curry sets (beef, chicken, lamb) and a Tantanmen which is kind of like Japan’s version of the Sichuan dish, Dan Dan noodles.  The curry sets are priced from 750 yen to about 1100 yen for the full set (3 types of curry), if I remember things right.  You can even add 100 yen and get unlimited Naan bread which is awesome!

The chef makes everything by himself so it take about 15-20 minutes of waiting.  Even the Naan!  It is super worth the wait!  I’m no food expert but at least I know a good curry when I smell it.  It smells very strong and spicy (which I like).  It’s served on a canteen-like metal plate with the biggest Naan bread I have ever seen.  It’s bigger than your head.  The accompanying salad and soup were okay.  It’s the curry (I got beef and lamb) and Naan bread that makes the experience enjoyable.

Just look at that plate!  Easily one of the best 750-yen meals I’ve had in Kyoto.

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Kamukura: The Sleeper Ramen

Every once in a while, you encounter a sleeper – someone/something that looks ordinary but is actually very extraordinary.  

I went to Osaka last week to buy some stuff and get a breather from school.  After a couple of hours running around, I was super hungry.  And no one likes to walk around hungry.

Ramen is always my go-to food and Ichiran is my go-to place in Osaka.  But the lines were just too long and I was too hungry.  Alas! I found Kamukura, a shoyu ramen specialist.  Funny thing: it was right in front of Ichiran!

Shoyu ramen is essentially ramen with a soy sauce base in the English language.  I’ve always preferred shoyu over shio (salt), but both them share a special place in my tummy’s heart.

First off, buy a meal ticket if you want to save time during lunch.  Just punch in 700 -800 Yen and select a teishoku (lunch set).  My hunger level was peaking so I opted for the largest set, which included rice and gyoza.  The other large set was with rice and fried chicken nuggets.

The ramen is unbelievably big!  It’s one of those rare moments when the food is as big as its plate.  I always hate eating small amounts of food in obnoxious and huge plates.  Your face can probably fit in the bowl.  There’s also a tremendous amount of roasted pork and cabbage in it (which I love).  Looking back, I didn’t even need the gyoza and rice.  Don’t let the size fool you.

This is some great tasting shoyu ramen and is quite different from what I have tasted before!

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Marugame Seimen: Fresh Udon, All The Time

Ask any student what their diet is like and noodles will most likely be somewhere in there.  

I absolutely adore any kind of noodles.  Instant noodles, ramen, pancit, udon, soba, fried noodles.  As long as I can slurp it, it’s going down!

My favorite type is probably thick wheat noodles, which is a rough translation of the Japanese word udon.  The most common udon bowl you will find in Japan is Kake Udon.  This is basically udon with a dipping sauce made from the overly delicious trinity of: soy sauce, mirin, and dashi stock.  I call it trinity because it is such an essential combination used in Japanese cuisine.

Marugame Seimen is arguably the best udon chain for me.  It is synonymous to the way I treat Ichiran for ramen.  I super love going to this place (especially the one near Shijo-Demachiyanagi).  You will probably see me here during lunch on Saturdays or Sundays.  I was even surprised to read here in Our Awesome Planet that this will be in the Philippines soon.  Is it still on?  I hope it does!

The good thing about this place is that they only cook as you order which means it is fresh.  The places are set up in a way so that you can see how the udon is made.  It also offers a variety of dipping sauces, fantastic furai (literally fried food) and very tasty tempura!   There is also an English menu which is very helpful to tourists and international students.  Tempura bits (YEAH!) and spring onions are complimentary.

If you love noodles, you will definitely have a great time eating here.  A usual meal costs around 500-800 Yen, which already includes a big bowl of udon and nice pieces of tempura.  It is very good value and your tummy will be very happy.  You should not have a hard time finding this place in Japan.

Enjoy!

 

udon
I mean just look at the sheer size of that kakiage!  

Ramen Sen No Kaze: Kyoto’s Best Bowl

Kyoto has a lot of ramen joints.  I’ve blogged earlier about Ichiran.  Ippudo‘s here.  Kyoto Gogyo‘s here.  Even Kyoto Station’s 10th floor is solely devoted to ramen!

Let’s face it.  All of them are very good.  But some ramen bowls are just made to be better than the rest.  Enter Ramen Sen No Kaze.

I found the place by accident while I was going around Teramachi and Shinyogoku.  It can be found in a really narrow street parallel to Shinyogoku.  If you see someone shouting and carrying a huge poster, the place is in front of that.

The place is very small and gets very packed during lunch and dinner hours.  Seating capacity is just around 15-20 people.  On multiple times, me and my friends must have waited an average of 30-45 minutes.  On a bad day, an hour.

A family of three (father, mother, daughter) runs the place.  My bet is they keep the secret to themselves.  No questions about quality control here.  Even the music is a collection of American classics.

They specialize in Shio ramen which means it is white and has a salt-based soup.  They offer it in three sets: ramen only, ramen and gyoza, ramen, gyoza, and rice.  It is topped with some Chashu pork cutlets (stewed pork, I believe) which are very, very tender.  The gyoza is cooked as you order and is served as an appetizer if ever you are getting that set.  I highly suggest getting the ramn with gyoza set because the gyoza happens to be one of the best in Kyoto as well.  The set is without fault.

The set in the picture is the ramen + gyoza set and costs 1000 Yen.  Very reasonable considering the high quality.  The wooden soup spoon has a very classy feel to it and enriches the experience even more.

The sake was there was provided by my friend.  We had a tough week in school before eating here.

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Ichiran Osaka: Because You Deserve A Customized Bowl

Ichiran arguably makes the greatest mass-produced ramen in the world.

My first encounter was back in Osaka around September 2014.  Yes, this was the one near the bridge by the riverbank.  And yes, this is the one where troops line up for hours. Being so, I gave up and settled for somewhere forgettable.

Now that I live here, Ichiran is part of my regular ramen rotation.  In Kyoto, there is one in Shijo. In Osaka, there are 2 in the Namba/Dotombori area (shhh, the 2nd one is a secret).

The sole resonating point of why you should eat at Ichiran is customization.  After popping 790 yen for the basic ramen, the staff should hand you a white paper with a lot of options.  Some include: amount of spring onions, noodle firmness, pork cutlet option, amount of Ichiran sauce (i think this ranges from 1-infinity), and so on.  It’s like one of those painting stalls you can find in malls. You can buy a pre-designed canvas and go crazy painting over it.  There must be thousands of combinations for an Ichiran bowl of ramen.  I have been there more than 10x already and I swear that I have tried different sets every time.  You can even have noodle refills for an additional fee!

I recommend getting seats in the bar-like area.  It just creates an atmosphere unlike any other ramen joint.

If there’s one thing about lining up for food in Japan that I have learned: it is worth it every time.