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!

IMG_1876.JPG

 

 

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!  

Osaka: Bright Lights, Big City

Osaka is just a 560 Yen special rapid train from Kyoto.  Trust me.  This is the cheapest and fastest way to get there.  The Shinkansen will take you there in about 15 minutes but will cost you about 1,200 Yen for a non-reserved seat.

From Kyoto Station, there are 2 limited express trains that I know of:  the Himeji and Banshuako.  Either will just take 28 minutes to arrive at Osaka Station.  One rookie mistake I made on my first trip there was panicking when I heard the PA system shout “Shin-Osaka.”  It is also nice there but that is not the Osaka that is famous.  You would want to get off at Osaka.

It’s only about 80kms. away from Kyoto but this city is very different.  Compared to Kyoto’s calm, this city is livelier, brighter, and wilder.  Any adjective in the comparative degree would sufficiently describe Osaka.

The city is a shopper’s paradise and comes very close to Tokyo’s Shibuya and Harajuku.  There are also a lot of sights to see there.  One of the is Osaka Castle.  From Osaka Station, just board the JR Osaka Loop Line and get off at Osakajokoen (160 Yen).

When you get off, cross to the other side.  Walk straight ahead and you should be seeing something like this.

IMG_6211

IMG_6213
To people complaining about the lack of English directions in Japan, the government has stepped up its efforts in solving that problem.  Grammar might be funny at times, but as long as they are pointing people to the right directions, be a happy camper. 

IMG_6214IMG_6220

IMG_6223
Yeap, that’s Osaka Castle from behind.  Take note that this is coming from behind Osaka Castle.  Worry not for there’s a bridge!  I think this route is much better for photography since there are fewer tourists.
IMG_6232
View from the front entrance.
IMG_6241
This is what you get at the top!  It might get crowded so it is best to take the stairs than the elevator.  Lines can be quite long. Plus you get to see a lot of historical artifacts on the way up!

Saw a wonderful collection of Samurai on the 3rd floor.

IMG_6236

Going around should take about an hour or two depending on your pace.  Retrace your steps to Osakajokoen and head back to Umeda.

Getting to Umeda Sky Building is very easy because it is so visible from Osaka Station.  Just look for the largest structure you can find.  Once you see it, just head for it. The place has a viewing deck that offers fantastic views of Osaka.  It has a few restaurants inside as well.  Admission is 800 Yen plus an additional 700 Yen if you want to visit the viewing deck.

IMG_6250

IMG_0986
The view from below was breathtaking.

It was so nice that I had to take a time lapse.

IMG_0985

IMG_6252
That’s all of Osaka and Shin-Osaka ( I think) right there.

After this, just head back to Osaka Station and hop on the subway to Namba.  Here you should be able to unleash the power of your credit card to shop.  Almost all the restaurants I tried here are amazing.  Ichiran is one of them and they serve one of the best ramen bowls in Osaka.

IMG_0991
Dotonbori Canal at night.  I’ve heard that locals jump off the bridges here during New Year’s eve.  Maybe I’ll try next year. 

IMG_0431

IMG_0993
This is a shot of Dotonbori when I visited during the holidays last year.  A beautiful and utter disregard for energy consumption.  

IMG_1750

Not a month goes by without me visiting Osaka.  What I find funny is that I always forget to take pictures.  Maybe because I’m always lining up for food, sneakers, or looking at cars.

I’ll just blog away after my next visit.

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.