As the bridge between Japan and the rest of mainland Asia, Fukuoka is a truly understated destination. It has it all; monolithic shopping complexes, contemporary beach culture, and breathtakingly beautiful manicured green spaces, coupled with an ancient religious legacy of around 3000 sacred shrines and temples. And of course, when it comes to what to eat in Fukuoka, you have a gastronomic heritage with world-famous specialties waiting for you. One of these must-eat Fukuoka specialties is mentaiko, an interesting delicacy of marinated fish roe, and the other is ramen! In Fukuoka, we’re not talking about any ramen, we’re talking about Tonkotsu ramen; a divinely creamy pork-bone-based broth with thin noodles which are often cooked to the client’s request, topped with perfectly cooked slices of pork. To slurp your way around the best ramen restaurants in Fukuoka, follow my list of the very best places to eat ramen in Fukuoka. Be warned, you’re going to need a decent amount of time to get through all the delicious goodness on this Fukuoka food guide - or better still, a second stomach!
Where to start?
During your quest for the best ramen in Fukuoka you might consider a bit of light sightseeing, if only to work up an appetite! And to sniff out the very best places to eat ramen in Fukuoka you’ll need a local’s nose, and a few vital pointers. Tonkotsu ramen is made by boiling pork bones for hours on end, and the smell can be overpowering for the newbie nose. Rest assured that you’ll get accustomed to it and even begin to take it as a good sign! Another mark of a good ramen restaurant is how long the queue outside the door is – if you find yourself waiting a while, it will be worth it!
Considered the ramen restaurant with the longest line, the broth here is superb; a thick and frothy affair considered a sort of neo-tonkotsu. Some locals have given the ramen at this family-run restaurant the affectionate nickname “pig bone cappuccino”. Doesn’t sound particularly yummy, but don't let that deceive you, because is it is Yummy – with a capital Y. The ingredients used, down to the soy, are locally sourced in the Kyushu area and even the buckwheat (hiramen) noodles are made in-house. The price comes in at about JPY 1000, not a terrible price for a terribly good bowl of ramen.
Hakata Ikkousha (Hakata Main Store) - An International Ramen Shop
Located conveniently between Canal City and the Hakata Station, here you’ll get a ramen that is made with absolute dedication to detail. A noodle with a prominent wheat flavor and a soup that is tasty without the grease of traditional tonkotsu. The new, less greasy form of regional ramen is a frothy and flavorsome new style ramen, topped with a micro-foam of rendered pig fat. To accompany your steaming bowl you could order a heap of bite-size gyoza which are available in the evening. Here you’re looking at paying a slightly higher price for your dinner, but with extra-large portions of pork and noodle, and considering the delicate care and precision put into each bowl, it’s worth the price.
Ippudo is basically the McDonald's of ramen and I mean that in a the best way – it’s a Japanese institution! Sure, why have ramen in a restaurant you can find in a city near you when you’ve gone halfway across the world for authenticity? Well, because the original Ippudo, the very first in a chain that has now reached London, is in Fukuoka! That’s history right there. Nowadays, Ippudo has branches all over the world, but it all started here in Fukuoka. You can find branches dotted across Fukuoka but the original branch is in Hakata station. Not only a spot for good food, it’s also a cool way to experience a vending-machine style restaurant and one of the places where you can customize several aspects of your ramen, from the texture and chewiness of the noodles to the style (modern or traditional) of the broth. Bonus? They have good tea, which is both free and refillable. Go at odd times to miss the queue but if you don’t, as always, this is just an indication that’s it’s some of the best ramen in Fukuoka.
The shorter name for this find is Gan-naga or Ganso. It serves the original nagahama-Fukuoka style Ramen, which is really all about the noodles – excessively thin noodles, to be exact. The noodles are merely dipped into boiling water long enough to remove the flour coating and tossed into the tasty ramen broth. Extra noodles are another awesome characteristic of this ramen style, offered since the noodles are served in small batches to keep them firm. This small family-run eatery has been around for 60 years and, full of authentic character, it only serves pork ramen. After sixty years of cooking the exact same single dish, it simply has to be good! Here, a bowl of ramen goes for JPY 500, with a noodle refill at about JPY 100; fairly affordable considering each bowl comes with toppings like sesame seeds, garlic, pickled ginger, mustard greens, and soy so you can customize your ramen to your heart’s content.
This spot falls in the trendy shopping and food district Tenjin. It’s a popular pick among locals, even several among the Japan’s rich and famous have been here, with a few international celebs in the mix. If you’re in a group of friends, this is one you should plan to go to in advance. The food is no-fuss, no-frills goodness, with the only ramen on the menu being the tonkotsu style, served with extra pork or spring onion as you desire. The drawcard of this particular spot however is the extensive side menu that you can choose from in addition to your traditional bowl of broth. They kick up the barbecue at 5 pm, which means meat skewers and yakitori (chicken skewers) are available to order on the side, along with edamame beans, gyoza, and of course mentaiko; spicy cod roe. Hakata ramen and mentaiko are a winning combo, and this is the perfect spot to get it. A bowl of Hakata ramen including the half boiled egg will be around JPY 700.
Not quite the brick and mortar establishments mentioned above, yatai are an absolute must-do for anyone visiting Fukuoka. The wheeled stalls are the perfect place to sample Fukuoka’s street food, and mingle with the locals, since you’ll be pressed in beside them at the stalls that ordinarily accommodate no more than ten people. The stalls open shop each evening, vanishing into the mist in the early morning in an almost magical way. This is one of the best places to experience local cuisine in Fukuoka, both in the flavor, and the experience of eating among the local population while sipping on a cold beer and watching the making of your dinner right before you. Yatai are incidentally one of the best places to try the nagahama ramen – particularly at a reputable spot by the name of Yamachan. This ramen is also considered Hakata ramen, but the tonkotsu broth is a little lighter, and the noodles are much thinner, so they can be cooked much faster!
Canal City Hakata
There are myriad reasons to visit Canal City, and at least 250 of them are shops! A few other great reasons are the elaborate and interactive fountain show that takes place every fifteen minutes, and the strange and fascinating architecture with winding brickwork and waterways, but by far my favorite reason to put this on your to-do list in Fukuoka is the fact that Canal City boats a dedicated ramen stadium. Here you don’t have to go far to sample a variety of ramen – eight different restaurant offerings to be exact! This is the perfect choice for a traveler crunched for time or a busy body with a tight itinerary; anyone looking to get in as much Hakata ramen experience as possible in a short time span.
Other local loves
Being one of the main defining features of Fukuoka as a travel destination, you can be sure you will be absolutely spoiled for choice when it comes to looking for where to eat ramen in Fukuoka, but just you’re not rolling out of the city already, here are a few extra picks worth mentioning: Ramen Dai, a place whose name means big and quite literally connotes the size of their voluminous ramen portions, if definitely worth a visit. If the generous ramen bowls aren’t enough of a match for your hunger, you can be sure the extra toppings of beans sprouts, garlic and veggies certainly will. Hakata Sanki, an extremely cheap option for delicious ramen, and Menya Hashimoto Nakasu, whose owner started his journey of ramen perfection at the age of fifteen, and has managed to remove the sometimes unappealing odor of pork ramen in his exploits, are just a few more top choices for ramen destinations that will warm you right to your kokoro (heart and soul).
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