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From broth to noodles: A local's guide to the best ramen in Shinjuku Tokyo

By Kenji Kitabayasho

August 14, 2023

From broth to noodles: A local's guide to the best rame

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Tokyo, the vibrant heart of Japan, is renowned for many things, but its culinary prowess shines brightest with the city's signature Shoyu Ramen. This iconic dish, found in every corner from your favorite ramen shops to Michelin-star restaurants, is a testament to Tokyo's knack for fusing simplicity with profound flavor.

Picture this: a steaming bowl of wonderfully chewy, thin noodles immersed in a rich, soy sauce-infused chicken broth. The essence of Shoyu Ramen lies in this harmonious blend, creating a savory, umami-packed delight that'll have you coming back for more.

The ramen scene in Tokyo, a competitive ramen area and hotspot, isn't confined to just Shoyu Ramen. The city offers a diverse spectrum of ramen styles, embracing variations from across Japan.

The decadent Tonkotsu Ramen, famous for its creamy pork broth that's the result of hours of simmering pork bones, may originate from the Kyushu region, but it has found a firm place in Tokyo's ramen landscape.

Equally enticing is the Shio Ramen - a lighter, salt-based variant usually swimming with a tender piece of pork belly and garnished with green onion, often accompanied by a chicken or seafood broth. For a distinctive Tokyo experience, take a walk from Shinjuku station and find a ramen joint serving Tsukemen or dipping noodles. Here, noodles and broth are served separately, allowing for a unique, deconstructed ramen journey that's a must-try for all eating ramen in the city.

Decoding the ramen types: Shio, tonkotsu, and more

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Alright, let's dive deeper into the exciting world of Tokyo's signature ramen and explore some more types that have gained massive popularity among ramen aficionados.

Shio Ramen, literally translated to 'salt ramen,' is one of the oldest and lightest forms of this dish.

At its heart is a clear, salt-based broth, often combined with chicken or seafood stock. The result? A bowl that's light yet packed with subtle flavors. In Shinjuku's ramen shops, you'll find variations of Shio Ramen adorned with menma (seasoned bamboo shoots), a few slices of char siu (roasted pork), and a sprinkling of green onions, adding layers of complexity to this classic dish.

Next up, we have the Tonkotsu Ramen.

Originating from Kyushu, this ramen has found a second home in Tokyo.

Its magic lies in its rich, milky broth, a product of pork bones simmered for hours till they release their creamy essence. Paired with thin or medium-thick noodles, it's a warm, comforting bowl perfect for those seeking a decadent ramen experience. To level up, the Kurume-style Tonkotsu Ramen takes the pork broth up a notch, adding burnt garlic oil and featuring chewy noodles that absorb all that tasty goodness.

As you explore the best ramen in Shinjuku, don't forget to keep an eye out for some unique twists like the Niboshi Ramen, where dried sardines add an umami kick to the broth, or the Duck Ramen bowls, where smoked duck brings an unexpected but delicious flavor.

Tokyo's ramen scene truly caters to all taste buds, offering a delicious spectrum of options that make every ramen-eating adventure a joy.

Shinjuku's best ramen spots: Chain to independent ramen joints

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Tokyo's dynamic Shinjuku district isn't just a lively hub of nightlife and entertainment; it's also a treasure trove for ramen enthusiasts. Kick off your ramen journey with popular establishments like Ichiran Ramen, a renowned ramen restaurant that elevates the classic Tonkotsu Ramen experience to another level.

You'll get to customize your bowl, selecting from options like a soft-boiled egg or adding extra pork belly to your heart's desire.

Don't miss out on Ippudo, home to the acclaimed Shiromaru Classic and Akamaru Modern Ramen. These major players in the ramen game never fail to satisfy.

But that's not all Shinjuku has to offer. A universe beyond the well-known chains awaits discovery. Begin with a short walk from Shinjuku Station to Ramen Yamaguchi, a local ramen shop winning over locals with its unforgettable Shio Ramen. Then, let Ramen Hayashida take your Shoyu Ramen experience to a new level with their unique blend of soy sauce and double soup. For a taste of Kurume-style Tonkotsu Ramen, look no further than Ramen Tatsunoya.

Lastly, don't overlook the hidden gems like Nagi Golden Gai Ramen and Ramen Kaijin, tucked away above ground level in this competitive ramen area. These spots may be easy to miss, but once discovered, they promise a ramen journey replete with spring onions, nori seaweed, onigiri rice balls, and a delicious dipping sauce, ensuring an experience like no other.

The rise of unique ramen varieties: From niboshi to vegan

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In Shinjuku's evolving ramen scene, tradition meets innovation, giving birth to some unique ramen varieties. Enter the scene, Niboshi Ramen, a testament to Tokyo's love for all things sea.

With its broth derived from dried sardines, this bowl is an umami whirlpool that seizes your taste buds right from the first slurp.

Ramen shops like Ramen Hayashida have made Niboshi Ramen their signature dish, and trust me, it's an experience you wouldn't want to miss when you're exploring the best ramen in Shinjuku.

And for those of you who lean green, fear not! The streets of Shinjuku are also home to an amazing assortment of vegan ramen options. Far from an afterthought, these dishes are crafted with the same level of detail and finesse as their meatier counterparts. You'll find fantastic restaurants, like T's Tantan, creating beautifully balanced, flavorful broths that aren't just substitutes but are stellar in their own right. Whether it's a hearty, soy-based broth cradling a nest of thin noodles or spicy ramen topped with seasonal veggies and tofu - vegan ramen in Shinjuku is not just an option; it's a culinary delight in its own right!

Finding great ramen: Tips and tricks

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On pursuing great ramen, you'll find that Shinjuku offers a mouthwatering maze. Navigating it might initially seem daunting, but trust me; it's half the fun! My first piece of advice would be to embrace the walk. Start from Shinjuku station and let your senses guide you - the savory aroma wafting from a small, tucked-away ramen joint might lead you to your new favorite spot.

Pay attention to the queues, the locals often know the best places and if you see a line, chances are the ramen will be worth the wait.

Another trick to finding amazing ramen in Shinjuku is not to be afraid of the vending machine! Many ramen restaurants, including popular spots like Ichiran Ramen and Ramen Gantetsu, use them for ordering. Just pop in your yen, select your dish (don't forget those extra toppings like soft-boiled eggs or sliced pork!), and take your ticket to the counter. And remember, Shinjuku is home to the wonderfully chewy Tonkotsu Ramen, the fragrant Shoyu Ramen, and much more.

Exploring the ramen ingredients: Broth, noodles, and toppings

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When it comes to ramen, the magic lies in the balance of its three key elements: broth, noodles, and toppings. The dance between these ingredients turns every visit to a ramen restaurant into a unique culinary adventure. Let's dive into the broth first. In Shinjuku, a fantastic restaurant might surprise you with a variety of broths, each carrying a unique symphony of flavors. The rich, creamy Tonkotsu made from simmered pork bones would make any pork broth enthusiast weak in the knees. Or, if your palate craves something lighter, a Shio or Shoyu ramen with a clear, chicken-based broth from Ramen Yamaguchi could hit the spot. For an off-the-beaten-path taste, try the seafood broth-based ramen, where dried fish or even Japanese stock with Hamaguri clams form a punchy, umami-packed base.

Now let's noodle over the noodles - they're not just a vessel for the broth but a star shining brightly in the ramen universe. Whether they're the classic ramen style or Shio Soba's thin or medium-thick strands, there's a certain pleasure in savoring their beautifully chewy texture.

And because noodle preference can be quite personal, most ramen shops in Shinjuku, like the popular Ichijyoryu Ganko Ramen, will let you choose your preferred level of firmness.

Of course, what's a bowl of ramen without the supporting cast of toppings? The melt-in-your-mouth Char Siu (barbequed pork) or smoked char sui adds a smoky, savory, irresistible note. Fresh green onions provide a crunchy contrast, and Menma bamboo shoots add a sweet, salty bite. And let's not forget about the soft-boiled egg - a popular topping that adds a creamy richness to the dish.

The cost of ramen in Tokyo: From budget to premium

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You might picture a fast, wallet-friendly meal when you think of ramen. And you wouldn't be wrong! Many of the best ramen shops in Shinjuku, like Ramen Hayashida or Ramen Gantetsu, offer amazing bowls starting from just 800 yen (USD $5.50). It's an everyday luxury that allows you to explore different flavors and styles without breaking the bank. You could be savoring a Tonkotsu ramen with a rich, creamy pork broth one day and a Soy Sauce-based, subtly complex Chicken Shio ramen the next without denting your savings.

However, just like any culinary art, ramen has its premium side too. If you want to splurge, fantastic restaurants are offering a more high-end ramen experience. In places like the Michelin-starred Soba House Konjiki Hototogisu, prices can go up to 3000 yen (USD $21) or more per bowl.

Here, expect decadent ramen bowls like their Truffle Ramen, featuring truffle sauce and porcini oil, or their Hamaguri clam dashi-based ramen, a true symphony of flavors.

It's a walk on the premium side of Ramen Street, right in the heart of Shinjuku Station. Whether you're on a budget or looking to indulge, the ramen scene in Tokyo caters to all, ensuring every ramen adventure is exciting!

Ramen in Japan: Regional differences and Tokyo's standout

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Travel through Japan, and you'll quickly realize that ramen isn't just a dish - it's a local dialect spoken through noodles and broth. From the miso ramen of Hokkaido to the thin, soy-based broth in Tokyo, each region stamps its own identity on this beloved bowl. The south brings us Tonkotsu ramen, a hearty symphony of pork bone broth that's a staple in Hakata, while up north, Aomori's niboshi ramen surprises with a punchy dried fish base.

Tokyo, a city that harmonizes the old with the new, speaks its own unique ramen dialect. And it's in Shinjuku, the heart of Tokyo's vibrant culinary scene, where this dialect becomes a sonnet. Here, the best ramen restaurants draw inspiration from every corner of Japan, making it a competitive ramen area teeming with tantalizing options. From your short walk from Shinjuku Station, you'll discover ramen shops serving up a symphony of flavors as diverse as the city itself. Classic Tokyo-style soy-based broths, ramen joints specializing in unique bowls like dipping noodles, or even shops offering other ramen styles, like vegan options. You might stumble upon fantastic restaurants like the Michelin-starred Ramen Hayashida, which dares to innovate with creative interpretations like truffle sauce ramen. But what's the standout ramen dish in Tokyo? Well, that's a debate for the ages and a delightful challenge for the many ramen fans.

The only way to find out is by diving into the amazing ramen universe in Shinjuku, one slurp at a time. So, ready your chopsticks and prepare for the journey of tasting the best ramen restaurants in Shinjuku!

Why Shinjuku is a must-visit for ramen lovers

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Following our flavorful exploration of Shinjuku's bustling avenues, it's evident why this lively neighborhood is an unrivaled hotspot for ramen enthusiasts. There's just something electric about joining the queue at a popular ramen restaurant, watching the chefs artfully assemble each dish, and finally, diving into a steaming, flavor-packed ramen bowl. It's an experience that speaks volumes about Tokyo's culinary soul.

What makes Shinjuku truly special is its love for diversity. From the decadent Tonkotsu ramen, rich with melt-in-your-mouth pork belly, to the lighter Shio Soba with its clear chicken broth, every ramen shop here brings a unique voice to the table. Add in specialties like dipping ramen, and you've got a district that's as competitive as it is delicious. And trust me; there's nothing like a brisk walk from Shinjuku station, filled with anticipation of the ramen feast that awaits.

Ultimately, what matters is the joy of discovery, the thrill of tasting something new, and the shared love for this humble, soulful dish. So whether you're a seasoned ramen enthusiast or new to this world, Shinjuku holds a promise of a delightful adventure, one bowl at a time.

Here's to a wonderful ramen journey in Shinjuku! You're going to love it!

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