Though Tokyo is home to numerous top class restaurants (Think: Michelin stars ✰), Japan also features many delicious down-to-earth eateries with inexpensive prices. You can also find unique menus incorporating flavors from all over the world that are different from traditional Japanese food.
Ramen served at counter seats on the way home from work... These foods are the very power source that fuels Japan. Laid-back, down-to-earth gourmet cuisine - experience the daily vitality of Japanese people.
"Chukamen" (better-known as "Ramen") noodles, came to Japan from China. This dish flowered in Japan as a unique Japanese food culture. There are different types of Ramen for the various regions in Japan, including Hokkaido's Sapporo ramen, Kyushu's Hakata Ramen, and Tokyo Ramen. And... not to mention, the sheer variety of instant Ramen types available at supermarkets and convenience stores.
The soup broths can be generally categorized into two types: meat based broths like "Tonkotsu" (pork bone) and "Torigara" (chicken stock) and fish based broths like "Katsuo bushi" (dried bonito) and "Niboshi" (dried sardine). To these broths, many shops add ingredients like onions and shiitake mushrooms to create their own original flavors. Soups made from "Tonkotsu" broth are cloudy with a rich flavor. In fish based broths, the unique fragrance that comes from fish is infused into the flavor.
After choosing your broth, it's time to choose the flavoring! The soup flavor choices are generally categorized into the three types of soy sauce, salt, and miso.
Popular toppings include "chashu" (meat slices), "negi" (Japanese chives), and "menma" (a condiment made from fermented bamboo shoots.)
Another popular item is the "nitamago", a boiled egg simmered in soy sauce (also called "ajitama", which means flavored egg). There are many other kinds of toppings available depending on the shop, including bean sprouts, butter, vegetables, seaweed, kimchi, and fish cake slices with spiral patterns called "naruto maki". Some shops will serve a "zenbu" serving with all the toppings upon request.
In addition, the "tsukemen" style where the soup and noodles come in separate bowls is also popular. Something that I eat rather frequently..especially during the summer season.
For the "tsukemen" styled Ramen, it's basically eating cold noodles dipped briefly in hot broth. The noodles come alive the moment you've dipped them into the soupy broth. To me, it's one of life's simple pleasures...Simply Amazing~~
Counter seating is generally the main style of seating at Ramen shops. Some shops do not have many seats, and popular shops can have long lines. Sometimes, a long wait is unavoidable depending on the shop and time of day but people who really want to enjoy their Ramen will wait patiently for that delicious bowl of noodles to arrive.
Many places have their menus attached to the walls. In some shops you're to buy a ticket at a vending machine placed at the shop entrance before sitting down. Also, in addition to Ramen, some shops serve other items like "gyoza" and "chahan" as well.
Many Ramen shops are open until late into the night, and some people like to stop by after drinking. The price is within about 600 to 1000 yen for one bowl. There are many Ramen shops in any Japanese city, even outside of Tokyo.