By Rey Waters
Yoshimuraya (吉村屋) is the birthplace of the unique Iekei-style of ramen that was born out of Yokohama, blending the popular soup broths of tonkotsu pork bone and soy sauce together in one bowl. Whilst commonplace these days, blended soups were cutting edge back in 1974 when Yoshimuraya first opened its doors.
You can expect to wait a good 45-60 minutes during peak times to get in, with the snake-like queue curling around and down the street, but its well worth the effort to see what all the fuss is about.
With your place in the queue secured, place your order at the vending machine at the shop's entrance – this spits out nondescript colored plastic chips but these tell the staff exactly what you want. Choose your size of ramen and variety of toppings at the machine and the wait to be called in.
Customers are ushered into the shop in large groups and seated at the long, winding counter in unison. Certainly not the normal way this is usually done, but does add to the shared experience for what follows. As you hand over the chips to the chef, you can request specific customisations specific to your taste as in any good ramen shop: soup thickness (e.g. noukou for rich), oil quantity (e.g. sukaname for less) and noodles (e.g. katame for al dente).
Yoshimuraya keeps its ramen relatively simple, which for me was part of the experience – most people are here to try the original Iekei, or house-style, ramen dish and it does not disappoint.
Tonkotsu pork bone and shoyu broths are blended together in your bowl caressing a healthy portion of thick, chewy noodles between the surface. Boiled spinach, three crisp sheets of nori and tender char siu pork help bring the experience together for what originally became the very first Iekei ramen. The pork is tender, cooked to perfection, and it is tempting to drink up the entire bowl of soup such is the depth of flavour, not to mention history, contained within.
True ramen fans owe it to themselves to visit Yoshimuraya. With the way ramen has evolved over the last 30 years, you might not be blown away with the 'concept' or the simplicity of the dish, but the tried and tested execution is what keeps the crowds coming back.
Yoshimuraya is about a 10 minute walk to the south-west of Yokohama station. Nearest exit is Exit 5 to the south of Joinus, on the subway/Blue Line side of Yokohama Station.
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