A very close friend of mine posed a question to me once - 'What's one thing you could possibly eat for the rest of your life?'. The answer was almost instantaneous: ramen. That was 2 years ago, and till today I still stand by my answer. Urban Dictionary even defines ramen as 'food of the gods'. I could not possibly get enough from all the goodness that comes from that one dish - the rich, creamy soup, the chewy noodles and the succulent, melt-in-your-mouth pork slices - hitting all the right spots after finishing a scrumptious, satisfying bowl.
For this article, I decided to take a different approach to hunting down ramen - no looking up food blogs, no Googling 'best ramen shops' and no recommendations from friends. I would go to Shibuya over the course of 3 days and have ramen from 3 different ramen shops for lunch, depending only on my appetite for seeking the unknown and the prowess of my walking abilities. Basically, I'm winging my entire 3-day ramen experience.
The first day (Hakata Furyu 博多風龍)
I came across this ramen store adjacent to the Bershka building. Bright yellow sign on the outside, modest wooden interior on the inside. There were only two people tending to the store, one busy cooking up a storm and another sitting, greeting and waiting on customers. It seemed like the sort of environment made for people looking for a quick lunch break, as people tended to eat quietly and leave right after they finish.Looking through the variety of choices in the menu, I went with a spicy miso ramen, got my ticket, and waited for the queue to shorten. Apparently, at this joint, people were able to ask for up to two noodle refills, provided that the soup is not finished.
The spicy miso ramen was nothing short of amazing. Generous servings of succulent charsiew slices and pork cubes were submerged in a spicy miso broth, with the hint of spice going really well with the fragrant miso. Since my hunger was getting the better of me, I had a second serving of noodles, which really hit the spot.
The second day (Ramen Kindenmaru らーめん金伝丸)
The second store was located near the main McDonalds restaurant along the main Udagawacho street in Shibuya. Adorned with a stark red sign and corrugated metal panels, this ramen joint was located in an area where there was a big traffic flow. The wooden interior was moody but cosy, with the kitchen not as visible to customers as the first one was, but definitely allowed conversation much more than the first one did.
I decided to go with a tonkotsu ramen this time. The noodles were similar to the first ramen on day one, but with a thicker and slightly oilier soup base. What won me over was how soft the pork belly was, which went amazingly well with the runny eggs and bamboo shoots.
The third day (Otoko asahi yama 男旭山)
The last store I chanced upon was along the street that ran under Shibuya Mark City. Adorned with a big Kanji character representing 'male', the store gave an old world charm with its rusty wood doors. The kitchen was separated from the dining area with a wooden panel, and like the second one, also allowed for customers to chill in while slurping up delicious strands of ramen.
The miso ramen I had was yet another fine example for the prowess of Japan's ramen. The block of butter that accompanied the ramen gave it an edge, while the corn added a sweetness to the soup. Along with the delectable charsiew slices and bamboo, it was definitely a winner.
This was my experience hunting down ramen shops, which begets the question - where would your love for ramen take you to?