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Classic Kyoto Ramen Unveiled

What is classic Kyoto Ramen and where can you get the best versions of it? We'll answer this and more!

Classic Kyoto Ramen at Honke Daiichi Asahi

Classic Kyoto Ramen

So, classic Kyoto ramen? Kyoto likely doesn't come to mind when one thinks about ramen. Japan's cultural capital likely conjures images of ancient temples and elegant cuisine, if anything.

Kyoto Kaiseki Ryori
Delicate Kaiseki Ryori

But Kyoto loves its ramen. Beneath the historic cityscape is a vibrant ramen scene. Let's delve into the essence of classic Kyoto ramen, exploring its origins, defining characteristics, and where best to enjoy it.


Origins and Influences

Kyoto ramen roots can be traced back to the 1930s. Specifically, Shinpuku Saikan (新福菜館 本店) started in 1938 in Kyoto as a food stall. This is likely Kyoto's first ever ramen shop - and they're still around today!

Inside Shinpuku Saikan
Inside Shinpuku Saikan

Following Shinpuku Saikan's lead, ramen shops began sprouting across Kyoto City in the late 1940s. They offered locals a comforting bowl of warmth amidst the chaos of post war reconstruction.

Outside Honke Daiichi Asahi
Outside Honke Daiichi Asahi

Honke Daiichi Asahi (本家 第一旭 本店) is one such shop. They began in 1947 and today are located right next to Shinpuku Saikan.

Outside Tenka Ippin
Outside Tenka Ippin

A new, heavier style of Kyoto ramen emerged in the 1970s at Tenka Ippin (天下一品 総本店). They created a brand of rich chicken ramen and today have over 200 shops across Japan. They've made just as big an impact on the Kyoto ramen scene as Shinpuku Saikan and Honke Daiichi Asahi.


Characteristics of Classic Kyoto Ramen

One of the defining features of Kyoto ramen is the use of soy sauce, known as "shoyu" in Japanese. Shoyu is a central component / seasoning in Kyoto ramen.

The Kyoto Ramen Prototype
Honke Daiichi Asahi's Signature Shoyu Ramen

Shinpuku Saikan opts for a darker, bolder shoyu. Honke Daiichi Asahi's shoyu is softer in flavor. Besides this shoyu base, Kyoto ramen soups tend to be heavier and meatier from pork and/or chicken bones. This is certainly the case at Masutani (ますたに), who've also been around since 1947.

Seabura Shoyu Ramen at Masutani
Seabura Shoyu Ramen at Masutani

Mautani's shoyu seasoned soup features a copious amount of sweet tasting pork back fat, or "seabura". Thanks to Masutani, this seabura makes up a whole subset of classic Kyoto ramen.


As mentioned earlier, Tenka Ippin ushered in an even heavier soup after the 1970s. Chicken bones are boiled for hours and hours to create it.

Tenka Ippin's Bowl
Tenka Ippin's Rich Soup

But you won't find this heavier soup preference everywhere in Kyoto. Mampuku (萬福), which has been making ramen since the 1950s, likes a lighter soup.

A Lighter Kyoto Ramen
A Lighter Soup at Mampuku

You'll often find medium-thick, round noodles accompanying a ramen soup in Kyoto. Another classic Kyoto ramen hallmark is a big forest of Kyoto kujo negi (green spring onions). Outside of this, toppings can vary. But slices of chashu pork and marinated bamboo shoots quite common.


Where to Experience Classic Kyoto Ramen

We already mentioned Shinpuku Saikan, Honke Daiichi Asahi, and Masutani as shops to get classic ramen fixings in Kyoto. Daichu (特製ラーメン 大中) and Daikoku (大黒ラーメン) are two other shops in Kyoto that serve excellent traditional ramen.

Daikoku's Ramen
Daikoku's Ramen

If you're craving a heavier bowl like what Tenka Ippin serves, try ramen shops like Gokkei (麺屋 極鶏) or Turumusha (らーめん 鶴武者. Gokkei, for example features a chicken soup that's as thick as wet cement.

#Thick Soup at Gokkei
#Thick Soup at Gokkei

Throughout this article, there are 8 ramen shops in total that we have highlighted!


Conclusion

In conclusion, Classic Kyoto Ramen is more than just a dish – it's a cultural ambassador, a culinary masterpiece that encapsulates the soul of Japan's ancient capital. While heavy ramen shops dot the Kyoto landscape, they don't define the city's ramen scene.

Noodles at Mampuku
Noodles at Mampuku

In Kyoto's there's something for everyone. - whether light or heavy, classic or neo classic.

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