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The Man Behind Ramen Tokyo

If you have a love of ramen then you will adore Ramen Tokyo, a site that offers reviews of ramen shops throughout the Tokyo Metropolitan area and was recently featured by The Washington Post. The man behind Ramen Tokyo prefers to remain anonymous but he kindly granted me an interview via email so that I could share his love of this great Japanese food with you!

The story behind Ramen Tokyo goes like this, several years ago an IT guy from New Jersey moved to Tokyo for work and discovered a love of ramen.  He says that he always liked noodles as a kid but that “the taste, the smell, the variety, and the funky ambiance” of the ramen shops in Tokyo hooked him when he got to Japan.  In fact he became a little bit obsessed with finding the best bowl of ramen in the city and decided that he would check out as many ramen shops as he could.

The result is Ramen Tokyo, a blog that he started in July 2006, which provides reviews of over 160 ramen shops.  He updates the site every three weeks or so and says that he has only scratched the surface of what he estimates are over 5,000 ramen shops in the Tokyo Area.

Ramen styles are primarily defined by the type of broth and Ramen Tokyo offers detailed information and a glossary of ramen terms to help readers navigate the various styles.  Anyone who loves ramen will tell you that personal tastes differ significantly but the man behind Ramen Tokyo describes his favorite as follows:

“My favorite broth style is tonkotsu gyokai (豚骨魚介), this is a mixture of tonkotsu (pork-bone) and gyokai (fish, sometimes seaweed). It has a thicker texture and sometimes a richer flavor than most broths, but it’s a different taste and some people may not take to it immediately. Currently popular examples of this would be Rokurinsha or Tetsu. I prefer my noodles to be very thick and chewy (“mochi-mochi”) and sometimes a bit firm (“katame”). Good quality pork and lots of it, cooked well, is also a must.”

Sounds good to me!  He also shares how a combination of factors come into play when he rates a bowl of ramen.  The soup needs to have a rich taste, without being watery, the amount and quality of noodles provided needs to match the broth and lastly, the quality of the pork served must be good.  “Deal breakers are mushy noodles, too salty broth, or pork that looks like Oscar Mayer bologna.”

Ramen Tokyo has a simple rating system.  Almost every shop mentioned on the site is at least “decent”, but shops labeled “recommended” are significantly better than the rest and are worth a special trip to dine there. On average, a “recommended” rating is earned by one in three shops reviewed.  The following shops represent a cross-section of shop types, styles, and flavors and have all received a “recommended” rating: 

What’s next?  Ramen Tokyo will soon feature a simple English-language guide to using “Supleks“, one of the largest Japanese-language online ramen databases, and the man behind the site says will continue to explore the ramen shops of Tokyo and share the results with the world for some time to come.

Ramen Tokyo readers want to learn more about this part of Japanese cuisine and experience it in Japan.  Are you one of them?

Image used with permission from Ramen Tokyo