Upon leaving Seoul, Mr. Selfish and I flew to Fukuoka, which is the sixth largest city in Japan and is located about 680 miles southwest of Tokyo. We had read online that tonkotsu ramen originated from Fukuoka and knew that we had to try it there.
Tonkotsu ramen is made from boiling pork bones, fat, and collagen for an extended period of time. The broth is typically thick and creamy. The first place we tried was Ichiran (1-2-22, Sumiyoshi, Hakata-ku, Fukuoka). Ordering your ramen at Ichiran is an interesting process devoid of all human contact. First, you pick what you want to order and pay for it at a vending machine.
Second, you find a seat at a booth by checking the electronic seating chart to see if any seats are available. If none are available, you have to wait. Third, once you have a booth, you fill out a form to indicate your personal preferences for your ramen, such as flavor, richness, garlic, green onions, noodle firmness, etc. Fourth, you give the form and your vending machine tickets to someone through the window in the booth. You cannot see the person’s face, and there is no communication.
Finally, they bring you a bowl of ramen, and without another word spoken, they close the window through the booth. You can now enjoy your delicious customized bowl of tonkotsu ramen.
This was, by far, the best bowl of ramen that me and Mr. Selfish had ever tasted. The broth was flavorful and creamy. The noodles were nice and firm. And, the pork chashu was perfect and tender. Mr. Selfish and I shared a single bowl because we knew that we had to eat at another ramen place that night in Fukuoka.
Next, we decided to visit Ippudo (１丁目-１３−１４ Daimyo Fukuoka Chuo Ward, Fukuoka), which is a popular chain with locations throughout Japan and in the U.S., Singapore, and Hong Kong. Ippudo’s first location was the one in Fukuoka though.
We opted to order a bowl of the Akamara New, which is topped with Ippudo’s secret “Umami Dama” and also has miso paste, pork chashu, cabbage, sesame kikurage mushrooms, scallions, and fragrant garlic oil. We also ordered some gyoza.
Although the ramen was quite tasty, it was not as good as the bowl we just had from Ichiran. I did enjoy all of the different toppings, such as the egg, the secret sauce, and the seaweed. Ichiran’s bowl was more straightforward and basic, but sometimes that is better.
The gyoza at Ippudo was excellent. It was probably the best gyoza I’ve ever had. It was cooked to perfection – although the photo makes them look a little burnt. Even though they were crunchy on the outside, they just melted in my mouth.
Finally, for our third dinner, we went to the yatai outdoor markets, which are only open late at night. We met some friendly English speakers at a “barbeque” stand and enjoyed some tempura, pork belly, sake, and beer with them.
Mr. Selfish and I were sad that we had to leave Fukuoka bright and early the next morning. The food in Fukuoka is definitely worth a trip. We definitely wished that we had more time, but we had to take a bus to Kurokawa, a lovely onsen town about 2 hours away.