In the city of Chino in the Nagano Prefecture, there’s a humble little ramen shop called Roppou, meaning ‘Six Paths’. It was recommended to me from a fellow English teacher who eats ramen every Friday night, and is therefore considered somewhat of a guru compared to my limited knowledge of the famous Japanese dish. As he chatted about his favourite ramen places, I expected Roppou to be your normal, run-of-the-mill (but still delicious) tonkotsu or miso ramen. This wasn’t quite the case, however.
The restaurant is clean, spacious, and cosier and somehow more welcoming than other ramen chains such as Tenhou. In the charming Japanese fashion, the chefs and waiting staff shout their welcoming as the guests enter the restaurant. You can choose your meals and toppings from a ticket machine, and there are also drinks vending machines in and around the restaurant offering water and soda. The kitchen is also clearly visible from the dining tables, which is always a good sign if you’re eating out – it shows the chefs and the kitchen practise good hygiene.
When you order your meal, the waiter asks you to choose the different levels of certain ingredients. Usually when you order ramen, you get what you get – so this was a new feature to try out. You can choose the nashi (none), small, medium or large option for vegetables, meat and meat fat. The vegetables are mostly beansprouts, but also include cabbage. I chose the ‘medium’ option for each ingredient, as I wasn’t sure what to expect. This is what was put in front of me after only a ten-minute wait.
This ramen was enormous; when it was put in front of me, I wondered whether they expected me to eat it or climb it.
This style of ramen is jiro ramen, meaning ‘double pork’, which is heavy, thick noodles in a pork-based sauce. This thing could have fed a family.
As you can see in the picture, I ordered a soft-boiled egg as a topping. This is extremely delicious, goes very well with the noodles and meat, and is highly recommended. It costs around 150-200 yen, and you order it (amongst other toppings of your choice) from the same vending machine where you order your main course. Beer is also available from the machine, but is a little expensive – around 300-400 yen for a can of Kirin or Asahi.
I got to work on this mountain of a meal. The pork is easily the best meat I’ve ever had in ramen, which was the highlight for me. It was flavourful, filling, not too salty, and satisfying. However, I could only eat about half of the meal before I slumped back in defeat. Next time, ordering the ‘small’ option for everything might be the best idea.
The toppings are special, but the noodles themselves are also quite different from the usual ramen style. They’re thicker, heavier, with a very pleasant consistency that compliments the meaty broth very well. These noodles, plus the massive portions of meat and mountain of vegetables, make an incredibly filling and satisfying meal that will keep you full for the rest of the day. An option to consider is going for lunch so that you’re not too stuffed in the evening. However, if you choose to do this, go to Roppou on a day where you’re not up to much for the rest of the afternoon – after eating this ramen, all I wanted to do was sleep!
If you’re a big fan of ramen, definitely try out Roppou. If you’re nowhere near a Roppou restaurant, the jiro style ramen is available in many other restaurants in Japan. Go when you’re hungry, though – it’s for larger appetites only.
You can also order the ‘no vegetables’ option if you’re only looking for a meat feast and you’re not a big fan of beansprouts. This is what our friend did, and managed to demolish his bowl in an impressive 25 minutes. I don’t know where he puts it.
Roppou is open for lunch and for dinner, seven days a week. If you do decide to go, make sure you don’t have to do anything that requires a lot of energy afterwards – Roppou is delicious, food-coma-inducing noodles that you won’t soon forget. Happy travels!