Here in Minami Uonuma City, the snow piles up as high as 2 meters during winter season. That is as tall as a professional American basketball player! It is no wonder that the prefecture is called Yuki Guni or Snow Country, a title based on a novel of classic writer Yasunori Kawabata where he used Niigata as the setting of the story. So how do I keep myself warm in this beautiful but freezing white ambiance?
The answer is simple.
Ramen shops are placed almost everywhere in this frosty city. You may wonder what makes this city so special when you can find good ramen shops in big cities such Tokyo and Osaka. Well, Niigata is considered to be famous for ramen and since winter season can be very harsh in this region, it is the perfect place to have the right warmth of soup stock and the filling starches of ramen noodles. There are different kinds – oily, meaty, spicy, miso-based or pure soy sauce based and more. You can definitely find the right kind for you as you try out the shops and their specialties. You may even discover new flavors as you embark on a food trip adventure. But to give you a head start, let me tell you my 3 favorite ramen shops in Minami Uonuma City.
Mitsuya became my ideal fix for those winter days of unbelievable iciness because of its famous se-abura filled soup stock. Se-abura (背脂) is basically lard, and to be specific, it is the fat situated in the upper side of the pig’s loin. For the meat lovers, this is just pure heaven of greasy goodness ready to warm their tummies but for some, it may be a difficult choice to gulp down a mouthful of lard. To resolve this, guests can order their ramen with oome or more, futsuu or normal and sukuname or few se-abura. There are three types of broth namely miso, soy sauce and salt and a variety of toppings to choose from as well such as eggs, thinly sliced but flavorful chashuu, bamboo shoots and more. Price ranges from 700￥- 900 ￥so it definitely is a value for your money!
Access: 328 Mitsuya (みつや)
Address: 2787-1 Kokonokamachi Minami Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, 〒 949-7312
Operation Hours: 11:00～20:00 (Closed on Thursdays)
Ajihira (ラーメン味平 )
Ajihira, considered as one of the Top 3 ramen shop in the city, only offers soy sauce-based ramen but provides a variety of toppings such as negi (Welsh onion), chashuu, wanton, bamboo shoots and more. Price varies from sizes but only ranges from 700￥ to 1150￥. Moreover, even the smallest size can get you completely satiated. It is no wonder that the place is always crowded. To be honest, I was never a fan of soy sauce based ramen and have never ordered it until my visit to Ajihira. The light flavor of soy sauce complimented Ajihira’s heavily seasoned meat so well that my perception completely changed at an instant.
Access: Ramen Ajihira (ラーメン味平)
Address: 1209-61 Koidejima, Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, 〒946-0011
Operation Hours: Visit Facebook page
But even though Ajihira’s soy sauce broth was delightful, my personal favorite would still be a miso-based ramen and preferably with a hint of spiciness. And that is just what YoKoSo has to offer! The shop offers different kinds of ramen, even offering cold noodles in summer time but their must-try dish is the miso spicy tantanmen – a mixture of miso and sesame flavor with a hint of chillis topped with freshly cooked vegetables with an option to have eggs and meat on the side. I seldom eat vegetables but YoKoSo never gave me any second thoughts. One bowl of this is a decision you will certainly not regret.
Access: YoKoSo! (らーめんの店 ヨーコソ)
Address: 4532-4 Urasa, Minami Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, 〒949-7302
Operation Hours: 11:30～14:00; 17:30～20:30 (20:00 last order); Closed on Wednesdays
Now, it is only a matter of time until the snow descends and then it will be again the perfect time to have a bowl of ramen amidst the white picturesque view.