Spicy Ramen: My Secret Addiction

As soon as I arrived in Japan, my husband asked me “what do you want to eat first?” I smiled at him and gave no answer… “Ok, let’s go for a Ramen bowl”, he stated as he deduced what I was thinking.

My love for the Japanese noodle soup was born in my home country with instant ramen, grew up in Shizuoka with miso ramen, and evolved in Tokyo with spicy ramen. Spicy ramen has become my addiction and I am always eager to discover new ramen restaurants that do not fear to use extra spices.

And why spicy? Spicy means spices, and spices means lots of flavors... And with spicy hot ramen, it is a lot more than just “chili flavor”: the rich broth combined with the secret mix of spices gives the ramen a profound taste too complex to translate into words.

If you love a kind of strong flavor that makes you feel alive and awake, you will fall in love with spicy ramen. And you will find yourself, just like me, trying to discover more and more restaurants that specialize in spicy hot ramen.

Where to Start?

If you are a beginner in the spicy world of ramen you might consider starting with Ippudo.

Outside Ippudo Restaurant

This is a big chain of ramen restaurants, founded in 1985, that nowadays have even successfully opened more restaurants outside Japan, in 12 different countries. They offer the “Hakata ramen” style from Fukuoka: a tonkotsu (thick, creamy pork bones broth) ramen with thin noodles.

And what is even better is that they offer a spicy ramen version, that is not super hot and tastes super good. The toppings make a great combination: soft and fatty chashu (pork meat), green onions and black fungus.

The broth is rich, heavy and creamy… and just because of that, your noodles are literally coated with the flavorful broth, in every single slurp.

Make sure to order extra firm noodles, in order to have a better experience. And if you would like to have more spice you can add some of the “kimchi sprouts” available on the table side for self-service, along with some other toppings such as garlic, sesame seeds and pink ginger pickles.

Now that you have tried Ippudo, you are ready to go to the next level, and that is “Ichiran”. This is another ramen store that specializes in “Hakata ramen” style, but it differs from Ippudo.

Outside Ichiran ramen. Photo by intdev on Flickr

Ichiran offers the possibility to customize your ramen, by choosing your preferred richness of broth, the flavor strength, white or green onions, amount of secret sauce, firmness of noodles and choice of garlic. My recommendation is to order firmer noodles.

You will be given a super milky and rich broth, full of flavor that actually could be spicier and fatter than Ippudo.

And just like with Ippudo, you could order another portion of noodles to add on, after you finish the first one.

And Now...My Secret Spicy Ramen Restaurant

And finally you are ready for my secret ramen spot: Mensoken Kanade Kurenai Ramen.

This shop may not be as famous as the other two… but in my “ramen ranking” is rated as the number 1.

Everything about this shop is perfect. Once you step inside, the incredibly yummy smell transports you to a “ramen world dream”… They also bring your ramen bowl at the perfect timing and you can have a disposable paper apron to prevent yourself from bedraggling. Pretty cool right?

Kurenai Ramen should be your choice.

The ramen bowl looks stunning. The toppings are great: pork, cabbage and soybean sprouts. While you won’t be getting chashu, I am sure you will not miss it, since the shaved pork, cooked to perfection, is amazingly delicious. The tonkotsu broth (pork bones combined with spices and chili oil) is rich and creamy and the flavor is a synonym of perfection.

But as if that would not be enough, the noodles make it even better: hand cut thick and squiggly noodles… As soon as you start eating, you would even find different kinds of thickness… what makes it additionally more interesting.

This ramen is quite spicy, so I recommend that you start with the standard Kurenai Ramen. They also offer a spicier version, so if you are a “Spice Master”, do not worry, you can order that the next time. I am sure you will be coming back for more!

As per the prices, the 3 ramen shops have similar prices, from ¥700 to ¥850 for one bowl. However, if you are super hungry, Kurenai Ramen offers, for ¥800, a very generous portion, while with the other chains, you will need to ask for an extra portion of noodles.

You can find Ippudo and Ichiran’s stores nationwide. However Mensoken Kanade Kurenai Ramen has two small shops in Tokyo: one in Fuchu (府中市寿町 1-2-3) and one in Kokubunji (国分寺市本町 2-2-15).

Take notes and good luck on your ramen adventures!

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