Ramen noodles. A simple and fast, cheap, always-available Japanese meal… that hugely divides people.
Is a pack of instant ramen okay, or is it ‘freshly-made noodles or die’? What kind of soup do you like – salt, soy sauce, miso, tonkotsu, curry? Are regional special mixes the way to go? How spicy can you handle? How chewy should the noodles be? Do you want half a soft-boiled egg on top?
The ultimate, single perfect bowl of ramen is a myth – everyone’s got their own tastes. For foodies who like to experiment with their noodles before deciding, we’ve dug up a literal rainbow of colourful ramen choices.
Tokyo Pink Tonkotsu Ramen
If you guessed ‘Hello Kitty collaboration food’, well done. The collab’s between Sanrio and Edo-Tamagawaya, a noodle maker with over 80 years in the business.
They’re known for making soft, chewy mochi-mochi noodles – so kawaii!
Tonkotsu’s the thick pork ramen broth style that takes a long time to make, and that cloudy soup gives the pink noodles a cute pastel look. The finishing touch on top? A tiny Hello Kitty face made from seaweed.
Zombear blue zombie ramen (Hokkaido)
Is this miso ramen? Not quite – Zombear zombie ramen claims to be ‘nou miso’ (脳みそ) flavour, which means… brains. Your other option’s the spicy salt version.
Zombear’s a small bear plushie from Hokkaido, searching for the little boy that used to own it. And, uh, it’s been wandering around looking for over 70 years. Mostly ’cause it can’t tell which way’s which. Maybe the best ramen backstory we’ve ever heard.
Green matcha ramen (Kyoto)
When you think of green tea, we bet you think of Kyoto’s famous Uji matcha. (And if you don’t already, you should.) There’s a restaurant near the Uji river that puts matcha powder in their ramen, and in the gyoza you can order on the side. The noodles come out as a dark forest green.
They serve a few different flavours of matcha ramen: tonkotsu, salt, and soy sauce soup bases. Well hey, you’d drink a cup of green tea on the side, so we guess it must blend nicely with all of them.
Yellow ramen (Hakata)
The Hakata (Fukuoka) ramen’s a cup noodle made by Maruchan.
The circular one’s the standard tonkotsu ramen. It comes with 2 slices of dried char siu pork, which is super rare for an instant noodle pack. The square one’s ‘yaki (fried) ramen’ with tonkotsu sauce.
You can’t miss that bright yellow packaging on a conbini shelf, and in contrast the noodles and soup end up looking kinda… pale. Still tastes good, though.
Kikuya purple ramen (Tokyo)
In Kita-Senju, a Tokyo suburb not far from Ueno and Akihabara, you’ll find a little ramen shop called Kikuya. Their colour-changing purple ramen does crazy things. Mix the noodles in the salty purple soup and it’ll turn emerald green – pour vinegar into that, and watch it change to pink.
Kikuya’s also got red, yellow, and blue noodle bowls on their menu. Along with… ice cream cone ramen, cocoa ramen, coffee ramen, nattou ramen, soy milk ramen, and ‘alkali battery’ ramen.
Orange mikan ramen (Hokkaido)
Mikan: a citrus fruit like a small orange, and the name of a popular ramen shop in Otaru city, Hokkaido. Their trademark miso ramen is way more orange than usual.
Don’t worry, it doesn’t taste like fruit. The ‘mikan’ really comes from the word ‘mikansei’ (未完成) – ‘unfinished, incomplete’. A true ramen master’s work is never done.
Black ramen (Osaka, Toyama)
Yeah, the dark creepy one is our local style. It’s literally known as ‘Osaka black ramen’. The blackness is delicious soy sauce – far more concentrated than your usual shoyu ramen.
Toyama prefecture gets a namecheck as well, with their own super dark soy sauce ramen. It’s often a mix of soy, chicken stock and fish stock, to keep the taste light. The exact soy sauce brand is a closely-guarded secret.
Gold ramen (Tottori…?)
It sounds like a rare luxury, but the ‘Tottori Gold’ cup noodle brand doesn’t come with a high price tag. The taste’s rare, for sure – it’s the only ramen on this list to use beef bone broth.
Are these noodles the shining golden food crown on Tottori prefecture’s head? …sort of. The original ramen company was from Tottori, but the Gold version was created in their Ginza noodle shop. And the company that currently owns the brand started in Aichi.
Sorry if we made you hungry!
Did you know Osaka’s got a shop that sells nothing but instant noodle packs? Let us know in the comments if you want us to go check it out sometime.