Monday, June 18, 2012

In Japan - Tokyo Ramen Museum

I have heard of rumors that the Tokyo Ramen Museum in Shin-Yokohama isn't really worth the trip, but one of my friends here said it was an interesting place. Well, sometimes you ought to try it out yourself before you can decide which opinion you should trust, right?

So here I was, at Shin Yokohama! The trip took about 50 minutes to 1 hour from Ikebukuro to Shin-Yokohama, and it costs in around 1100 yen for a round trip. 

It was about 5-minute walk from Shin-Yokohama station. The museum was kind of hidden within tall buildings surrounding the museum and there was no sign indicating its location on the street. I asked for a map at the station office, and I guess it was really helpful.

The entrance fee was 300 yen, and you can re-enter the museum within the same day as long as you get a stamp on your ticket and on your left hand upon exiting the museum. There are free guidebooks in different languages, but you'll miss a lot of details if you only read the English guidebook. The English guidebook only provides the general information on the ramen sold (how to pronounce the names in English, what the seasonings are and what the ingredients are). Meanwhile, the Japanese booklet includes more detailed description such as the thickness of the noodle, the strength of the soup's flavor, the menu and prices from each shop, and descriptions of the flavors.

My friend said she tried 3 different kinds of mini-sized ramen, each costs around 550-700 yen. Being a foodie, I said to myself I would at least eat 3 types of ramen. Well, despite being called mini-size, they're not really small.

There are different shops located within the museum. I went on Sunday and the line was actually not that bad (the waiting time was about 15 minutes).

Here are the three mini ramen that I tried:

Sapporo miso chashu ramen from Ramen no Eki
I haven't tried eating Sapporo ramen before but this ramen was definitely very very very oily. If you leave the ramen sitting for a couple of minutes, you can see the soup covered with 5mm thick of oil. I'm not sure if this is because it's really cold up in Sapporo so the foods are generally fatty, but I had to keep wiping my lips because there was too much excessive oil sticking on my lips and I don't like that oily feeling. The soup is really thick, it's really hard to drink. The chashu was so-so (and very fatty as well). The noodle itself is considerably thick and very chewy. According to the Japanese version of the guidebook, this ramen has the strongest flavor. Somehow I love the menma (bamboo shoot); it had a really good texture. 

Overall, it was somehow delicious but it was too oily for me. I don't mind eating it again but I won't yearn for it.

Saitama Kara (spicy) tsukemen from Ganjya
The noodle is very thick, almost like udon. And in fact it did smell like udon a little bit. There was nothing spicy about this ramen, and this spicy tsukemen is supposed to be the most favorited dish from this shop. I was a little disappointed because it was like dipping noodles into chili oil. There was some flavor (I'm assuming they use dashi, miso and other flavorings in the dipping sauce) but it wasn't particularly unique or memorable. I do love the texture of the noodle. If only the dipping sauce is less oily...

Kurume mukashi tonkotsu ramen from Taiho Ramen
This was by far my most favorite ramen from the museum. It has the most unique flavor and I haven't had anything close to this. The flavor was very rich and yet the soup is thin and drinkable. The noodle is thin and not curly, similar to that of Ippudo's Hakata ramen. When I first drank the soup, there was an unexplainable aroma and taste, very unique and tasty, and at the same time I felt strangely nostalgic about it. It turns out that they are using chu yu cha (or in Indonesian, ampas babi) in the soup. I don't know the Japanese name for it but it was awesome. I felt like I was at home. Chu yu cha is basically the remains of deep fried lard. Well, not those processed lard sold in cans, but the subcutaneous fats from pork meat. This was the last ramen I had that day and I was really full, and yet I could say this was very delicious. That means under normal circumstances, I think this ramen is extremely delicious.

There were in total of 9 shops within the museum, and it appears that the shops change periodically. Here is the list of shops and rough details on the kind of ramen they sell:

1. Yamagata area (north east), Ryushanhai.
- Specialty: miso ramen
- Very thick noodles (10/10), curly
- Strong soup flavor (9/10)

2. Saitama area (east), Ganjya.
- Specialty: tonkotsu shouyu ramen and tsukemen
- Very thick noodles (10/10), straight
- Strong soup flavor (8/10)

3. Tokyo area (east), Toride.
- Specialty: tonkotsu ramen
- Very thin noodles (1/10), straight
- Strong flavor (6.5/10)

4. Kurume area (west), Taiho Ramen.
- Specialty: tonkotsu ramen
- Thin noodles (3/10), straight
- Strong flavor (8.5/10)

5. Kesennuma area (north east), Kamome Shokudo
- Specialty: shio ramen
- Somewhat noodles (4.5/10), curly
- Weak flavor (3/10)

6. Kumamoto area (west), Komurasaki.
- Specialty: tonkotsu ramen

- Thin noodles (2.5/10), straight
- Very weak flavor (2/10)

7. Sapporo area (north), Ramen no Eki.
- Specialty: miso ramen
- Thick noodles (8/10)
- Very strong flavor (10/10)

8. Yokohama area (east), Shina Sobaya.
- Specialty: shouyu soba
- Thin noodles (2.5/10), straight
- Weak flavor (3/10)

9. Tokyo area (east), Nidaime Genkotsuya.
- Specialty: shio ramen
- Thick noodles (6.5/10), straight
- Medium flavor (5/10)

The Ramen Museum has a unique setting of Edo period. The museum is underground and the lights were dim so I didn't quite enjoy the atmosphere. I felt rather stuffy even though I assume that they are well equipped with proper ventilation system.

If you are young enough you can play games. This card (I think you pay for the card but I don't know how much) allows you to collect stamps by winning a janken (scissors paper stone) with certain people stationed at certain locations.

If you lose, you'll have to give one of those hearts and I guess if you lost all of your 'hearts' you lose. But since it is meant for kids, even if you lose you will be allowed to keep trying until you win :)

And then there was also this shooting game, which you can also find whenever there are festivals. 300 yen for 10 cork bullets. I managed to shoot a pack of candy down on my 5th shot! The trick is to aim straight (not sideways to the left or to the right) and aim a little lower than your target. Theoretically it's easy to say but hard to execute.

On the first floor you can buy goods and souvenirs. I was a little broke so I didn't buy anything.

And in case you're wondering what dashi, tare and abura are, they have pictures describing each categories.

Will I come back to this museum? Well, probably, if I had so much spare time. It's a little far and I'm too lazy to spend two hours back and forth just to eat these ramen because there are so many delicious ramen around Tokyo anyways. 


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