If you’ve ever tried pizza in Japan or even miso soup in America, you probably know not to expect the same quality as in that food’s homeland. That’s perfectly understandable if you ask me; sometimes food is adapted to appeal to local palates, and things that a dish’s original creators may insist on can be considered unappetising or downright odd in its new home.

But then you have countries where even the native cuisine is known throughout the world, whether it’s a fair statement to make or not, as being kind of unappetizing. In such a country, would seeking out non-native dishes be an especially good idea?

When he found himself craving Japanese food after months of living in the UK, RocketNews24 Japan’s writer Gold Hijikata decided to take himself out to well-known British chain restaurant Wagamama, which he heard specializes in Japanese favorite ramen. With over 100 locations across the UK, our man Gold had high hopes for Wagamama’s noodles, but he also knew that it would be hard to come close to his own country’s efforts.

“The actual taste was worse than I could have ever imagined.”

Before we get too far ahead of ourselves, we have to be honest here: Gold went into this “research project” almost expecting to be little disappointed, as any wise, well-travelled person would. After all, nothing beats the real deal. He was anticipating the dish to lack flavor, or taste unusual even, but nothing could have prepared his taste buds for the reality.

Let’s start from the beginning. At the restaurant Gold just decided to keep it simple, so he ordered a pretty standard set: gyoza (fried dumplings) and the shop’s specialty, Wagamama Ramen. After a few minutes, the gyoza arrived. They looked pretty much like normal gyoza from back home, Gold thought, so he poured on some soy sauce and took a bite.

“Ugh! It’s so dry!” He spluttered, chewing his way through the bite-sized dumpling. Looking at it, Gold suspected that the gyoza must have been fried hours prior to serving as the skin was tough and rubbery and the meaty filling void of almost all moisture. Turning over the remaining gyoza, he noticed that they even looked dry and hard.

▼ Saddest gyoza ever?


Gold abandoned any hope of finishing his dumplings, hoping it was just bad luck that they had been so unpalatable, and instead waited patiently for the arrival of his main item of culinary research.

▼ Gold’s ramen, moments after being served

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So… when you think ramen, there are some standard ingredients that probably come to mind: broth, noodles, green onion, egg, and maybe chashu (braised pork belly). Happily for Gold, Wagamama’s ramen contained all of these normal ingredients. But it also had shrimp, chikuwa (tube-like processed fish product popular in Oden), mussels, and chicken!

“What?!” he thought. “First of all, this is just a bunch of random stuff mixed together. Second, how do they even fit all of that into one bowl?!” But Gold, desperately hungry for Japanese cuisine, remained semi-optimistic. “Food isn’t all about looks,” he resolved, and went in for the taste test…

First he tried the soup only. “Ick! Way too watery!” he thought as he swallowed. The soup had very little flavor and definitely lacked the punch of good ramen broth. “It tasted like watered-down miso soup,” Gold noted. The noodles weren’t any better, sadly, tasting distinctly floury. Even though they were all-you-can-eat, Gold didn’t seem to want to eat any of them. The chunks of chicken, too, lacked any real flavor and the egg had a weird texture. All in all, Gold thought, Wagamama’s ramen was grosser than even the worst soup he’d ever had in Japan.

▼ The egg looked like it had been in a fight.

ramen 7

Chikuwa has no place in ramen, if you ask me.

ramen 8

After much grumbling and complaining from Gold, his British friend Chris made a suggestion: “If you think of this as Japanese ramen, of course it’s going to be bad!”

So that’s when Gold realized that maybe Japanese ramen and British ramen are just different foods with the same name. So he erased his negative preconceptions and tried again, trying to envision the soup not as ramen like back home, but as a soup he’d never had before and would be a new experience for him.

▼ Something tells us he’s not going to become a regular…


Conclusion: At least one Japanese person is completely appalled by Britain’s chain ramen.

For those of you thinking that it couldn’t possibly be that bad and that he was just exaggerating, Gold requests that you go to the UK and try this Wagamama special ramen for yourself – “But you’ve been warned,” he adds.

If you’re British or have otherwise tried Wagamama Ramen, be sure to share your opinions in the comments section below. Afterall, what’s a good research experiment with only one test?

Photos: RocketNews24
[ Read in Japanese ]