Green tea-infused noodles let you consume matcha even outside of tea time while in Uji.

Uji, in Kyoto Prefecture, has long been famous as Japan’s most respected matcha green tea-growing town. Walking along its streets, you’ll come across multiple tea merchants, many of which have been in the tea business for centuries.

In the modern age, however, green tea isn’t just a beverage, but a seasoning too, and Uji’s newer claim to fame is as a center for matcha-flavored sweets and desserts. On our recent visit, though, we came across an enticing matcha entrée.

As we strolled down one of the pathways that runs between the Ujigawa River and Byodoin Temple, we noticed a banner advertising matcha ramen. This was far too enticing to pass up, and we made our way into the restaurant, Tanakamaru Shoten, to order a bowl.

The basic matcha ramen costs 890 yen (US$8), but we decided to upgrade to the deluxe Uji Matcha Salty Stamina Ramen, for 1,310 yen. Tanakamaru Shoten is especially welcoming of foreign customers, what with its English menu, and as we waited for our noodles, we could hear several different languages being spoken at the surrounding tables, with the word “matcha” peppering each conversation.

Tanakamaru Shoten doesn’t pour green tea into the ramen broth. Instead, it mixes matcha powder into the noodles themselves. Because of this, we broke with the orthodox ramen-tasting protocol that dictates you should sip a spoonful of broth before you do anything else, and started by taking a bite of noodles.

The noodles’ color isn’t as bright green as a scoop of matcha ice cream, and is actually a brownish green hue. Flavor-wise, the matcha notes aren’t particularly strong, but you can subtly feel them. Maybe the best thing about the noodles is the slightly grainy texture that comes from the presence of the matcha powder, which makes them feel a little closer to soba than ordinary ramen in consistency.

Honestly, we might have made a mistake ordering the “Stamina” version of the matcha ramen. Restaurants in Japan often use the word “stamina” to mean “garlic,”but at Tanakamaru Shoten it’s the codeword for “kimchi.” Along with the standard ramen toppings of chashu pork slices, an egg, and bamboo shoots, the Uji Matcha Salty Stamina Ramen comes with a generous pinch of kimchi, and the scent and flavor of the garlicky pickles probably masks some of the green tea that we would have tasted if we’d ordered Tanakamaru Shoten’s standard matcha ramen.

Still, the Uji Matcha Salty Stamina Ramen was plenty tasty, and now we’ve got a reason to go back and try the normal green tea noodles too. Plus, having fewer toppings would leave us with more room to try the restaurant’s matcha gyoza

…or to stuff ourselves with matcha desserts afterwards.

Restaurant information
Tanakamary Shoten / 田中九商店
Address: Kyoto-fu, Uji-shi, Ujirenge9−1
Open 11 a.m.-6:30 p.m.

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