This relatively unknown local delicacy is well worth getting your hands on…if you can find it!

Ramen comes in a myriad of different flavors, and many regions of Japan boast their own specialties. Some are more famous than others, like Sapporo ramen from Hokkaido, with its miso-flavored broth, and Hakata ramen, Fukuoka’s thick and cloudy pork bone broth ramen also known as tonkotsu.

Unfortunately, ramen varieties from lesser-known places tend to fly under the radar. Take, for example, Tokushima ramen, hailing from the south-central island of Shikoku. It’s so unknown that when our Japanese-language reporter Ikuna Kameazawa asked around at the office, only one out of the eight people present knew what it was. Well, that’s not surprising, given that our office is in Tokyo, and there are very few ramen restaurants that serve Tokushima ramen in the Tokyo area.

Ikuna has no connection to Tokushima whatsoever, but, having recently discovered Tokushima ramen, she would like to shout its praises from the rooftops. Since that fateful day when these noodles first graced her lips, she has become a prisoner to Tokushima ramen. Or rather, to the restaurant Ramen Todai.

Ramen Todai is a Tokushima ramen chain with branches in western Japan, particularly Kansai, Chugoku (the region to the west of Kansai), and Shikoku. Undoubtedly, any Tokushima locals reading this will say there are far better Tokushima ramen shops out there. Ikuna, who hasn’t yet had the chance to visit Tokushima herself, asks for their pardon (she’ll go one day!).

The branch of Todai Ramen that Ikuna most recently visited was in an Aeon Mall in Okayama, where she ordered the Todai Set (1,100 yen [US$8.50]). It comes with a soft drink and bowl of rice topped with mentaiko (spicy cod roe) and tororo (grated yam). Whether those things are considered proper accompaniments to Tokushima ramen, Ikuna could not say. She just can’t help but want to order a set meal. She’s only human.

On the counter was a sign that said, “One raw egg free per person”. This greatly excited Ikuna. Some might say, “If it’s free, why not just include it in the set from the start?” But in Ikuna’s mind, there was something nice about being able to reach out and take one for yourself.

Soon, the set arrived.

Ikuna’s excitement doubled, since it was something she can’t always eat and it looked absolutely delicious. The broth had a deep, rich color, and with the even darker sweet and spicy simmered pork ribs and bamboo shoots it was all brown (except for the green onions and the egg, which she cracked right in). This was, she learned, the general format of Tokushima ramen.

Ikuna’s preferred style of eating is to drop the egg in, appreciate the difference it makes to the presentation, then ignore it completely for a moment and eat the noodles.

It was so good she couldn’t help the high-pitched “Mmm!” that escaped her lips. The soup was a sweet, rich soy sauce broth, though it wasn’t quite as rich as it looked.

Once she’d eaten about half the noodles, she broke the yoke of the egg.

Does this image remind you of something?

That’s right. Tokushima ramen is very similar to sukiyaki, a dish where you dip meat cooked in a broth in raw scrambled egg before eating it. In truth, Ikuna wanted to put five raw eggs in there, but she refrained since that’s probably not really good for your health.

Anyway, if you eat it with rice, it almost becomes like a beef bowl. It’s so good! The classic combination of soy sauce, sake, mirin, and sugar–which is used in Japan to cook all manner of things, from beef bowl to sukiyaki–is just the best (says Ikuna).

Now that Ikuna has introduced you to the joy of Tokushima ramen, you may be lamenting that there is no Tokushima ramen shop in your area. But don’t worry! For those who can’t hop on a bullet train to western Japan just for a bowl of ramen, Ikuna presents to you: cup Tokushima Ramen!

If you look really hard in supermarkets and drug stores, you might, on rare occasions, find them. The one Ikuna most recommends is Tokushima Seibun’s Kin-chan Tokushima Ramen Koku Shoyu (Rich Soy Sauce) flavor.

The seasoning powder is flavored with pork ribs and green onions, and is created with a delicacy of craft that only the illustrious Tokushima Seibun, the treasure of Tokushima, can manage. Topping it with a raw egg makes it very similar to what you can find in restaurants in western Japan.

Now, it’s not always going to be easy to find these cup noodles in a supermarket near you, so if you have friends in the Chugoku or Shikoku areas, it’s best to rely on them to keep you in supply. It’s worth it in Ikuna’s mind, as Tokushima ramen is right up there with Sapporo ramen in terms of merit. But if you are lucky enough to have the chance to visit Tokushima–maybe to visit the hotel offering a taste of Heian-era lifestyles–then definitely get yourself some Tokushima ramen. You won’t regret it!

Images © SoraNews24
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!